Thursday, November 19, 2015

Lymphoma in Cats

A white cat graphic that says, "Lymphoma in Cats: Know the Signs."

Lymphoma is cancer of the lymphocytes, a specific type of white blood cell.  They are the major cells in lymph nodes.  A cat's lymphatic system is comprised of vessels and nodes throughout its body.  The lymphatic system is responsible for transporting life-sustaining substances and keeping harmful agents from circulating throughout a feline's body.  According to PetMD, lymphoma is responsible for 33% of all tumors in cats and 90% of all feline blood cancers.

Types of Lymphoma and Their Symptoms

Though lymphoma can occur at any site in a feline's body, it tends to show up in certain places more than others.  Additionally, cats with the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) are at greater risk for developing certain types of lymphoma than uninfected cats.

Multicentric: In this type of lymphoma, multiple lymph nodes and possibly multiple organs are affected.  This type of lymphoma is often associated with feline leukemia virus.  Symptoms of this type of cancer may include swelling of the lymph nodes in the groin, under arms, and jaw, weight loss, depression, and loss of appetite.  



A gray tabby cat.
Mediastinal: This type of cancer is found in the chest cavity and affects the thymus and associated lymph nodes.  It has historically affected cats with feline leukemia, though vets are beginning to see more cats without FeLV present with this type of lymphoma.  Symptoms of mediastinal lymphoma include weight loss, cough, open-mouthed breathing, and loss of appetite.  

Alimentary (Gastrointestinal): Alimentary lymphoma affects the gastrointestinal tract and its surrounding lymph nodes.  It is the most common type of lymphoma in cats and is often associated with a FeLV negative status.  Most alimentary lymphoma cat patients are 9 to 13 years old with a history of weight loss, lack of appetite, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.  Additional symptoms can include black or tarry stool, fresh blood in the stool, constipation, and lethargy.

Renal: The kidneys and associated lymph nodes are affected with this type of cancer.  Symptoms of renal lymphoma include vomiting, lack of appetite, weakness, and increased thirst and urination.

Diagnosis

If you notice any of the symptoms described above, it's best to take your cat to your veterinarian for a complete physical exam.  Your vet will take a detailed history of your cat's symptoms in order to determine which tests are most appropriate to perform.  Blood tests, such as a complete blood count and chemistry profile, and a urinalysis are often the first to be done.  Testing for feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus are also often done.  X-rays or ultrasounds and biopsies may also be conducted to pinpoint the location of the lymphoma and to test its malignancy.  

Treatment

Brown tabby cat sitting by a vertical scratching post.
Treatment will depend largely on the type of and stage of lymphoma your cat has.  Chemotherapy is most often used in the treatment of this type of cancer.  However, radiation and surgery may also be options.  

Chemotherapy is generally tolerated well by cats.  Nausea and vomiting occasionally occur as side effects to this type of treatment.  However, the most common side effect of chemotherapy in cats is bone marrow suppression.  In a small percentage of cases (1-2%), this may lead to life-threatening infections that require a hospital stay.  

While lymphoma is not a curable condition, remission can be achieved with treatment.  Prognosis depends largely on the location of and stage of the lymphoma as well how a cat responds to treatment.

Sources:

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Lymphoma.

Southwest Veterinary Oncology: Feline Lymphoma.

PetMD: Cancer of the Lymphocytes in Cats.

IVG Hospitals Feline Lymphoma.

31 comments:

  1. Very informative. I hope none of us ever need this information though.

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    1. Unfortunately my two year old cat was diagnosed with this cancer. He developed a tumour on a kidney which strangulated & engulfed it, it was successfully removed & he lived on monthly courses of chemotherapy for almost a year, his appetite was badly affected, but he did enjoy a large part of a good quality life & permanent daily care & love from me. He was put to sleep five days before xmas 2014, as he had suddenly deteriated, was badly dehydrated, weak & losing weight. I & my vet did everything humanely possible to give him that extra year he deserved. But did I do the correct thing or should I have put him to sleep in the beginning, as I still get upset & confused that I made the right decision.

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  2. Thank you for this very informative post. Our angel Madison was diagnosed with lymphoma 13 days before his death. The only symptom he really had was weight loss. I was devastated when the vet gave him two weeks to a month to live. Tomorrow we will have Part 2 of our Jackson Galaxy Interview. Hope you’ll join us. XOCK, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo

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  3. That is some darn scary stuff.

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  4. While this is something no kitty or human wants to think about, it's good to know!

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  5. Lymphoma sucks. I don't know about cats but in dogs it's one of the cancers when you want to treat yesterday. With some cancers you can take time to think about it. With lymphoma you want to act first then think because by the time you'd be done thinking it's going to be too late. If diagnosed, see an oncologist immediately.

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  6. Thanks so much for providing us with this very informative post
    Timmy and Dad

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  7. Great post. Thanks for sharing this very important information that pet parents need.

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  8. Thank you for posting about this! I didn't realize kitties were at risk for lymphoma! Now I know what to look for!

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  9. Thanks for an informative post - it's a concern especially with an IBD kitty.

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  10. Another informative post! We hope that we never have to think about this.... very scary. It's good to know that cats don't have many negative side effects to chemotherapy though.

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  11. Thanks for sharing! I didn't know much about lymphoma.

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  12. My dog has lymphoma and just finished his chemo protocol. So far he is in remission and doing well.

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  13. Such good, helpful information - we've had three dogs with cancer, and knowing the signs is so very important and could make quite a bit of difference.

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  14. Such an important topic and chock full of information that is hard to imagine but necessary to know. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

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  15. Thanks fur that info...we sure hope that someday a good cure can be discovered. Human Lymphoma took our Grand-Meowmy and other relatives also...sigh...

    Sure hope that isn't what ails our Minko, as no other real cause to his issues can be found out. He has not had an ultrasound...but if he gets worse that would be what we would have to do to know...

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  16. I would also add that a holistic approach to wellness can support cats with lymphoma or other types of cancer during treatment. Chemotherapy and other traditional treatment regimens can be tough on our cats, so I'm all for supporting them any way we can. Stress reduction is something that immediately comes to mind.

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  17. Well written and informative post. Thankfully we have never experienced any of this in our house, but it is good information to keep just in case. Thank you for sharing!

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  18. I hope Kilo never suffers from it but good to know this info. My daughter got sick and they suspected lymphoma but it was another issue, then a year ago my friend's dog was diagnosed and started chemo.

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  19. Thank you for this. I know a dog who died from lymphoma and it was just so sudden and heartbreaking :(

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  20. Excellent info to have and hope we never need. Thank you for sharing.

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  21. I lost a kitty to most likely lymphoma that involved her entire liver (the whole liver was diseased by the time she showed symptoms). A biopsy was not performed (we chose to let her go free from her misery once the ultrasound revealed the severity of her issue) so we'll never know for sure whether it was lymphoma. Multiple vets thought it was, and that Eva had a rare form that shows up in the liver. She began losing weight, not eating, and just presenting as depressed and miserable about a week before she was gone. So scary. Cancer is a terrible terrible thing.

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  22. Cancer is such a scary thing. I don't believe I have known any kitties that have had lymphoma, which is a good thing. I haven't read to much on lymphoma yet, so this was really interesting.

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  23. I always think we are so lucky to live at a time when good medical care is available to humans and pets. Knowing what to look for can make a big difference if an illness is treated in time or not.

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  24. I've never had to deal with any kind of canine cancer, and I hope I never do, but I'm now armed with a load of helpful information just in case! Thanks for this great post.

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  25. I am glad to see so many things to look for here so pet parents can be on the alert. Cancer simply sucks.

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  26. This is really good information (and a well researched post.) Mommy's friend's doggy had lymphoma and he's in remission now. Thank you for sharing.

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  27. It's so tough when a pet is diagnosed with cancer! Such common symptoms, too. Great post, sad topic!

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  28. Informative article. One of our beloved cats developed Mast cell lymphoma and was operated on; unfortunately, this did not result in her return to health, and we lost her not long afterwards.

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