Feline Lymphoma: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment - Cats.com (2023)

Feline Lymphoma: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment - Cats.com (1)

Lymphoma is one of the most common cancers in cats, with about one-third of new cancers diagnosed each year. But what is it and is your cat at risk?

Quick Review: Feline Lymphoma

Feline Lymphoma: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment - Cats.com (2)common symptoms: depending on the position. It may include coughing, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, swollen lymph nodes, nasal congestion, sneezing, nosebleeds, increased thirst and urination, blood in stool.

Feline Lymphoma: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment - Cats.com (3)diagnose: Blood tests, urinalysis, x-rays, ultrasound, fine needle aspiration for cytology of affected lymph nodes, organs or other lesions, biopsy of lymph nodes, organs or other lesions.

Feline Lymphoma: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment - Cats.com (4)to continue taking the medication: Sim

Feline Lymphoma: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment - Cats.com (5)vaccines available: No, but feline leukemia virus (FeLV) has been associated with certain lymphomas and a FeLV vaccine exists for high-risk cats.

Feline Lymphoma: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment - Cats.com (6)treatment programs: Because lymphoma can be in almost any part of the body, treatment depends on the location and the systems involved. Treatment may include steroids, chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy.

Feline Lymphoma: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment - Cats.com (7)home remedies: no.

What is Lymphoma?

Feline Lymphoma: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment - Cats.com (8)

Lymphoma is a form of cancer. In fact, it is considered the most common cancer to affect cats worldwide. It's a cancer of lymphocytes -- a type of white blood cell in the immune system -- and because these cells are so widespread, lymphoma can be found almost anywhere in the body.

What Causes Feline Lymphoma?

While all cats are at risk for lymphoma, there are certain factors that increase a cat's risk. For example, older cats are more likely to develop lymphoma, and cats between the ages of 10 and 12 are more likely to be diagnosed than younger cats. Male cats are also more likely to develop lymphoma, as are intact cats or neutered cats later in life.

This is partly because certain types of lymphoma are more common in cats infected with feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and, to a lesser extent, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Other reasons why cats are more prone to lymphoma have been debated, but none have been proven.

An article was published in 2002 showing a link between nicotine smoking and lymphoma, but a more recent paper from 2020 found no link.

Common locations of feline lymphoma

Feline Lymphoma: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment - Cats.com (9)

Lymphomas are most common in the gastrointestinal tract, but they can also occur in multiple places in the body.

Feline lymphoma can be found in many different locations. Each "type" of lymphoma is named for the area in which it is found.

  • Gastrointestinal or intestinal lymphoma– By far the most common lymphoma in cats, this type of lymphoma affects the internal organs. Colon lymphoma can actually be divided into two types: small cell lymphoma and large cell lymphoma. Small cell lymphoma is a carcinogenic, slow-growing thickening of the intestine, while large cell lymphoma can form hard tumors in a cat's intestine and/or stomach. Feline large cell lymphoma is more aggressive and has a poorer prognosis.
  • Linfoma Mediastinaal- This type of lymphoma grows in the chest of cats, usually between the lungs. Over time, it can grow and put pressure on the lungs and heart. This is more common in young cats and in cats with FeLV.
  • kidney function- Lymphoma can also affect the kidneys and cause symptoms similar to chronic kidney disease as the kidney cells are replaced by cancer cells.
  • linfoma nasal- Nasal lymphoma affects a cat's nose and usually begins with swelling of the face. In about a quarter of nasal lymphoma cases, the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Types of lymphoma in cats

Feline Lymphoma: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment - Cats.com (10)

There are also less common lymphomas that affect nerves, lymph nodes, or other parts of the body. Multinodal/multicentric lymphoma, cutaneous lymphoma, mesenteric lymphoma, ocular lymphoma, and spinal lymphoma are other types of lymphoma in cats. There is some evidence that cutaneous lymphoma in cats is becoming more common.

Signs and Symptoms of Feline Lymphoma

Feline Lymphoma: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment - Cats.com (11)

Cats with lymphoma will show general signs of illness, with dull fur, lethargy and changes in appetite being common symptoms.

Symptoms of lymphoma in cats vary slightly depending on the area affected, although all types of lymphoma in cats can cause weight loss, lethargy, and a poor quality dull or greasy coat. Cats with lymphoma may have more or less appetite, or you may not notice a change in appetite.

The most common type of lymphoma -- gastrointestinal lymphoma -- affects the gastrointestinal tract, causing weight loss, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Changes in drinking and urination habits can be a sign of renal lymphoma, although all lymphomas can lead to increased alcohol consumption. Nasal and nervous system lymphomas can have neurological symptoms, such as seizures, pressure on the head, and blindness.

Mediastinal lymphoma can cause changes in breathing rate, shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, and difficulty moving.

see More information:Heavy Breathing Cats: 3 Types Of Heavy Breathing And What They Mean

Nasal lymphoma can cause swelling of the nose, discharge from the eyes and nose, sneezing, or nosebleeds.

Other symptoms of lymphoma include:

  • weight loss and poor fitness
  • changes in thirst, usually increased
  • Appetite changes, usually anorexia
  • vomiting and diarrhoea
  • pee more
  • to sneeze
  • cough
  • Increased breathing rate, exertion, or noise
  • nosebleeds and runny nose
  • edema face
  • epileptic seizure
  • confusion, disorientation
  • blindness
  • depression and lethargy
  • swollen or painful lymph nodes

Because clinical signs are vague and could be symptoms of many other illnesses, additional testing is needed if your vet suspects lymphoma in your cat. They may start with a complete blood count, as this is where lymphocyte changes can be identified. Ultrasound, X-rays, and CT scans can help your vet examine any abnormalities in more detail.

Your vet will also want to do a biopsy of the affected area - a surgical biopsy will take a few cells from a fine needle aspiration or small nodule and they should be able to make a diagnosis. The tumor is then "graded" to describe its aggressiveness - low-grade lymphomas are less aggressive than high-grade lymphomas.

Treatment options and prognosis

Feline Lymphoma: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment - Cats.com (12)

It's very important for your vet to run tests on your cat to make a definitive diagnosis.

Feline lymphoma can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy, depending on the type, grade, and location of the cancer. The difficulty in treating feline lymphoma is that the cancer cells are often spread over a wide area, so it's not as simple as "cutting" them out.

Chemotherapy is the most common treatment plan for lymphomas because it helps kill all cancer cells, including those that are not in the primary tumor. Chemotherapy for low-grade lymphoma usually involves pills, while high-grade lymphoma will likely require injection chemotherapy.

The cats tolerated the chemotherapy very well and didn't suffer much from the side effects - they rarely shed their fur or look sick, but some had mild vomiting or diarrhoea. Oral chemotherapy with prednisone and chlorambucil works well for small cell lymphoma, but more aggressive types of lymphoma require more intensive treatment, including chemotherapy injections. This chemotherapy regimen, often referred to as the "CHOP" regimen, includes cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, prednisolone, and vincristine.

Below is a list of the most common types of treatment and the average survival times:

  • gastrointestinal small cell lymphoma: Oral chemotherapy. 80% go into remission for 2-3 years
    Gastrointestinal large cell lymphoma: aggressive chemotherapy, 50% partial remission, survival time 3 to 10 months.
  • Linfoma Mediastinaal: With aggressive chemotherapy, survival is 3 months if the cat has FeLV and 9-12 months if the cat does not have FeLV.
  • linfoma nasal: Chemotherapy or radiotherapy. 80% respond well, with survival up to 2 years.
  • kidney function: Aggressive chemotherapy improves symptoms in about 60% of patients, but survival is typically 6 months.


Feline Lymphoma: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment - Cats.com (13)

There are several options for treating feline lymphoma, varying in the aggressiveness of the treatment route and in the type of lymphoma to be treated.

Lymphoma is a common and serious cancer in cats. The most common type of lymphoma is gastrointestinal lymphoma, which is poorly understood.

However, both mediastinal lymphoma and renal lymphoma have been linked to feline leukemia virus infection, so it is recommended that you vaccinate your cat against FeLV to help prevent lymphoma.

common questions

How long can a cat live with lymphoma?

Cats with lymphoma can live up to three years, depending on the type of lymphoma and response to chemotherapy. Renal and mediastinal lymphomas have a poor prognosis, and even aggressive chemotherapy can only keep these cats alive for six months.

Can lymphoma in cats be cured?

There is no cure for feline lymphoma. However, about 80% of cats with gastrointestinal small cell lymphoma will go into remission within two to three years if they receive chemotherapy. Other types of lymphoma are less likely to go into remission and the period of remission is shorter.

How Long Can Cats Live With Untreated Lymphoma?

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, it may not be appropriate to withhold treatment for a cat with lymphoma, and if left untreated, your vet may recommend euthanasia to preserve your cat's quality of life. However, there are cheap and simple home remedies that can ease the symptoms and give the cat some time - usually a month or two.

How common is lymphoma in cats?

Lymphoma is common in cats, but the frequency varies by country. In some countries it is the most common cancer, in others it is the second or third most common cancer. About 15-30% of new tumors in cats are considered lymphomas.


What are the first signs of lymphoma in cats? ›

Diagnosis. A cat with lymphoma may demonstrate only very vague problems. Progressive lack of appetite, lethargy and weight loss are among the most common. Depending on which organs are affected, other signs such as chronic diarrhea, vomiting and difficulty in breathing may occur.

How long do cats live after being diagnosed with lymphoma? ›

What is the prognosis for cats diagnosed with lymphoma? With treatment, the prognosis for cats diagnosed with gastrointestinal large cell lymphoma is about 6 - 9 months. A small percentage of cats that reach full remission with treatment can live up to 2 years, although this is rare.

Is it worth treating a cat with lymphoma? ›

With treatment, approximately 70% of cats with low-grade lymphoma will go into remission. Lymphoma is never truly cured, but remission is a term used to describe the temporary resolution of all signs of lymphoma.

What is the best treatment for lymphoma in cats? ›

Cats with this disease can be effectively treated at home with a combination of a steroid (prednisolone) and an oral chemotherapy drug (chlorambucil, and over 90% achieve remission of their clinical signs.

What can be mistaken for lymphoma? ›

Conditions that non-Hodgkin Lymphoma is commonly misdiagnosed as include:
  • Influenza.
  • Hodgkin's lymphoma.
  • Cat scratch fever.
  • HIV.
  • Infections.
  • Mononucleosis.

What triggers the lymphoma in cats? ›

Viruses FeLV and FIV often cause lymphoma in cats. Vaccination against FeLV and testing for both these viruses help with disease prevention and spread. Avoiding contact with FeLV or FIV-infected cats and areas with smoke can also prevent lymphoma in cats.

How much does it cost to treat feline lymphoma? ›

Because each chemotherapy treatment is unique to the pet, the cost of chemotherapy for dogs and cats varies. Initial consultation fees with an oncologist can range from $125 to $250 depending on the hospital and geographic location. The average cost of chemo for dogs and cats can range from $150 to $500 per dose.

How fast does lymphoma spread in cats? ›

The prognosis for solitary lymphoma such as nasal lymphoma is generally better with many cats achieving local control for 1-1.5 years although there is still a concern that the cancer may spread within 3-6 months.

Are cats with lymphoma in pain? ›

Lymphoma does not cause acute pain. More commonly it causes a cat to feel tired and under the weather. Cats with lymphoma tend to lose weight and may have some GI disturbances and changes in their appetite. Less common forms of lymphoma may lead to more severe clinical signs, like difficulty breathing.

Does lymphoma show up in blood work? ›

Blood tests aren't used to diagnose lymphoma, though. If the doctor suspects that lymphoma might be causing your symptoms, they might recommend a biopsy of a swollen lymph node or other affected area.

Can a cat be misdiagnosed with lymphoma? ›

Many cats get sick but never receive a definitive diagnosis of lymphoma. Because some diagnostic tests are expensive, a family veterinarian may give a presumptive diagnosis based on clinical exam findings without performing further tests.

What is the protocol for lymphoma in cats? ›

Combination chemotherapy is considered standard of care treatment for canine and feline lymphoma. Both COP- (cyclophosphamide, vincristine, and prednisone) and CHOP-based chemotherapy protocols are used commonly for feline lymphoma, while CHOP- based protocols are considered standard of care for canine lymphoma.

Is chemo worth it for cats? ›

their potential benefits did not outweigh the possible risks. Unlike people receiving chemotherapy, the vast majority (80-90%) of dogs and cats have minimal to no side effects. However, a small number of patients may have moderate to severe side effects. Rarely is a side effect life-threatening to the patient.

How long can steroids help a cat with lymphoma? ›

Prednisolone is a steroid anti-inflammatory that can make a sick cat with lymphoma feel much better within one to two days of administration. Occasionally cats will go into complete remission with prednisolone alone. However, remission duration is often short-lived and lasts on average of around one to two months.

What can mimic lymphoma in cats? ›

Clinical signs of lymphoma in cats also tend to be nonspecific, mimicking those of a range of other conditions such as pancreatitis and renal failure.

What are the biggest signs of lymphoma? ›

Common symptoms of having lymphoma include swelling of lymph nodes in your neck, in your armpits or your groin. This is often but not always painless and often could be associated with fevers, or unexplained weight loss, or drenching night sweats, sometimes chills, persistent fatigue.

What are the telltale signs of lymphoma? ›

Warning signs of lymphoma include:
  • Swollen glands (lymph nodes), often in the neck, armpit, or groin that are painless.
  • Cough.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Fever.
  • Night sweats.
  • Fatigue.
  • Weight loss.
  • Itching.
Mar 4, 2022

How did my indoor cat get lymphoma? ›

What Causes Lymphoma in Cats? The exact cause is unknown. However, exposure to the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) can greatly increase your kitty's risk for developing lymphoma.

What do you feed a cat with lymphoma? ›

While additional research is needed, it is recommended that feline cancer patients eat a ration with 25-40% DM fat and 5% DM or greater of dietary omega-3 fatty acids.

What is the quality of life for a cat with lymphoma? ›

What is the prognosis for cats with lymphoma? More than 70% of cats treated for low-grade intestinal lymphoma experience remission, and live a good quality of life for two to three years. The prognosis for high-grade lymphoma is less than 50% remission, and survival time is two to nine months.

How long can a cat live on prednisolone? ›

Prednisone, as discussed above, has some anti-tumor activity, but is mostly used to make your pet feel better. A median survival time of 1-2 months is associated with prednisone use alone for high grade lymphoma.

How do you diagnose lymphoma in cats? ›

Lymphoma is the most common cancer in cats, and it is most frequently located in the gastrointestinal tract. Its clinical signs can be vague and include vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and inappetence. If an abdominal mass is palpable, it may guide subsequent diagnostic tests.

Do cats with lymphoma stop eating? ›

Loss of appetite is common with lymphoma so tempt the cat to eat with warmed food, offering multiple feeds and attention to help to maintain bodyweight. Provide a warm, peaceful place to hide away and rest. Many cases of lymphoma respond to treatment.

How fast does lymphoma progress? ›

After five to 10 years, low-grade disorders begin to progress rapidly to become aggressive or high-grade and produce more severe symptoms. This type progresses fairly rapidly without treatment. With treatment, remission can be induced in between 50 to 75 percent of cases.

What is early stage lymphoma? ›

The best way to find lymphoma early is to pay attention to possible signs and symptoms. One of the most common symptoms is enlargement of one or more lymph nodes, causing a lump or bump under the skin which is usually not painful. This is most often on the side of the neck, in the armpit, or in the groin.

Is lymphoma hard to diagnose? ›

Getting a Second Opinion. NHL is a difficult disease to diagnose, therefore you may want to get a second opinion by an experienced hematopathologist before you begin treatment. Some types of NHL can be confused with one other.

What are lymphoma markers in cats? ›

The CD20, CD79a, and PAX5 are commonly used to identify B cell lymphomas, while CD3 is a specific marker for T cell lymphoma. B cell lymphoma can be reactive to CD20, and CD79a or PAX5. The different combination among these three markers seems to suggest different stages of differentiation for B lymphocytes.

What if I can't afford chemo for my cat? ›

Paws 4 A Cure is a United States based all-volunteer 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance throughout the United States to those who cannot afford veterinary care for their beloved furry family members. Paws 4 A Cure helps dogs and cats with all illnesses and injuries.

Should I take my cat to an oncologist? ›

If your pet has been diagnosed with a type of cancer or your primary care veterinarian is highly suspicious of cancer, it is always a good idea to consult with a veterinary oncologist.

What is the chemotherapy pill for cats? ›

Common drugs used in chemotherapy include; L-asparaginase, Vincristine, Cyclophosphamide, Doxorubicin, Prednisone, Asparaginase, Cytoxan, Chlorambucil and Methotrexate. The duration a treatment lasts depends on the type of cancer the feline is diagnosed with.

Can prednisone stop lymphoma? ›

Steroids are often given with chemotherapy to help treat lymphoma. They may also help you feel better during chemotherapy. The steroids most commonly used to treat lymphoma are called prednisolone and dexamethasone.

Will steroids shrink lymphoma? ›

Having steroids

You may be given steroids with chemotherapy to help chemotherapy work better, help destroy the lymphoma, and treat any nausea or vomiting. Corticosteroids are usually taken as tablets, but can also be given into a vein (intravenously).

Does lymphoma in cats show up in blood work? ›

If lymphoma is suspected, your veterinarian will run several tests. First, they will likely run blood work, do a urinalysis, and take x-rays to look for signs of the disease. Specialty blood work may be recommended to check cobalamin (vitamin B12) levels. Low levels can indicate intestinal lymphoma.

Does Stage 1 lymphoma have symptoms? ›

Common symptoms of having lymphoma include swelling of lymph nodes in your neck, in your armpits or your groin. This is often but not always painless and often could be associated with fevers, or unexplained weight loss, or drenching night sweats, sometimes chills, persistent fatigue.

How do vets diagnose lymphoma in cats? ›

Lymphoma is diagnosed via fine needle aspirate cytology or biopsy, depending on the location and extent of disease. In some cases, diagnosis may require sampling of bone marrow or other organs or molecular testing on blood or other tissue samples (e.g. flow cytometry, PARR).

How do I know if my cat has IBD or lymphoma? ›

You won't know whether it's IBD or intestinal lymphoma until a vet runs tests. A diagnosis is necessary before attempting to treat the problem. The most accurate way to diagnose a gastrointestinal problem is by conducting a surgical or endoscopic biopsy.

How fast does lymphoma typically progress? ›

After five to 10 years, low-grade disorders begin to progress rapidly to become aggressive or high-grade and produce more severe symptoms. This type progresses fairly rapidly without treatment. With treatment, remission can be induced in between 50 to 75 percent of cases.

Will a CBC show signs of lymphoma? ›

In cancer care, a CBC is used to: Help diagnose some blood cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma.

Is WBC high or low with lymphoma? ›

Certain types of cancer, including lymphoma, may lead to an abnormally high white blood cell count. A high WBC count, also known as lymphocytic leukocytosis, can also indicate an existing infection or dysfunction in the immune system.


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