Lymphadenopathy in Cats

You might notice swollen lymph nodes in the throat and neck when petting Kitty.
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Lymphadenopathy is the scientific name for swollen lymph nodes. Since Kitty's lymph nodes are on the front lines of the fight against illness, swollen nodes means there's a problem. If Kitty's glands swell, take him to the vet for testing and a diagnosis.

Swollen Lymph Nodes

You probably can't tell Kitty's lymph nodes are swollen just by looking at him, unless the swelling is pronounced. You'll more likely discover the swelling when petting him. Petting is pleasurable for you and Kitty, and it's also a good opportunity to do a thorough once-over to find any lumps, bumps or swellings. Swollen lymph nodes might be sensitive, so if Kitty flinches away from your touch, look into it further.

Lymphadenopathy Symptoms

The lymph nodes work in conjunction with Kitty's immune system, so anything wrong with them indicates that Kitty's body if trying to fight off or react to some disease. Swollen lymph nodes around his head or mouth might make eating painful, so if Kitty's taking an especially long time to consume his meals, take a closer look. If the nodes in his legs swell, he might walk oddly or slowly. Swollen glands aren't the only symptoms of any particular disease, but just one aspect. Depending on what's ailing Kitty, he might suffer weight and appetite loss, lethargy, diarrhea and vomiting, upper respiratory infections, various infections, excessive thirst, and more urination and fluid buildup in his body.


Your vet diagnoses the cause of lymphadenopathy by taking blood samples and conducting a physical exam. She might take X-rays or perform an ultrasound to see if tumors or other issues are apparent in Kitty's body. Treatment of swollen lymph nodes depends on the vet's diagnosis of the cause. Diseases associated with swollen lymph nodes range from relatively minor to life-threatening.


Lymphadenopathy in cats might indicate cancer or other serious diseases. If Kitty has lymphoma, surgery for removing tumors followed by radiation and chemotherapy may help prolong his life. Kitty might also be suffering from feline immunodeficiency virus, similar to the virus causing AIDS in people. However, these are worst-case scenarios. The swelling could also be caused by infection, which appropriate antibiotics might cure.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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