Lymphedema in Cats

A veterinarian will need to examine your cat to see if he has lymphodema.
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The good news for cat lovers is that lymphedema is just not common in cats. Dogs are usually the ones to get the illness. That doesn't mean your cat can't end up with lymphedema, though. If she has any swelling, get it checked out.

What Is It?

In simple language, lymphodema is swelling caused by excess fluid from the lymph nodes. The fluid typically collects in your cat's extremities, like his legs and ears, but it can gather in other areas. It can be painful if the swelling is extreme, but in the early stages it usually doesn't cause your kitty pain. The swollen area will usually leave a depression that gradually fills in when you press on it with your finger and release. If you suspect your cat has lymphedema, get him to the vet for diagnosis and treatment before the condition becomes painful.

Primary vs. Secondary

Lymphedema is either primary and secondary. Primary lymphedema is present at birth. This type is genetic. Symptoms may not appear until your kitten is a few months old, but it has always been there. Secondary lymphedema is triggered by some earlier damage or illness. An injury to the lymph nodes, an infection, heart disease and cancer can cause lymphedema. Also, radiation therapy can have the unwanted side effect of lymphedema.


Swelling is just one indicator of lymphedema. To be sure what is affecting your cat, your veterinarian will need to run some tests. A complete blood count and biochemical profile are usually necessary. In addition, your vet may want to run a lymphangiography, which includes injecting a dye into the lymphatic system and then taking X-rays.


Sadly, there is no cure for lymphedema. Treatment is focused on relieving the symptoms. Your vet may prescribe medication to help reduce swelling and antibiotics to prevent infections. At home, warm massages, pressure wraps and forced rest -- crating -- can help reduce swelling.

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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