Few things are scarier than the "C" word -- cancer -- whether it's a human or a feline family member getting the diagnosis. Lymphoma is one of the most common cancers in cats, and treatments are available. Visit a veterinarian if your precious pet displays symptoms associated with lymphoma.
Feline lymphoma is cancer of a cat's lymphatic system. It manifests in three basic types. Multicentric lymphoma affects primarily the liver, the spleen and the lymph nodes themselves. Alimentary lymphoma strikes the digestive tract. Mediastinal lymphoma impacts the kitty's chest area.
The lymphatic system transfers nutrients throughout the body and aids in disposal of wastes from the blood, which means lymphoma can affect nearly any organ of the cat's body, from the thymus gland to the spine.
What should you look for to determine whether your cat has lymphoma? The symptoms will depend on which organs the lymphoma affects. Lymphoma in the chest area leads to breathing problems. Your kitty may cough or struggle for air. If the lymphoma is primarily in the stomach or intestines, expect vomiting, diarrhea and one or more lumps in the stomach area. Lymphoma of the kidneys leads to increased thirst and urination, while spinal lymphoma leads to hind-leg lameness. Some signs are common to all types of lymphoma -- weight loss, lack of appetite, fatigue and depression.
Certain cats are more at risk for lymphoma. If your kitty is getting up in years -- more than 10 years of age -- or suffering from feline leukemia virus, let the vet know. He'll take that into account when examining her for signs of lymphoma. If he suspects lymphoma may be the culprit of your kitty's problems, he'll likely do a full blood panel that includes a CBC, or complete blood count. He'll feel Kitty's lymph nodes to check for swelling and may palpate the tummy area. If necessary, he'll order a sonogram or X-ray of the belly and chest. If your kitty has mostly kidney-related symptoms, such as frequent urination, a urinalysis may be in order.
Chemotherapy is another scary "C" word. It's also the primary treatment for lymphoma-afflicted cats. The Merck Veterinary Manual estimates that 50 percent of cats that receive chemo will go into remission. Unfortunately, most cats will live only six to 12 months after diagnosis.
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Lymphoma
- NC State University College of Veterinary Medicine: Oncology - Lymphoma in Cats
- Cancer and Your Pet: The Complete Guide to the Latest Research, Treatment and Options; Debra Eldredge and Margaret H. Bonham
- The Merck Veterinary Manual: Overview of Feline Leukemia Virus and Related Diseases
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images