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Lymphoma in Cats

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Lymphoma in Cats

As cat owners, our only hope is that the pets we love so dearly are blessed with happy and healthy lives. From the time they are kittens to when they age into late adulthood, the goal is to keep our cats in as good condition as possible. However, sometimes, unforeseen circumstances arise, and they are often out of our control as well. 

One of these unexpected instances is a diagnosis of feline lymphoma, a type of cancer. If your cat has the illness, the best thing to do is read up on information surrounding the blood-based illness, and understand how to move forward in order to help your cat overcome the disease. 

Types & Symptoms of Lymphoma in Cats

What are the symptoms of lymphoma in cats?

 Lymphoma in Cats

Lymphoma in cats is not the easiest disease to recognize, especially given the way that sick cats often act as though everything is normal. Determining whether or not your feline has lymphoma will require a professional diagnosis. 

Below is a list of clinical signs that your feline might display if they have lymphoma. Please note that the list of side effects is very long and similar to those associated with other conditions, so contact your vet immediately if you suspect your feline is ill. 

The common side effects include…

  • Otherwise unexplained weight loss
  • Overly sensitive and Reactive to being touched 
  • Lower bone density 
  • Disinterest in food or treats, decreased appetite 
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  • Constant vomiting after eating, gastrointestinal issues 
  • Unusual bathroom patterns 
  • Inability to make it to the litter box 
  • Excessively drinking water 
  • Dehydration despite increased water intake 
  • Random shortness of breath 
  • Little to no interest in playing 
  • Sleeping under beds or other hiding spots 
  • Withdrawing from people 
  • High fever that comes and goes 
  • Lumps in or near the abdominal region 
  • Bumps anywhere on the body 
  • Consistent scratching or licking 
  • Gnawing on a certain body part 
  • Sores in your cat's mouth

There are multiple different types of lymphoma in cats, but these types refer more to the location of the blood cancer, rather than identifying unique forms of the cancer. Most cases of the condition take place within the digestive tract, too. 

The five main forms of Lymphoma include… 

  • Alimentary 
  • Feline Mediastinal 
  • Multicentric 
  • Renal 
  • Solitary 
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Alimentary Lymphoma in Cats 

Also known as gastrointestinal lymphoma, the alimentary form affects the gastrointestinal tract in cats. Both the liver and the stomach, as well as the intestines, make up the gastrointestinal tract. As such, alimentary lymphoma is also known as feline intestinal lymphoma. 

Feline Mediastinal Lymphoma 

The mediastinal form of the disease attacks lymph nodes in and around the lungs. There are gaps between the pleural sacs of your cat's immune system as well, and lymphoma can settle in these spaces, as well.

Multicentric Lymphoma

A broader form of the disease than the other four types, multicentric lymphoma is a diagnosis that ends up being refined as vets understand the location of your cat’s cancer more clearly over time. 

Renal Lymphoma

In cats, renal lymphoma is a form of blood cancer that exists inside of the kidneys. The renal form of the illness is especially dangerous because the kidneys exist to purify the blood and discard toxins, so cancer in the blood of organs that purify the blood is a very difficult scenario.

Solitary Feline Lymphoma 

A polar opposite form compared to the multicentric type, solitary lymphoma is a term used to refer to any form that exists outside of the other four forms. In other words, the solitary form can be located anywhere in a cat's body, as long as blood is present. (ex. Nasal Lymphoma )

Feline Leukemia vs Lymphoma: What’s the Difference?

Feline Leukemia vs Cat Lymphoma | Innovet Pet

When researching feline lymphoma, you might have found that leukemia is often discussed alongside it. The reason for this is the fact that feline leukemia, like lymphoma, is a type of cancer that infects the blood of cats.

More specifically, the two types of blood cancer tend to infiltrate the white blood cell of cats as opposed to the red. Even so, there are slight differences between lymphoma and the feline leukemia virus.

Leukemia 

Feline leukemia (Leukemia) has been categorized as an inheritable disease caused by a cat’s infection. The most common cause of feline leukemia is when infected blood enters another cat through bites or scratches during fighting over territory; however, this does not happen very often so other factors may be involved such as exposure to environmental contaminants like radioactive materials or chemicals which could also lead to cancers developing.

As a cancer of the blood, it is no surprise that leukemia negatively affects the blood of felines. But unlike lymphoma, the feline leukemia virus (FeLV), zeroes in on bone marrow as well. Leukemia results in the overproduction of abnormal cells to the point where your cat's system contains far more white blood cells than is considered healthy. This leads to an imbalance between red and white cells in the blood which can result in the feline leukemia virus.

Lymphoma 

Lymphoma is a disease that occurs in cats. It's an abnormal growth of lymphocytes, which are cells found throughout the body and fight infection by producing antibodies to destroy invading pathogens. Lymphoma can occur anywhere there is a significant concentration of these immune system-active cells such as the bone marrow or spleen; but it most often grows rapidly into one area where they have proliferated excessively like around major organs including lungs, liver, gut, etc., then tendrils grow outward from this tumor mass attacking other areas with more normal tissue until eventually, metastatic cancers develop elsewhere--in some cases even entering bones. Lymphoma, as the name suggests, is cancer that impacts the lymph nodes, which are a specific type of white blood cell. Like leukemia, lymphoma is a cancer of the blood. 

How To Prevent Feline Lymphoma

Technically speaking, there is no surefire way to fully protect your feline from lymphoma because it can appear in very healthy cats, and blood cancer in cats can be transmitted via the FeLV. However, there are plenty of preventative measures you can take on behalf of your cat to reduce the likelihood that your cat will fall ill.

First and foremost, ensuring that your cat stays up-to-date with his or her vaccinations is key to preventing the disease. As mentioned, the virus is a threat to the health of your cat, especially in relation to cancer of the blood. By vaccinating your pet against the virus (FeLV), you can drastically lower the possibility of your cat being diagnosed with blood cancer. 

The next step to preventing feline lymphoma is ensuring that your cat has a good diet. It's important to make sure you feed them enough food and the right type of food for their age, body size, activity level, and health status. You should also take steps to protect yourself from exposure by handling raw meat in areas where animals cannot access it (such as inside an airtight container) or be mindful when pets come into contact with surfaces where they have handled animal products such as feeding bowls, pet bedding or toys while cleaning up accidents outside if possible. In addition, cats need plenty of freshwater every day!

Also, keep an eye on the cats that your feline friend hangs out with because the FeLV can be transferred from one animal to another. If your cat interacts with other cats that have the virus, your pet’s chances of falling sick with FeLV are more probable. 

Lastly, catching and diagnosing cancer as early as possible is a great way to prevent the exacerbation of the illness. The sooner your cat is diagnosed, the faster treatment can be administered. Cancer that is treated during the earlier stages is easier to fight than illnesses that have been left untreated for a long period of time, so reach out to the vet when you first notice signs of lymphoma or any illness in your pet.

How long do cats live after being diagnosed with lymphoma?

Cats are animals that have a propensity for living longer than most humans with lymphoma, but even they succumb eventually. Cats diagnosed with lymphoma often live many more months or years after diagnosis until their time is up because cats do not respond as well to chemotherapy drugs and other treatments used in human medicine, which makes them less susceptible to aggressive treatment plans; this difference between cat and human physiology also means cancer cells only grow at about one-third the rate of cancers in people so it takes much longer—often several months or sometimes a year—for symptoms such as enlarged glands (lymph nodes) around the neck, weight loss from lack of appetite due to nausea caused by chemotherapy, surgery or radiation.

What are the final stages of lymphoma in cats?

Cats who have lymphoma can go through a number of stages. First, the cat may just show signs like weight loss or not feeling well and they might need to be on medication for these symptoms; second is an aggressive tumor stage in which their immune system will start attacking other cells that are healthy now causing more sicknesses and ailments with no cure but hospice care (this could take months); thirdly, the end-stage disease where your pet needs help eating, drinking water/urinating from organ failure.

The final stages of Lymphoma cats consist of: first showing some vague ills such as weight loss or general malaise diagnosed by lab tests followed up with treatment if necessary.

Treatment

Is lymphoma in felines treatable?

There are treatment options for cats with lymphoma in some cases which will depend on the type of cancer cells involved. For example, radiation therapy is an option if not all tumor sites can be removed surgically. There are also oral chemotherapy drugs that veterinarians might prescribe to slow down or stop the growth of malignant cells and prolong a cat's life expectancy.

The treatment plan for a cat with lymphoma will fully depend on the severity of the blood cancer, and your pet's medical history will be factored into the equation as well. Often times, veterinary medicine will be prescribed to your cat, both for the sake of resolving current symptoms as well as preventing their recurrence. Cats with the disease often go through chemotherapy treatments, followed by radiation to prevent the growth of more cancer cells. 

If your pet ever expresses signs of distress, you may want to consider administering low doses of CBD oil for the sake of supporting the normal healthy structure of the endocannabinoid system. CBD has shown positive benefits and results in lymphoma cases over and over again. Although not a cure, it's a great addition to the treatment program. At Innovet, we offer an array of CBD products that are feline-friendly, so take a look today! Your cat will surely appreciate the calming nature of CBD. 

Sources:

Feline Lymphoma
Leukemia
Lymphoma in Cats
Lymphoma in Cats 
7 SIGNS OF FELINE LYMPHOMA
Facts About Feline Leukemia Virus
Reducing the Risk of Lymphoma 

 

Approved by:
Dr. Ivana Vukasinovic
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, University of Belgrade

Ivana Vukasinovic grew up in Serbia and attended the University of Belgrade where she received a degree in Veterinary medicine in 2012 and later completed surgical residency working mostly with livestock. Her first year of practice was split between busy small animal practice and emergency clinic, and after two more years of treating many different species of animals, she opened her own veterinary pharmacy where an interest in canine and feline nutrition emerged with an accent on fighting animal obesity. In her free time, she acts as a foster parent for stray animals before their adoption, likes to read SF books and making salted caramel cookies.

 

Thanks for stopping by!

P.S. We Love You!

Sincerely,

The Innovet Team

 

Please do not ask for emergency or specific medical questions about your pets in the comments. Innovet Pet Products is unable to provide you with specific medical advice or counseling. A detailed physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinarian are required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet requires emergency attention or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic health conditions, please contact or visit your local/preferred veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.
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