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7 Signs of Feline Lymphoma

Recognizing Cancer Symptoms in Your Cat

By Mary Kearl. December 08, 2013 | See Comments

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    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

    DVM

A Thin Looking Calico Cat

Cancer is one of those diseases that has many symptoms that might be mistaken for less serious health conditions. Feline lymphoma is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in cats. Learn more about this disease and the signs here.

Feline lymphoma is a cancer of the white blood cells, the most common kind of which—multicentric lymphoma—affects the liver, spleen, and lymph nodes. Other common forms include gastric, intestinal, renal, thymic, and spinal. It can also be found in the kidneys, eyes, central nervous system, nose, and skin. Unfortunately, feline lymphoma is not only deadly, it’s the most frequently diagnosed type of cancer among cats.
The specific signs and symptoms of lymphoma in cats vary by the type of lymphoma or the organs of the body that are affected. Here are the most commons symptoms.

Common Signs of Feline Lymphoma

  • Abnormalities with weight, appetite, and muscle loss—this is more common in older cats who usually form tumors in their intestines and have symptoms related to weight loss (also including vomiting).

  • Vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, and dehydration—since these symptoms are common to other diseases and ailments, testing will need to be done to rule out other potential health problems.

  • Breathing difficulties—this is more common in young cats who develop masses in the chest, and is associated with mediastinal lymphoma. Fluid buildup is to blame and may also cause regurgitation.

  • Depression, lethargy, or being in a comatose state—these symptoms can be attributed to many health and behavioral problems, so any one by itself is not necessarily an indication of lymphoma.

  • Extreme body temperatures—affected cats may reach the polar ends of the spectrum with fever or hypothermia.

  • Growths and masses—in felines with lymphoma, you may find an unusual lump in the abdomen, enlarged lymph nodes, or a mass in the intestines or chest area.

  • Skin irritation—this cancer may cause redness and flakiness of the skin as well as ulcers on cats’ mouths and footpads.

If your cat is showing signs of any of these symptoms of lymphoma, be sure to seek medical attention right away: these issues could signal cancer.

When a Cat Gets Lymphoma

Cats can get the disease at any age, but a common time frame to develop the condition is between 10 and 12 years. Other risk factors include being infected with feline leukemia virus or feline immunodeficiency virus, living in a home with smokers, and/or living with multiple cats.

After assessing the signs of lymphoma, the vet may give a physical exam that includes doing blood work, taking chest x-rays, taking samplings of lymph node tissue, and doing an ultrasound of the abdomen. A cat with lymphoma may have abnormal vital signs including many of the problems described above.

Treatment may involve surgery and chemotherapy. Survival rates vary depending on the cat’s age and tumor location.

More on Cancer

Bone Cancer in Cats and Dogs
Treatments for Cancer in Dogs and Cats
Cat Tumors and Cat Skin Disease - How to Detect Them and What You Can Do

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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Feline Lymphoma at a glance

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  • 1Lymphoma can affect several different regions of the body, and as a result, symptoms can vary.
  • 2Common symptoms include weight loss, appetite loss, and lethargy.