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Cat Lymphoma: What You Need to Know About This Feline Cancer

April 25th, 2018 by Cherished Companions Animal Clinic

Madeline, a young girl, hugs on Maisie, her beloved cat with lymphoma.

Cat lymphoma is one of the most common types of feline cancers.

In our Castle Rock veterinary clinic, we see a handful of cases every year.

We know how hard it is to learn your cat has lymphoma. Take heart, there is some hope:

  • Some forms of cat lymphoma can be treated (such as with chemotherapy).
  • It is possible for lymphoma to go into remission.

Ultimately, it depends on how aggressive the cancer is in your cat, how early you’re able to catch the cancer, and how well your cat responds to treatment.

Our vets will refer you to a cat oncologist, so you can find the best treatment options for your cat.

Whether your cat has been recently diagnosed or you’re worried that your cat may have this feline cancer, here are the key things to know about cat lymphoma.

What is cat lymphoma?

Cat lymphoma is an abnormality in your cat’s “lymphocyte” white blood cells.

These are the white blood cells that help protect your cat from bacteria, viruses and other invaders.

This cancer affects every part of your cat’s “lymphatic system” — the system that helps keep your cat immune from disease. It includes everything from your cat’s lymph nodes, to certain organs, to tissue in your cat’s gastrointestinal tract, to bone marrow.

Is cat lymphoma treatable?

While it isn’t curable, some cats do improve with treatment. It really depends on your cat and how far along the cancer is.

Jax, a Tonkinese cat, has responded well to his cat lymphoma treatments.

How long do cats live after being diagnosed with lymphoma?

There are a lot of variables, so it depends.

If you’re able to treat the lymphoma and your cat responds well, your cat could live anywhere from seven months to three years. (Source: Clinical Veterinary Advisor, 3rd Edition)

If the cancer is aggressive, it could be weeks or months.

Are certain cats at higher risk for feline lymphoma?

Yes, there are a few types of cats that are at higher risk:

  • Older cats are more vulnerable. Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine notes that a common age for feline lymphoma is 10 to 12 years old.
  • If your cat has had the feline leukemia virus (FELV) or the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), your cat is at higher risk. These viruses work a bit like HIV in humans. They suppress the immune system, making your cat more vulnerable to diseases. FELV and FIV are more common in cats that have not been vaccinated.
  • There is some recent evidence that exposing your cat to tobacco smoke can put your cat at higher risk for lymphoma.

Is cat lymphoma contagious?

No, cat lymphoma is not contagious to other pets and people.

Though, the viruses that put cats at risk for lymphoma — namely, FELV and FIV — are contagious to other cats. These viruses are most commonly transmitted through cat bites and through sharing food and water bowls.

Marley, the cat, sits in front of his food bowl, not interested in eating.

What are the symptoms of cat lymphoma?

The symptoms can vary depending on the form of lymphoma.

Our cat vets will be looking to see whether your cat has:

  • Weight loss issues, such as not wanting to eat, losing weight and acting really lethargic.
  • Gastrointestinal issues, such as vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia and/or stools that are bloody or black and tarry.
  • Unusual skin issues, such as abnormal lesions or masses.
  • Multiple, swollen lymph nodes. Though, this is much more common in dogs than cats.

If you’ve noticed any of these symptoms at home and you live in Castle Rock or south Denver, be sure to give our vets a call: 303-688-3757.

Where can I learn more about cat lymphoma?

Please check out Cornell University’s article on lymphoma in cats.

 Do what’s best for your kitty

If you live near Castle Rock, Colorado, we’re always here to help you and your furry friend. To discuss cat lymphoma or to simply check your cat’s health, call us at 303-688-3757. Or:

Book a visit 

Cherished Companions Animal Clinic is a veterinary clinic in Castle Rock, Colorado. Specializing in the care of cats and dogs, our goal is to help you and your pet feel more comfortable, keeping your stress to a minimum.

This article is intended to provide general guidance on cat lymphoma. If you have specific questions or concerns, please contact your local veterinarian. (If you live in or around Castle Rock, we welcome your call.)

© 2018, Cherished Companions Animal Clinic

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