Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: June 23, 2023 by Crystal Uys

Cat on examination table of veterinarian clinic

Lymphoma, also known as lymphosarcoma, is one of the most common cancers in cats. It accounts for 90% of all blood cancers in cats, and for about a third of all tumors overall in cats. Lymphoma affects the lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that plays a critical role in the immune system.

Since the lymphatic system transports lymph fluid throughout the cat’s system, delivering oxygen and nutrients to the body’s cells, lymphoma can appear almost anywhere and affect different organs.

There are three forms of lymphoma: mediastinal lymphoma, which is found in the chest cavity, multicentric lymphoma, which affects lymph nodes throughout the body, and the most commonly seen form, alimentary lymphoma, which affects the gastrointestinal tract.

What causes lymphoma?

Cats who have been exposed to the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) appear to be at higher risk for lymphoma. There is mounting evidence that inflammatory bowel disease, if left untreated, can eventually progress to lymphoma.

Symptoms of lymphoma

Symptoms are highly variable and can range from weight loss, loss of appetite, and lethargy to nasal discharge, hindlimb weakness and difficulty breathing.

How is lymphoma diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will take a complete health history of your cat and perform a thorough physical examination. Routine laboratory testing will include a complete blood chemistry, blood count, and urinalysis. Your veterinarian will also take X-rays and/or perform an ultrasound to detect any tumors in various parts of the body.

Depending on the location of the tumors, biopsies, including a bone marrow biopsy, may be taken. Even if your cat has previously tested negative for FeLV and FIV, a repeat test may be performed.

Vet examining cat in x ray room with e collar
Image Credit: PRESSLAB, Shutterstock

How is lymphoma treated?

Treatment usually consists of chemotherapy with a combination of various drugs, given over a period of several weeks and even months. Unlike human medicine, where the goal of chemotherapy is to achieve a cure, in cats, chemotherapy is aimed at controlling the disease and achieving a period of remission with good quality of life. Most cats tolerate chemotherapy well.

What is the prognosis for a cat with lymphoma?

There is no cure for lymphoma. Survival time varies depending on the type of cancer and the general state of the cat’s health, and can range from a few months to two years.

Holistic modalities to treat lymphoma

Holistic modalities can be a valuable tool in treating cats with cancer. They can strengthen the immune system and support or compliment conventional treatment. Always consult with a holistic veterinarian before using holistic remedies. There is a vast amount of information about so-called “natural cancer cures” on the internet, and while some may get results, others can do more harm than good. Review these sites using common sense and a healthy dose of caution. Consider the source before deciding on the use of any type of holistic remedy.

Holistic modalities will usually include supporting the cat’s immune system, herbal remedies, and diet modification. Reiki is a gentle modality that can support cats through cancer treatment. It works by strengthening the immune system and it can also help alleviate side effects from conventional treatments.

domestic tabby cat looks at a bowl of food that the owner is holding in his hand
Image Credit: Valeri Vatel, Shutterstock

Has your cat been diagnosed with lymphoma? What course of treatment did you decide on?

Editor’s note: The information shared on this website is not a substitute for veterinary care. We cannot verify the veracity or accuracy of information or recommendations provided in reader comments.

Featured Image Credit: Lee Charlie, Shutterstock

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