Cat Lymphoma 101

Learn everything about Feline lymphoma here

When your cat has cancer, the clock starts ticking. Every day counts. But what does it mean when your cat is diagnosed with lymphoma?

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What is feline lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system, a crucial part of the immune system comprising the lymph nodes, thymus gland, spleen, bone marrow, and internal lymph nodes and lymphoid tissue.

Cat's digestive system diagram

According to Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, lymphoma in cats is seen often and commonly diagnosed. Unlike dogs, most cats present with an internal form of lymphoma. Lymphoma arises from mutations in lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell involved in fighting infections. When these cells become cancerous, they proliferate uncontrollably and can spread throughout the body, affecting various organs.

Lymphoma in cats can manifest in various forms, with gastrointestinal (GI) lymphoma being the most common, accounting for 50-70% of cases. Other forms include mediastinal lymphoma, often linked to the Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), and renal lymphoma, which is associated with poor prognosis due to its tendency to spread to the brain and central nervous system.

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Lymphoma
FeLV is a major contributor to lymphoma in cats, causing immunosuppression that leads to cancer and other diseases. It's transmitted through close contact, making vaccination crucial for prevention.

What are the symptoms of feline lymphoma?

Cats with lymphoma might show weakened immune responses as the abnormal lymphocytes fail to protect the body effectively. Cats, much like dogs, are adept at masking their discomfort and illness. This trait can delay diagnosis until the disease has advanced, making early detection through attentive observation and regular veterinary check-ups crucial.

Diagnosing Feline Lymphoma
Diagnosis involves a combination of physical exams, blood tests, imaging (ultrasound or X-rays), and specific tests like cytology, immunophenotyping, flow cytometry, and the Polymerase Chain Reaction for Antigen Receptor Rearrangements (PARR). These tests help identify the lymphoma type and guide treatment decisions.

Symptoms vary based on the lymphoma type but may include:

Loss of appetite and weight loss
Lethargy (tiredness)
Vomiting and diarrhea (GI lymphoma)
Difficulty breathing (mediastinal lymphoma)

Why did my pet get lymphoma?

The exact cause of lymphoma in cats can be difficult to pinpoint. However, certain factors have been associated with an increased risk:


Genetic predisposition
Some cat breeds might be more susceptible to lymphoma, though research in this area is less conclusive than in dogs.


Environmental factors
Exposure to certain chemicals, including household pesticides, has been suggested to increase cancer risk.


Viral infections
Cats infected with feline leukemia virus (FeLV) or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) are at a higher risk of developing lymphoma.


Secondhand smoke
There's evidence to suggest that cats living in households with smokers may have a higher risk of lymphoma.

Cat with a question markIllustration of a golden retriever asking question

Can lymphoma be cured?

While lymphoma is generally considered incurable, treatment can significantly extend a cat's life and improve their quality of life. Early diagnosis and treatment are key.

Managing your cat's lymphoma diagnosis

Lymphoma requires systemic treatment since it affects the immune system and can spread throughout the body. Chemotherapy is the most common and effective treatment option for feline lymphoma, with protocols tailored to the type and stage of cancer.

A male scientist looking through a microscope
A male scientist looking through a microscope

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy for cats, similar to dogs, involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Cats may receive a combination of drugs, with the CHOP protocol being one option, which is an acronym for a chemotherapy regimen consisting of four drugs: Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), Hydroxydaunorubicin (Doxorubicin), Vincristine (Oncovin), and Prednisone or Prednisolone. Treatment aims to achieve remission, where the cat shows no signs of disease.

Do all cats respond to chemotherapy drugs in the same way? No. Every cat, and every cancer is unique. Some cats (and some cancers) resist certain chemo treatments and respond better to others.

How can I find out what drugs my cat will respond well to?

ImpriMed is pioneering in providing personalized treatment plans through advanced diagnostics like immunophenotyping and flow cytometry. By analyzing a cat's specific cancer profile, ImpriMed helps veterinarians tailor chemotherapy regimens, improving treatment outcomes.

A lymphoma diagnosis can be overwhelming, but understanding the disease, its treatment options, and how to support your cat can make a significant difference. Collaborate closely with your veterinarian to choose the best treatment path for your cat, considering their unique needs and your family's situation.

Immunoprofile ffor Feline Lymphoma & Leukemia