Cat Lymphoma Cancer
Veterinarian Reviewed on April 2, 2014 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
Cat Lymphoma Cancer
Cat lymphoma cancer is a cancer of the white blood cells of a feline animal. In the past, it was associated with Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV). Although FeLV cases are on the decrease nowadays, the chances of contracting feline lymphoma remain high for cats that are infected with FeLV.
Presentations of Cat Lymphoma Cancer
Feline lymphoma affects different body organs and therefore presents in different ways. A common characteristic in all forms is the proliferation of lymphoid tissue. The three most common forms are discussed below:
The Alimentary Form
In this form, the digestive tract, intestines and surrounding lymph nodes are affected. Affected cats will suffer loss of appetite, Cat Diarrhea and vomiting. They will also have a palpable mass in the abdomen and a rather rough coat.
The Cranial Mediastinal Form
This affects the chest cavity, thymus and surrounding nymph nodes. It is common in young cats and kittens. Symptoms include severe respiratory distress and fluid in the pleural space/lung cavity.
This form affects multiple organs and lymph nodes. It is a fatal type of lymphoma and is associated with feline leukemia. The cat will have different symptoms unique to the affected organs. If it is present in the nose, the face will swell and a discharge will drain from the nose. Cats affected by renal (kidney) lymphoma will show high consumption of water and frequent urination. They will also suffer loss of appetite, loss of weight and a degree of renal failure. The affected kidney enlarges and appears like a large protruding intra-abdominal mass. This form is more prevalent in older cats. Cats with multicentric lymphoma may develop anemia. Pale mucous membranes indicate the presence of this condition (anemia).
Various tests and observations are required to diagnose cat lymphoma. Physical tests will reveal swelling in affected organs and lymph nodes. A complete blood count and chemistry panel is necessary to check presence of anemia and pinpoint the specific infected organ. Biopsy on feline lymphoma will reveal immature lymphoid cells spread in uniformity. For cranial mediastinal lymphoma, diagnosis is made on cytological analysis of the pleural fluid. Chest x-rays are also necessary to check for any free fluid in the pleural space.
Treatment of feline lymphoma is largely through chemotherapy. Affected cats receive a single protocol (COP), which is a combination of three drugs – Prednisone, Vincristine and Cyclophoshamide. It works well in all forms of lymphoma and is highly effective. Recently, a four-drug protocol (CHOP), which is COP plus a fourth drug, Doxorubicin, was introduced. However, veterinary experts do not recommend its use because it appears to increase the risk of gastrointestinal side effects.
In cases where the tumor is confined to a small area and is easily accessed, then radiation therapy and/or surgery may be applied.
Survival and remission largely depends on how quickly diagnosis takes place and treatment is given. Other factors that influence this are location of the tumor and the cat’s FeLV status. However, up to 70 % of all treated cases do respond well to treatment and live an additional 4 to 6 months on average. Out of this number, 30 to 40 % go into a complete remission, which can last for more than 2 years. Cats already infected with FeLV have lower chances of survival and do not respond well to conventional veterinary treatment.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan