Lymphoma is the most frequent malignancy seen in cats. Because immunization against the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and testing for the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) have decreased lymphomas in the chest, spleen, bone marrow, thymus, and lymph nodes, the illness is most often identified in the intestines.
Early detection and treatment may help your cat live a long and happy life.
What exactly is lymphoma?
Lymphoma is an immune system cancer that affects cats’ lymph nodes, chest, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract. The gastrointestinal variant of lymphoma affects 50 to 70% of cats with the disease. Lymphoma is characterized as either high-grade (more malignant) or low-grade (less malignant) (i.e., slower growth). The gastrointestinal variant of low-grade lymphoma is more frequent, and the symptoms might be mistaken for inflammatory bowel disease.
What are the symptoms of lymphoma in cats?
Early indicators include:
- A messy look
- Lethargy or reclusive behavior
- Appetite increase or decrease
Symptoms of intermediate to advanced lymphoma include:
- Having trouble getting comfy
- Loss of weight
- Distention or discomfort in the abdomen
- Increased urination and thirst
- Distressed breathing
What can I do to check if my cat has lymphoma?
The diagnosis is generally verified by cytology (fine needle aspirate samples) or biopsy of the afflicted organ and lymph nodes (tissue sample). If your cat has B or T cell lymphoma, further testing using B & T cell immunophenotyping may be required.
The term “staging” refers to how far cancer has gone across the body. Staging is critical for providing prognostic information and identifying unrelated disorders that may influence treatment options. Blood and urine tests, chest x-rays, and abdomen ultrasound are often used to stage cats.
These tests will enable vets to build tailored treatment plans for your cat based on the findings.
What is the treatment for lymphoma?
Chemotherapy is frequently used to treat lymphoma. Prednisone (a steroid) and chlorambucil are used to treat low-grade lymphoma (an oral chemotherapy agent). A variety of injectable chemotherapy methods are used to treat high-grade lymphoma.
“Chemotherapy is mainly used to treat lymphoma.”
Cats are significantly more resistant to chemotherapy than humans, and they seldom lose their hair or seem unwell. Vomiting, diarrhea, and a loss of appetite are the most prevalent adverse effects. However, only approximately 10% of them have severe side effects.
Lymphoma that is restricted to one region, such as nasal tumors or abdominal masses, may be treated with surgery and/or radiation, although this is unusual. Chemotherapy is required in most situations because surgery or radiation are ineffective.
Prednisone may be administered for palliative, or hospice, care if chemotherapy is not an option owing to a cat’s disease or owner finances. Although prednisone does not cure lymphoma, it may reduce clinical indications temporarily and buy the pet some time.
What is the outlook for lymphoma patients?
Lymphoma prognosis is determined by the lymphoma’s location, how unwell the cat is when therapy begins, the cat’s feline leukemia status, and how promptly the disease is discovered and treated.
Low-grade lymphoma is the most common kind of gastrointestinal lymphoma. Approximately 70% of cats with low-grade lymphoma will go into remission with therapy. Although lymphoma is never really cured, remission is a phrase used to indicate the temporary disappearance of all symptoms. Low-grade lymphoma remission lasts on average 2-3 years, which means the patient is free of symptoms.
“There are several variables that influence lymphoma prognosis.”
However, high-grade gastrointestinal lymphoma does not react to therapy as well. With therapy, only 25-50 percent of cats with high-grade lymphoma attain remission. This time of remission often lasts just 2-9 months, after which cats get unwell again.
The prognosis for mediastinal lymphoma in cats with feline leukemia is dismal, with an average survival span of three months. Mediastinal lymphoma often responds to treatment in cats who do not have feline leukemia. The typical survival duration for these cats is 9-12 months, with the early reaction to therapy frequently indicating survival time.
Unfortunately, renal lymphoma has an extremely dismal prognosis. With this kind of lymphoma, the average life time is about 3-6 months, while there have been rare accounts of cats living much longer. Renal lymphoma has a proclivity for spreading to the brain and central nervous system, which happens in around 40% of cases and significantly worsens the prognosis.
How can I lower my cat’s chances of having lymphoma?
Lymphoma cannot be avoided, although the risk of a cat acquiring lymphoma may be reduced by avoiding feline leukemia virus infection (for more information on this vaccination, see the handout “Feline Leukemia Virus Vaccination”). To avoid feline leukemia infection, all cats that go outside or whose owners take in strays with unknown feline leukemia status should be vaccinated against this virus.
Tips for managing lymphoma in cats
At-home requirements include:
A warm, cozy sleeping environment
A clean litter box and easy access to a tasty feed and water
Medication consistency is important.
Appetite, vomiting, urine, and bowel motions should all be closely monitored.
Looking for symptoms of illness progression
End-of-life care includes:
Attempt to keep your cat secure and comfortable.
Ensure your cat gets enough food and water.
Check for any pain or discomfort.
In a time of crisis:
If your cat develops uncontrolled vomiting or diarrhea, abdominal distention, trouble breathing, collapses, or vocalizes in pain, call your veterinarian right away.
Beginning end-of-life care talks before your cat’s health becomes unmanageable or their quality of life deteriorates is critical. To feel completely prepared for this degenerative condition, learn more about pet hospice, in-home euthanasia, or call a veterinarian in your region.