Lymphoma in cats

Julia Dicconson
Content Manager
September 27, 2021

Lymphoma is a cancer of the immune system that can affect the lymph nodes, chest, kidneys, or gastrointestinal tract in cats. Between 50% to 70% of cats with lymphoma have the gastrointestinal form. 

Lymphoma is classified as high-grade (more malignant), or low-grade (slower growth). 

Low-grade lymphoma is more common in the gastrointestinal form, and signs can mimic inflammatory bowel disease.  

What are common lymphoma signs in cats?

Early signs include:

  • Unkempt appearance
  • Reclusive behaviour or lethargy
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting

Intermediate or advanced signs include:

  • Difficulty getting comfortable
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain or distention
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Respiratory distress

Low-grade lymphoma can often be treated with oral chemotherapy.

How is lymphoma managed in cats? 

Management depends on the disease type and stage, and the overall health of your cat. Treatment is not curative, but designed to improve your cat’s quality and length of life. 

Low-grade lymphoma can often be treated with oral chemotherapy, and intravenous protocols are used for high-grade disease. Surgery may be an option, as well as appetite stimulants, or anti-nausea medication. 

Cats with lymphoma need regular veterinary visits and diagnostic tests to monitor their status and prognosis. Discussing a personalised management plan with your vet and a veterinary oncologist is important for the best outcome for your cat.

What is the prognosis for cats?

More than 70% of cats treated for low-grade intestinal lymphoma experience remission and live a good quality of life for two to three years. The prognosis for high-grade lymphoma is less than 50% remission, and survival time is two to nine months. Unfortunately, most cats with lymphoma eventually relapse into a more drug-resistant form.

Management tips for a cat with lymphoma

At-home needs include:

  • A warm, comfortable place to sleep
  • Easy access to a palatable diet and water, and a clean litter box
  • Consistency with medications
  • Close monitoring of appetite, vomiting, urination, and bowel movements
  • Watching for signs of worsening disease

For end-of-life care:

In a crisis:

Immediately contact your vet if your cat has uncontrollable vomiting or diarrhoea, abdominal distention, or difficulty breathing, collapses, or vocalises in pain.

It is vital to begin end-of-life care discussions before your cat’s condition becomes unmanageable, or they begin losing their quality of life. 

Don’t wait until the very end. It’s important to consider your pet’s end-of-life journey early, so that you, your family and your pet are all supported through the process.

When the time comes, we’re here for you. Goodbye Good Boy provides a range of end-of-life services to make the difficult process of saying goodbye a little easier. 

We offer quality of life assessments from qualified vets, specialist grief counselling, at home euthanasia from dedicated end of life veterinarians, as well as cremation services and memorial options to help remember your pet for their unique character.

We are with you at every step of the journey.

To find out more, you can call our team of passionate pet lovers on 1800 953 619.

This article was reproduced with permission from Goodbye Good Boy advisor Dr Dani McVety, of Lap Of Love.