Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy

or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.

PetMD Seal

Lymphoma in Cats


Cancer of the Lymphocytes in Cats


Lymphoma is a type of cancer that originates in the lymphocyte cells. A type of white blood cell, lymphocytes play an important and integral role in the body's defenses in the immune system.


There are two forms of lymphocytes: B and T cells. Lymphoma may involve neoplastic proliferation of T or B, or non-B/non-T type lymphocytes, occurring primarily in the bone marrow, lymph nodes, and visceral organs.


Lymphoma is found to be responsible for around 90 percent of blood cancers and account for about 33 percent of all tumors in cats. Moreover, it is the most common cause of hypercalcemia in cats.


Symptoms and Types


Symptoms are highly variable and depend upon the anatomical form of this tumor. Following are some forms of lymphoma along with the related symptoms in cats:


Mediastinal form (occurs in the space between the pleural sacs/lungs)


Alimentary form (occurs in the gastrointestinal tract, abdomen, liver)

  • Anorexia
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Black or tarry stool
  • Fresh blood in stool


Multicentric form (occurs in the lymph nodes)

  • Swollen lymph nodes (i.e., jaw, under arms, groin)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Depression


Solitary form (can occur in any location)

  • Symptoms depend upon location


Renal Form (occurs in the kidneys)




The incidence of lymphoma is believed to be associated with exposure to feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Cats that have been infected with either of these viruses have a significantly higher rate of lymphomas than the general cat population.




You will need to give your veterinarian a thorough history of your cat's health and onset of symptoms. The history and details you provide may give your veterinarian clues as to which organs are being primarily affected. Knowing a starting point can make diagnosis that much easier to pinpoint. Once the initial history has been taken, your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination on your cat. Routine laboratory testing includes a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis.


The blood test results may show anemia, or the presence of an abnormally high number of lymphoblasts in the peripheral blood, a condition called lymphoblastosis. Lymphoblasts are immature cells which differentiate to form mature lymphocytes; they are normally present in the bone marrow, but if they proliferate uncontrollably they may  migrate to the peripheral blood, resulting in the abnormal condition called lymphoblastosis.


Biochemistry profiling may show an abnormally high creatinine, serum urea nitrogen, liver enzymes, and calcium levels. The urinalysis may reveal abnormally high levels of pigment bilirubin and proteins in the urine. Affected cats are also tested for the feline leukemia virus (FeLV), which is frequently associated with lymphomas. Your veterinarian will also use diagnostic imaging to locate the tumor(s), conducting X-rays of various body regions, especially the region that appears to be affected. A biopsy of the bone marrow will help in confirming the diagnosis conclusively.




Related Articles

Lymph Node Inflammation (Lymphadenopathy) in Cats

Lymph nodes play an integral part in the functioning of the immune system, acting as filters for the blood and as storage places for white blood...

Myeloproliferative Disorders in Cats

Myeloproliferative Disorders are a specific type of disorders involving excess cell production originating from the bone marrow.

Leukemia (Acute) in Cats

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a disease in which cancerous lymphoblasts and prolymphocytes reproduce, and then circulate through the bloodstream,...

Lung Cancer (Squamous Cell Carcinoma) in Cats

A squamous cell carcinoma of the lung is a type of metastasizing tumor that arises from the squamous epithelium in the lung cavity.

Around the Web