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

Lymph Node Inflammation (Lymphadenitis) in Cats

Lymphadenitis in Cats

 

Lymphadenitis is a condition of the lymph nodes, characterized by inflammation due to an active migration of white blood cells into the lymph nodes. There are different types of white blood cells that can cause this: neutrophils, the most abundant type of white blood cells in the body; macrophages, the cells that engulf and digest cellular debris and pathogens in the bloodstream; or eosinophils, the white blood cells of the immune system.

 

Because of the filtration functions of the lymph nodes, they are likely to be exposed to infectious agents. Lymphadenitis is usually the result of an infectious agent gaining access to a lymph node and establishing an infection, with a resulting response by the immune system to fight the infection with increased white blood cell production. Such infectious agents include fungi and mycobacteria (pathogens known to cause serious diseases in mammals) .

 

There is no known genetic basis to lymphadenitis, except for rare cases of immunodeficiency. However, newborn kittens may have a higher rate of occurrence than older cats, since their still undeveloped immune systems make them more susceptible to infection.

 

Symptoms and Types

 

Lymphadenitis seldom causes lymph node enlargement that is severe enough for someone unfamiliar with veterinary medicine to observe. Your cat's doctor, however, will be able to locate the firm nodes through palpation, which is often painful for the animal. The cat may also have a fever, suffer from inappetance (anorexia), or display other systemic signs of infection. Bacterial infections, in particular, may develop abscesses within the nodes, which may open to the exterior and present as draining tracts. Other complications will depend on the location of the infection and whether it is affecting surrounding organs.

 

Causes

 

Bacterial

  • Most pathogenic species have occasionally been reported
  • Most likely agents are Pasteurella, Bacteroides, and Fusobacterium spp
  • A few, such as Yersinia pestis (bubonic plague), and Francisella tularensis (tularemia), have a particular affinity for lymph nodes and are especially likely to be manifest as lymphadenitis, especially in cats
  • Bartonella spp can cause lymphoid hyperplasia (proliferation of cells), however, organisms are not detected with routine stains

 

Fungi

  • Infections commonly include lymphadenitis as one manifestation of a systemic disease
  • Likely organisms include Blastomyces, Cryptococcus, Histoplasma, Coccidiodes, Sporothrix
  • Other fungal agents have occasionally been reported

 

Viruses

  • Many viral infections are implicated in lymphoid hyperplasia
  • Coronavirus - Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
  • Mesenteric (wall of the abdomen) lymph nodes are most commonly affected

 

Other

  • Protozoa - cats with toxoplasmosis and leishmaniasis frequently have lymphadenitis although it is unlikely to be the most obvious clinical finding
  • Noninfectious (e.g., associated with pulmonary or systemic eosinophilic disease) cause is usually unknown

 

Risk Factors

  • Cats with compromised immune function are susceptible to infection and, therefore, to lymphadenitis
  • Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) are among the more common causes of immune compromise in veterinary patients

 

 

 

Diagnosis

 

You will need to provide a thorough history of your cat's health leading up to the onset of symptoms. Your veterinarian will need to ascertain that a palpable or visible mass is actually a lymph node and not a tumor or another kind of inflammation. Also, it may be difficult to distinguish on the basis of clinical findings from other causes of lymph gland enlargement, or a proliferation of cells in the lymph nodes for some other reason, such as cancer.

 

To be certain of making the correct diagnosis, your veterinarian will order a complete blood count and urinalysis to look for evidence of bacterial and fungal diseases. If the swollen nodes are in the chest and abdomen, diagnostic testing will include X-ray and ultrasound imaging to make a determination. A fine-needle aspiration of the lymph nodes themselves may also be performed to gather sample of the fluid and tissue that is within the nodes, so that the exact internal composition of the lymph nodes can be analyzed.

 

 

Related Articles

Liver Inflammation (Chronic) in Cats
Long-term, ongoing inflammation of the liver, a medical condition referred to as...
READ MORE
Excess Iron in the Blood in Cats
While iron is an essential nutrient for the regular functioning of a cat's body,...
READ MORE
Swelling in Cats
Swelling due to an excessive accumulation of tissue fluid within the interstitium...
READ MORE

Do you have a plan for your pet(s) in case of natural disaster or emergency evacuation?

  • Lifetime Credits:
  • Today's Credits:
Hurry Before All Seats are Taken!
Enroll
Be an A++ Pet Parent! Take fun & free courses to earn badges & certifications. Choose a course»
Search cat Articles

 

 

Around the Web
MORE FROM PETMD.COM