Intestinal Lymphoma in Cats

Lymphoma is one of the most commonly represented concerns noted among cats.  At the current time accounting for 30% of cancer patients have lymphoma

Lymphoma is a cancer made of lymphocytes and these lymphocytes readily travel throughout the body via the lymph system. Lymphoma is not considered to be a localized disease because of this traveling, so surgery and radiotherapy are not appropriate sole treatments. To reach cancerous lymphocytes in all the places they have gone, medication (chemotherapy) is necessary because medication can be carried all over the body via the circulation. Treatment of lymphoma is going to involve pills and/or injections for your cat regardless of which form of lymphoma has been diagnosed.

In years past mediastinal and multicentric lymphoma were frequently diagnosed and were often associated with a diagnosis of Feline Leukemia Virus and in some cases Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).

Intestinal lymphoma in cats can presented in a number of different ways.  However the most common findings an owner can appreciate are decreased appetite, weight loss, occasional vomiting, and even being able to appreciate enlarged lymph nodes.


One of the cornerstones for diagnosis of lymphoma include a detailed and thorough physical examination by a veterinarian.   Having annual examinations and for senior pets (over 7 yrs of age) examinations ever 6 months allow you and your veterinarian to detect changes much earlier and thus allowing for correction or intervention sooner.  Leading to better outcomes.

If your cat has intermittent or occasional vomiting some of the first things that need to take place are baseline blood work which include  complete blood count, blood chemistry, and urine sample.   These allow for full body function assessments.

A complete blood count is important to evaluate red blood cell numbers and the specific white blood cell values as well as platelets.

There are further advanced blood tests that can be performed as well.  Often they require your pet to be fasted and need to be sent to an outside lab.

Such panels check kidney, liver, blood sugar, pancreatic, blood proteins, calcium and electrolytes.
Diagnostic imaging is also very important.  Such diagnostic testing includes x-rays as well as ultrasounds.   Below are some photos of a patient’s x-rays as well as her ultrasound.







Note the intestinal lymph node measuring ~ 3 cm in diameter







Treatment and outcome depend on early intervention and treatment.  Mainstays of treatment include diet modification with novel protein foods, steroid therapy, vitamin supplementation, and oral chemotherapy medications.  Other options include surgery, if a single tumor is noted, or radiation.