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Vet Talks: Gastrointestinal Lymphoma in Cats

Posted 2020-11-12

Alimentary lymphoma, or what is commonly known as Gastrointestinal lymphoma, is one of the most common kinds of lymphoma that I have seen in cats. It is always so difficult for me to talk about lymphoma, after losing my own kitty, Frederico to lymphoma a few years ago. My experience with lymphoma brings together what I had been through as a pet parent and what I understand as a veterinarian.

Lymphoma, also known as lymphosarcoma, is a disease that typically originates in lymphoid tissues, which are found in the lymph nodes, bone marrow, and spleen. However, this cancer can be present in many tissues throughout the body.

Alimentary (gastrointestinal) is one form of lymphoma that is characterized by the presence of a solitary mass, multiple masses with or without regional intra-abdominal lymph node involvement, or as a diffusely infiltrating disease of one or more parts of the bowel.

Incidence and Causes of Gastrointestinal Lymphoma in Cats

The incidence of alimentary lymphoma between the pets with lymphosarcoma is around 7%. The causes are unknown, but some factors such as breed, genetic factors, FeLV in cats, and environmental factors can play an important role. Also, environmental factors such as cigarette smoke may increase the risk.

cat lymphoma

Signs of  Gastrointestinal Lymphoma in Cats

As the alimentary form can affect any part of the stomach or intestines, it often causes related symptoms such as weight loss, lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, and a diarrhea. An abdominal mass may develop that can be felt on a physical examination. Also, some cats may experience enlargement of the liver and spleen.

Diagnostic Tests for Gastrointestinal Lymphoma in Cats

If the external lymph nodes are enlarged, this can help with diagnosis. However, diagnosis may be more difficult if contained to an internal organ. Therefore, laboratory tests such as blood work, biopsy of the enlarged lymph nodes or other organs, radiographs (x-rays) and/or ultrasound, bone marrow aspiration, FeLV test, and endoscopy may be recommended by your vet. There is also a specialized test to determine the type of lymphoma (B Cell versus T Cell) once the preliminary diagnosis is made.

cat ultrasound lymphoma

Treatment of Gastrointestinal Lymphoma in Cats

In most cases, successful treatment of lymphoma will require chemotherapy that may involve one of many different protocols. Surgery may be needed to relieve any intestinal obstruction caused by a tumor. Chemotherapy is usually started when the disease is first diagnosed, even if the pet does not seem ill, because waiting may reduce chances of long-term survival. The goal of cancer therapy is to achieve long-term remission and good quality of life. Frequent recheck visits are needed to administer the chemotherapy and to monitor the response to medications through regular lab work.

NHV has a wonderful regimen that can be integrated with chemotherapy really well.

Prognosis of Gastrointestinal Lymphoma in Cats

The prognosis depends on several factors, including FeLV status, location of the cancer, cell type (B versus T; acute/aggressive versus low/chronic), and how quickly the cancer is diagnosed and treated.

I believe that integrative medicine can make a lot of difference in the quality of life of a pet suffering from gastrointestinal lymphoma. Therefore, the correct diet and supplements, along with traditional medicine may help improve the chances of survival of the pet. Based on this, I have put together a regimen for pets suffering with alimentary lymphoma.


I strongly recommend coupling this regimen with a customized home cooked diet or a prescription diet that your veterinarian recommends.

This regimen may help the body fight against the alimentary (gastrointestinal) lymphoma, regardless of which part of the stomach or intestines is affected:

Felimm: This formula helps balance the immune system that is unregulated in an animal with lymphoma. It also helps fight against feline leukemia (FeLV) that is related to lymphoma, and the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), canine herpesvirus, and parvovirus.

In addition, it helps fight infections, encourages detoxification of the lymphatic system, stimulates the appetite, improves energy levels and helps combat upper respiratory tract infections.

Milk Thistle: Unfortunately, chemotherapy has many side effects, such as toxicity of the organs. Milk Thistle can be very helpful to prevent and decrease these toxicities. As it can detoxify the liver and kidney by removing toxins that can build up in a pet’s system when taking pharmaceutical or from chemical-laden foods.

Not only does it improve the liver and kidney function, it also supports regeneration of the liver, and supports overworking kidneys. It also has antioxidant properties and may work as an anticancer support.

Yucca: As corticosteroids are often used in the treatment of lymphoma and Yucca contain steroidal saponins, it can be very useful for pets suffering alimentary lymphoma. This is well researched and reported that these steroidal saponins present in Yucca stimulates the body to produce its own natural corticosteroids. NHV Yucca is formulated and dosed specifically to be safe for long term use in pets. It has been used successfully to help control pain and inflammation in the body.

Plantaeris: It helps maintain normal bowel functions, soothes and relives spasms of the digestive tract and reduces pain and discomfort of the pet suffering from alimentary lymphoma.

Gastrointestinal Lymphoma in Cats and IBD in cats

Is it intestinal lymphoma or is it IBD? This question is one that arises in most cases in cats, because both Gastrointestinal (GI) lymphoma and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) present similar symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, reduced appetite and weight loss. An ultrasound would show thickening of the intestinal or GI tract which could also mean either. This is why diagnosis becomes difficult, unless there are other symptoms like enlarged lymph nodes or noticeable lymphatic changes in an ultrasound. Which is why if you have a senior cat with a suspicious case of IBD and lymphoma, we’d recommend starting both supplements – NHV Felimm or the lymphoma and NHV Plantaeris for the IBD. And in such cases, diet becomes even more important.

tinkerbell cat lymphoma nhv

Talk to an NHV Pet Expert today about your cat with Gastrointestinal Lymphoma

Helping a cat cope with alimentary lymphoma is quite overwhelming and there are lots os decisions to make – diet, chemo, supplements and how to best keep the cat’s quality of life good. NHV’s Pet Expert team can be a part of your pet’s lymphoma journey – a part of your pet’s integrative vet team.

Dr. Amanda Nascimento, DVM, MVSc., PhD completed her undergraduate degree in veterinary medicine in 2010 and graduate studies in veterinary pathology (MVSc. 2012 and PhD 2016) at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of São Paulo. She completed her post-doctoral training at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine – University of Saskatchewan in 2018. 

You can book a consult with Dr. Amanda here or get a customized diet plan , specially formulated for your pet.

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Juliet the cat was diagnosed with large cell lymphoma at the age of 12

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