Lymphadenopathy in Cats | swelling of the lymph nodes (2023)

What isLymphadenopathy in cats?

Lymphadenopathy is a broad term used to describe enlarged or swollen lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system, a network of tissues and organs that help the body remove toxins, waste, and other unwanted materials. The main job of the lymphatic system is to move lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body.

Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped nodules of soft tissue that play an essential role in the functioning of the immune system, acting as a filter for blood and a reservoir for white blood cells. Lymphatic ducts are a series of tube-like structures that absorb excess fluid leaking from the blood capillaries, filter out toxins, and return healthy blood to the bloodstream.

When an infection occurs in the body, the regional lymph nodes near the infection site become inflamed and swollen. This swelling occurs due to an immune system response; In the presence of an infectious agent, an increase in white blood cells (lymphocytes) occurs. Lymph fluid flows through the lymph nodes, where lymphocytes capture and destroy infectious material, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and cancer cells. The processes of destruction of infectious material lead to inflammation of the lymph nodes, so the lymph nodes are often the first indicators of disease in adjacent tissues.

There are three main types of swollen lymph nodes:

reactive lymphoid hyperplasia:

This is the normal response of the lymph nodes when they respond to an antigenic stimulus (a substance that stimulates the production of an antibody, such as a virus or toxin). The lymph nodes make too many white blood cells and therefore become enlarged but do not become infected.


This is inflammation and infection of the lymph nodes, usually in response to an infection that started elsewhere in the body. It is a common complication of many infections.


Cancer cells found in the lymph nodes can be lymphoma, a primary cancer that begins in the lymph node, or metastasis, a secondary cancer that has spread from other parts of the body.

(Video) Lymphadenopathy: The steps to take when you feel an enlarged lymph node

Location of lymph nodes:

  • Over the mandible - submandibular
  • Cervical - neck
  • Axillas - axillas
  • Brust – traqueobronquica
  • Mesentery/Darm – Mesentery
  • Pelvis - ilium
  • ingle
  • Hind leg near knee - knee socket

Lymphadenopathy in Cats | swelling of the lymph nodes (1)

Lymphadenopathy in cats. Lymphatic system of the cat. lymphoma in cats

Symptoms ofLymphadenopathy in cats

Swollen lymph nodes are the main symptom, recognizable as lumps under the skin. Lymphadenopathy caused by infection is often tender to the touch and is accompanied by symptoms associated with the disease. However, lymphadenopathy caused by non-infectious diseases such as cancer causes the lymph node to swell, but there is often no associated pain or symptoms.

Common symptoms of feline lymphadenopathy caused by an infection include:

  • A knot under the skin
  • localized pain
  • Fever
  • fluid buildup
  • Polyuria - excessive urination
  • Polydipsia - sede excesiva
  • To vomit
  • Diarrhea
  • lethargy
  • Anorexia - loss of appetite
  • weightloss
  • congested nose

Other symptoms associated with lymphadenopathy may be specific to the infection or underlying cause, for example:

  • If your cat has a dental abscess, the lymph nodes in the throat may become enlarged, which can cause difficulty swallowing, decreased appetite, and weight loss.
  • An enlarged lymph node in the extremities can make it difficult for the cat to walk, which can lead to decreased physical activity, an unusual gait, and swelling of a limb.
  • Swollen lumps in the groin (groin) can make it difficult to pass stool.

Lymphadenopathy in Cats | swelling of the lymph nodes (2)

Domestic cat (Felis catus) lymph node stained - (stained with hematoxylin - Eozin) - high magnification permanent sliding plate

(Video) Quick Approach to Cervical Lymphadenopathy

reasons forLymphadenopathy in cats

Lymphadenopathy in cats can be caused by a variety of infectious and non-infectious agents.


An allergen is a non-infectious agent or substance that causes an allergic reaction in the body. Lymph nodes respond to allergens in the body by producing too many white blood cells, usually in the nodes near the site of the reaction, causing them to swell.

The following substances can cause allergic reactions in cats:

  • Essen
  • flea and flea control products
  • Tree, grass, weeds, mold, fungus and dust pollen
  • Cleaning products
  • prescription drugs
  • perfumes
  • screens
  • rubber and plastic materials
  • cigarette smoke


There are also many infectious causes of enlarged lymph nodes in cats. Some of them are:


  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
  • Katzen-Coronavirus
  • Calicivirus-Polyarthropathy or Stomatitis
  • Feline panleukopenia virus (FPV)
  • Feline leukemia virus (FeLV)


  • Rickettsia (borne by ticks, mites, and fleas)
  • Bartonella spp. (borne by stable flies)
  • Brucella canis (sexually transmitted)
  • Pasteurella (commonly found in the mouths of dogs and cats)
  • Yersinia pestis (borne by fleas; also known as "the plague")
  • Mycobacterium (transmitted through infected water sources)


  • Histoplasmacapsulatum (ingested through contaminated soil or bird droppings)
  • Sporotrichosis: Fungal infection acquired by plants through breaks in the skin.


  • Toxoplasmagondii (found in garden soil and raw meat)

How is itLymphadenopathy in cats diagnosed?

It is important to see a veterinarian to determine the cause of the swollen lymph nodes. The age of the cat can narrow down the probable cause; Infections are more common in young cats, and cancer is more likely in older cats.

(Video) Examination of the Lymph Nodes - Clinical Examination

The vet will perform a complete physical exam and evaluate any swollen glands. The number of affected glands, the size and the location can indicate the underlying cause. If the lymph node is close to the surface of the skin, the vet will be able to feel the localized enlargement. A medical history is required, including a description of any other symptoms or recent infections that may indicate if any organ is causing the secondary enlargement of the regional lymph nodes.

Diagnosis usually requires tests to assess organ function and look for signs of infection or inflammation, which may include:

  • Serum chemistry profile
  • Complete blood count
  • urine analysis
  • electrolyte plate
  • Fine needle aspiration: A small needle is inserted into the lymph node and a pathologist collects and examines a sample of fluid under a microscope.
  • Lymph node biopsy: The removal of lymph node tissue for evaluation by a pathologist.
  • Tests for feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus.
  • Serological tests (blood serum) for antibodies against systemic fungi or bacteria.
  • Fecal parasitological examination
  • Ultrasound or X-rays: to evaluate the lymph nodes and look for possible tumors; Ultrasounds are preferred because they are more effective than X-rays in visualizing an enlarged lymph node.

If the lymph nodes remain swollen and infections and allergies are ruled out as the cause, your vet will perform additional diagnostic tests to check for cancer.

Lymphadenopathy in Cats | swelling of the lymph nodes (3)

Lymphadenopathy in cats. Enlarged lymph nodes in cats. lymphoma in cats


In most cases, lymphadenopathy in cats is not serious, and most cats make a full recovery. To obtain a positive prognosis, the cause of the lymphadenopathy must be determined so that the condition can be treated and treated effectively. In a small percentage of cases, lymphadenopathy is caused by cancer, which has a less optimistic prognosis. If the cancer has spread (metastasized) from elsewhere, the prognosis is usually poor.

treatment forLymphadenopathy in cats

The treatment options prescribed for feline lymphadenopathy largely depend on the underlying cause of the enlarged lymph nodes.

Infections are usually treated with oral or intravenous medications to eradicate the infectious agent:

(Video) Neck Nodes in Children

  • Viral infections are treated with supportive care, such as fluid therapy and nutritional support; The cat's immune system fights the virus.
  • Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics.
  • Yeast infections are treated with antibiotics or antifungal medications along with supportive care.
  • The inflammation can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs such as cortisone.

Treatment of cancer-related lymphadenopathy usually involves a combination of the following:

  • Surgical removal of the affected lymph node
  • chemotherapy
  • radiotherapy


Lymphadenopathy is a broad term for the condition of enlarged lymph nodes that usually occurs when there is an infection or disease in the tissues of the body. The inflammation is caused by an increase in the number of white blood cells in the lymph nodes as the immune system responds to an infection. Lymph nodes can also enlarge in response to allergens or, in the worst case, as a sign of primary (lymphoma) or secondary (metastasis) cancer elsewhere in the body.

The main symptom of lymphadenopathy is a swollen lump under the skin, usually tender to the touch, and may be accompanied by symptoms related to the underlying infection or disease. The goal of diagnosis is to identify the underlying cause, and treatment usually involves medications designed to eliminate it. In most cases, enlarged lymph nodes in cats are not a serious condition, and most animals make a full recovery.

More information

(Video) Lymph Node Inflammation in Cats | Wag!


Are swollen lymph nodes in cats serious? ›

Lymph nodes that grow in size or are tender to the touch tell your cat's vet that they are likely battling a serious illness. Lymph nodes are present throughout the body, but can be felt in the neck, in front of the shoulder and behind both knees.

How do you treat swollen lymph nodes in cats? ›

Treatment. Inflamed lymph nodes are treated with an anti-inflammatory like cortisone. Pets with bacterial or fungal infections are treated with antibiotics or anti-fungal medications. There is no specific treatment for a lymph node that is enlarged due to a viral infection.

What are the two main causes of lymphadenopathy? ›

Swollen lymph nodes usually occur as a result of infection from bacteria or viruses. Rarely, swollen lymph nodes are caused by cancer. Your lymph nodes, also called lymph glands, play a vital role in your body's ability to fight off infections.

What causes lymphadenopathy in cats? ›

Causes of Lymphadenopathy in Cats

Lymphadenopathy can affect cats at any age. It is a reaction in the lymph nodes that can be caused by a virus, inflammatory condition, vaccine reaction, tick-borne illness, cancer, or other infection.

What causes feline lymphadenopathy? ›

Causes of lymphadenopathy

Lymphadenopathy is defined as enlargement of a solitary node, a regional group of nodes or of all lymph nodes. Causes of lymph-node enlargement in cats include: REACTIVE HYPERPLASIA, resulting from proliferation of lymphocytes and plasma cells from antigenic stimulation.

How do vets treat swollen lymph nodes? ›

Typically, swollen lymph nodes caused by infection are treated with vet-prescribed antibiotics or antiparasitic or antifungal medication. Lymphoma is usually treated with chemotherapy, she adds.

What happens if swollen lymph nodes are left untreated? ›

If left untreated, the swollen glands can lead to abscess formation, a collection of pus caused by an infection, or a blood stream infection. Use of a warm compress, over-the-counter pain medication and adequate rest are typically all that is required to relieve the symptoms of swollen glands.

What percentage of swollen lymph nodes are cancerous? ›

Malignancies are reported in as few as 1.1 percent of primary-care patients with swollen lymph nodes, according to a review in American Family Physician.

How long do cats live after being diagnosed with lymphoma? ›

What is the prognosis for cats diagnosed with lymphoma? With treatment, the prognosis for cats diagnosed with gastrointestinal large cell lymphoma is about 6 - 9 months. A small percentage of cats that reach full remission with treatment can live up to 2 years, although this is rare.

Can parasites cause swollen lymph nodes in cats? ›

Toxoplasmosis is a protozoal parasitic infection that affects cats and can be transmitted to humans. The most commonly affected organs and tissues include lymph nodes, liver, lung, brain/spinal cord, and the eyes. There may be weight loss, lethargy and fever.

When should I euthanize my cat with lymphoma? ›

If your pet has rapid weight loss, is weak, starts to eat less, has vomiting or diarrhea, then it may be time to euthanize.

Is lymphadenopathy fatal? ›

Although the disease course is normally self-limiting, fatal cases are known to occur, with a reported fatality rate of 2.1% (Kucukardali et al. 2007; Chan et al. 1989).

How do you know if lymphadenopathy is cancerous? ›

Often, enlarged lymph nodes near a cancer are assumed to contain cancer. The only way to know whether there is cancer in a lymph node is to do a biopsy. Doctors may remove lymph nodes or take samples of one or more nodes using needles.

Is lymphadenopathy cancerous? ›

This leads to enlargement of 1 or several lymph nodes, which is known as lymphadenopathy. In a person with cancer, lymphadenopathy can occur when cancer cells travel through the filtration system of lymphatic vessels to lymph nodes.

Can lymphadenopathy go away by itself? ›

Swollen lymph glands are usually a sign of infection and tend to go down when you recover. However, they can sometimes have a more serious cause and may need to be seen by a doctor.

Does lymphadenopathy indicate infection? ›

Lymphadenopathy refers to the swelling of lymph nodes which can be secondary to bacterial, viral, or fungal infections, autoimmune disease, and malignancy.

Does lymphadenopathy need surgery? ›

Once the diagnosis has been confirmed, surgical intervention is not necessary unless purulence develops, in which case incision and drainage may be necessary. Fungal infections is occasionally the cause of cervical lymphadenopathy in children.

Can lymphadenopathy be cured? ›

In most cases, lymphadenitis clears up quickly with proper treatment, but it may take more time for lymph node swelling to go away. Be sure to let your healthcare provider know if your lymphadenitis symptoms come back.

How long should lymphadenopathy last? ›

[2] Lymphadenopathy is broadly classified into localized, generalized, and dermatopathic. According to its duration, it can be acute (2 weeks duration), subacute (4–6 weeks duration) and chronic (does not resolve by 6 weeks duration).

What is the difference between lymphoma and lymphadenopathy? ›

Peripheral lymphadenopathy has a wide differential diagnosis, including infection, autoimmune disorders, and a number of reactive conditions. Lymphomas are a heterogeneous group of cancers that have a variety of clinical presentations ranging from an indolent course to aggressive disease.

What could be the cause for swollen lymph nodes on an animal? ›

There are several possible infectious causes of enlarged lymph nodes, including but not limited to: bacterial, tick-borne, fungal, and parasitic.

How do you check a cat's lymph nodes? ›

Axillary. Stand alongside your pet and simultaneously rub along the ribs with both hands under the armpits. Make sure you are palpating behind the leg so move your hands way forward as you feel for the axillary lymph nodes.

Can pet allergies cause swollen lymph nodes? ›

Seasonal allergies, pet allergies, and dust allergies can cause runny nose, congestion, and sneezing, just like infections. That said, these allergies don't cause swollen lymph nodes or fever, but infections can cause those symptoms. Food allergies also do not cause swollen lymph nodes.

Can a swollen lymph node not be cancerous? ›

Swollen lymph nodes are a sign that they're working hard. More immune cells may be going there, and more waste could be building up. Swelling usually signals an infection of some kind, but it could also be from a condition like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, or rarely, cancer.

Are cancerous lymph nodes hard or soft? ›

Healthy lymph nodes are more rubbery than the surrounding tissue but are not solid like stone. Any lumps on the neck, groin or armpits that are hard, very enlarged, and do not move when pushed may indicate lymphoma or another type of cancer and should be investigated by your GP.

Can swollen lymph nodes mean nothing? ›

Swollen lymph nodes usually just mean your body is working the way it's supposed to. But if a swollen lymph node keeps getting bigger or doesn't resolve on its own within two weeks, get it checked out. Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.

What size is significant lymphadenopathy? ›

Lymphadenopathy is classically described as a node larger than 1 cm, although this varies by lymphatic region. Palpable supraclavicular, iliac, or popliteal nodes of any size and epitrochlear nodes larger than 5 mm are considered abnormal.

Is lymphadenopathy painful? ›

Swollen lymph nodes are your body's natural reaction to illness or infection. These small lumps are soft, tender and often painful. The most common cause of swollen lymph nodes is an upper respiratory infection, but they can have many causes.

Can stress cause lymphadenopathy? ›

There is a link between can stress cause swollen lymph nodes and mental illness. Swelling lymph nodes can occur when we face stress triggers and is a physical symptom of mental illness.

Is it worth treating a cat with lymphoma? ›

With treatment, approximately 70% of cats with low-grade lymphoma will go into remission. Lymphoma is never truly 'cured,' but remission is a term that is used to describe the temporary resolution of all signs of lymphoma.

How fast does lymphoma spread in cats? ›

The prognosis for solitary lymphoma such as nasal lymphoma is generally better with many cats achieving local control for 1-1.5 years although there is still a concern that the cancer may spread within 3-6 months.

How quickly does lymphoma progress in cats? ›

Cats with large cell gastrointestinal lymphoma tend to have a rapid onset of signs (days or weeks) versus cats with small cell gastrointestinal lymphoma that usually have chronic signs (months). Other signs include trouble breathing (nasal or mediastinal) lymphoma.

What parasite causes lymphadenopathy? ›

Even in asymptomatic people, adult filarial worms commonly cause subclinical lymphatic dilatation and dysfunction. Filarial lymphadenopathy is seen commonly in infected children; before puberty, adult worms can be detected by ultrasonography of the inguinal, crural, and axillary lymph nodes and vessels.

What virus can lead to lymphoma in felines? ›

The most widely recognised cause of feline lymphoma is the gammaretrovirus feline leukaemia virus (FeLV).

Can lymphoma be misdiagnosed in cats? ›

Many cats get sick but never receive a definitive diagnosis of lymphoma. Because some diagnostic tests are expensive, a family veterinarian may give a presumptive diagnosis based on clinical exam findings without performing further tests.

Is my cat in pain if he has lymphoma? ›

Lymphoma does not cause acute pain. More commonly it causes a cat to feel tired and under the weather. Cats with lymphoma tend to lose weight and may have some GI disturbances and changes in their appetite. Less common forms of lymphoma may lead to more severe clinical signs, like difficulty breathing.

How long will my cat live with a steroid when he has lymphoma? ›

A median survival time of 1-2 months is associated with prednisone use alone for high grade lymphoma.

Can Prednisone cure lymphoma in cats? ›

Occasionally cats will go into complete remission with prednisolone alone. However, remission duration is often short-lived and lasts on average of around one to two months. Therefore, prednisolone can be used by itself or in combination with other treatment options (such as chemotherapy) to treat lymphoma in cats.

What are red flags for lymphadenopathy? ›

Lymph node >2cm or rapidly increasing in size is a red flag. It may be appropriate to enquire about breast lumps, dyspnoea, cough or haemoptysis. Identify whether the lump is mobile or attached to any surrounding structures or anything underneath. HIV counselling and testing may be crucial in high-risk patients.

What viruses cause lymphadenopathy? ›

Viral etiologies of lymphadenopathy include HIV, mononucleosis caused by EBV or CMV, roseola, HSV, varicella, and adenovirus. Bacterial etiologies of lymphadenopathy include Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Salmonella, Syphilis, and Yersinia.

What is the most common cause of lymphadenopathy? ›

Causes of generalized lymphadenopathy include infections, autoimmune diseases, malignancies, histiocytoses, storage diseases, benign hyperplasia, and drug reactions. Generalized lymphadenopathy is most often associated with systemic viral infections.

What diseases can cause lymphadenopathy? ›

Benign causes of generalized lymphadenopathy are self-limited viral illnesses, such as infectious mononucleosis, and medications. Other causes include acute human immunodeficiency virus infection, activated mycobacterial infection, cryptococcosis, cytomegalovirus, Kaposi sarcoma, and systemic lupus erythematosus.

What is the best treatment for lymphadenopathy? ›

The most common treatment for swollen lymph nodes caused by a bacterial infection is antibiotics. If your swollen lymph nodes are due to an HIV infection, you'll receive specific treatment for that condition.

What are the most common causes of lymphadenopathy? ›

Causes of generalized lymphadenopathy include infections, autoimmune diseases, malignancies, histiocytoses, storage diseases, benign hyperplasia, and drug reactions. Generalized lymphadenopathy is most often associated with systemic viral infections.

Can lymphadenopathy be benign or malignant? ›

The majority of patients presenting with peripheral lymphadenopathy have easily identifiable causes that are benign or self-limited. Among primary care patients presenting with lymphadenopathy, the prevalence of malignancy has been estimated to be as low as 1.1 percent.

Is lymphadenopathy life threatening? ›

If left untreated, the complications of lymphadenitis might be very serious, even life-threatening. It can cause complications like the spread of cancer and the spread of infection.


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