Feline Lymphoma: When To Euthanize Your Cat With Cancer

It can be difficult to know when it’s time to euthanize a cat and not just for the emotional toll. There are important medical, practical and financial implications, so it is essential that the cat is not just put down because you are tired of dealing with them or are worried about the burden it might have on your finances. Let’s look at why it might be time to think about having your cat euthanized and what considerations you should make before taking this course of action.

What is feline lymphoma?

Feline lymphoma is a cancer that affects the lymphatic system in cats. The lymphatic system is responsible for carrying fluids and white blood cells throughout an animal’s body, and it is responsible for protecting the body from infections and diseases.

When feline lymphoma occurs, the lymph nodes become enlarged and fluid-filled.

types of feline lymphoma

Intestinal lymphoma

Intestinal feline lymphoma is a cancer that affects the intestinal tract of cats. It is most often diagnosed in older cats, but can occur at any age in cats.

Signs of intestinal lymphoma include weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, and a swollen belly. The cat may also have anemia from blood loss or chronic infections caused by the swelling in its intestines.

Cats with intestinal lymphoma will typically be diagnosed with a combination of diagnostic tests such as X-rays, ultrasound and a biopsy of the intestines. Treatment for intestinal lymphoma includes chemotherapy drugs which are given orally or through injections into the cat’s vein.

Mediastinal lymphoma

Mediastinal lymphoma is a rare cancer affecting the upper part of your cat’s chest. It can also spread to other organs and tissues around the chest area, including the lungs, heart, and diaphragm. The exact cause of mediastinal lymphoma isn’t known, but it may be genetic.

Treatment usually involves chemotherapy or radiation therapy. These treatments can sometimes cure the cancer, but they don’t always work.

However, most cats with mediastinal lymphoma survive for at least a year after diagnosis—even if they don’t receive treatment immediately.

Renal lymphoma

A Renal lymphoma is a form of cancer that affects the kidneys. It’s a very rare disease, with only about 100 cases per year in cats. It develops slowly, and it’s usually discovered by accident during an unrelated health issue.

Cats with renal lymphoma often have blood in their urine (hematuria), which can be seen as reddish-brown staining on the fur around their litter box. They may also have a persistent cough, loss of appetite and weight loss, depression or lethargy, enlarged lymph nodes under their jaw, or abdominal swelling.

Treatment for renal lymphoma largely depends on the severity of symptoms and how long they’ve been present; some cats will respond well to chemotherapy, while others will require amputation of their leg(s) due to bone damage caused by cancerous tumors growing there.

symptoms of feline lymphoma

If you notice your cat is losing weight, has a swollen abdomen, or has trouble breathing, it could be feline lymphoma.

The symptoms of feline lymphoma are different for each cat and can sometimes be difficult to detect. Lymphoma can affect cats of any age and breed, but it’s more common in older cats and those that have been exposed to other cats with the disease. Cats with lymphoma may also experience blood in their stool or urine, diarrhea, vomiting, fever and loss of appetite.

If you think your cat has feline lymphoma, talk to your veterinarian as soon as possible so they can perform tests to confirm the diagnosis and recommend treatment options that are right for your cat’s needs.

feline lymphoma treatments

When your cat has lymphoma, it can be a scary time. The good news is that there are some treatments that can help your cat live a long and happy life.

One of the most common feline lymphoma treatments is chemotherapy. This treatment can help slow down the growth of cancer cells in your cat’s body, which means they will take longer to spread throughout your cat’s body.

Another common feline lymphoma treatment is radiation therapy. This treatment uses high-energy rays to kill any cancer cells in your cat’s body that haven’t already been killed by chemotherapy or other treatments. It’s important to note that this type of treatment isn’t always an option for cats with lymphoma—your vet will be able to tell you whether or not it’s appropriate for your cat.

It’s also important to remember that these treatments don’t cure feline lymphoma—they slow down its progression and make it easier for your cat to live with the disease.

What is the life expectancy for cats with feline lymphoma?

If your cat has lymphoma, the life expectancy depends on several factors. The most important factor is how far along the disease is when it’s diagnosed. If your cat is just beginning to show symptoms, they can live for a long time—even years. But if the disease has progressed, their life expectancy will be shorter.

Cats with lymphoma generally live between 6 and 12 months after diagnosis.

How do you know when to put your cat down with lymphoma?

low quality of life

Low quality of life is a reason to euthanize a cat with feline lymphoma because the cat will experience pain and discomfort, as well as difficulty breathing and eating. The cat’s quality of life will be low enough that they will not find joy in living.

Having No Appetite

In cats with feline lymphoma, lack of appetite is a sign that the cat is becoming more ill. A cat will lose interest in eating if they’re in pain, so it’s essential to get them to a veterinarian if this happens.

Having No Appetite
Having No Appetite

The reason for this is that feline lymphoma causes the body to attack its own cells, which can lead to anemia (a lack of red blood cells), low white blood cell count, and other side effects. When these occur, your cat will not have enough red blood cells to supply oxygen throughout their body and organs, which can result in organ failure and even death.

Euthanasia is often recommended if they have lost too much weight or are unable to eat without pain because it can help prevent further deterioration of their health.

Having trouble breathing

It sounds like your cat is having trouble breathing, which means that he is likely still suffering from his disease. While getting him on oxygen may help with the symptoms, it won’t cure the underlying problem and could actually make things worse in the long run.

Please take a moment to think about what kind of life this is for your cat: one where he has trouble breathing and no longer eats or drinks enough water to stay healthy. He must feel so sad and lonely!

Behavioral Changes

Behavioral Changes
Behavioral Changes

Cats with feline lymphoma often experience behavioral changes, which can be signs that the end is near for your pet. You might notice your cat becoming more anxious or irritable than usual, acting out in aggression toward other pets or family members, or acting lethargic and slow to respond. If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat, it’s vital that you take them seriously and schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Always Sleeping

Sometimes, cats with feline lymphoma are so tired and weak that they sleep almost all the time. This can be a sign of a terminal illness, and it’s not uncommon for veterinarians to recommend euthanasia for these cats.

Always Sleeping

They may also have trouble walking or moving around due to weakness and pain. If your cat has started sleeping constantly, you should talk to your veterinarian as soon as possible.

feline lymphoma stages

There are different systems used to stage feline lymphoma;

Stage I: This is the earliest stage of feline lymphoma, where the cancer is localized to a single lymph node or a group of lymph nodes. At this stage, the cancer cells are usually confined to one area of the body and have not spread to other organs.

Stage II: In this stage, the cancer has spread beyond the lymph nodes and has affected other organs, such as the liver, spleen, or bone marrow. The cancer cells may also be present in the blood or in several lymph nodes.

Stage III: At this stage, the cancer has spread extensively throughout the body, affecting multiple organs and lymph nodes. The cat may also have anemia (low red blood cell count) and other signs of systemic illness.

Stage IV: This is the most advanced stage of feline lymphoma, where the cancer has spread to the bone marrow, affecting the production of blood cells. The cat may also have organ failure and other severe symptoms.

To determine the stage of feline lymphoma, the veterinarian will perform a physical exam, blood tests, and imaging studies such as X-rays, ultrasounds, or CT scans. The veterinarian may also perform a biopsy of the affected lymph node or organ to confirm the diagnosis and determine the type of lymphoma.

The treatment for feline lymphoma depends on the stage and type of cancer, as well as the cat’s overall health.

How to care for a cat with feline lymphoma?

The initial step in caring for a cat with feline lymphoma involves an accurate diagnosis, which is typically made by a combination of clinical signs, blood work, imaging, and biopsy of affected tissues. Once diagnosed, treatment options include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of both.

In addition to medical management, supportive care is essential for cats with feline lymphoma. Here are some key elements of caring for a cat with feline lymphoma:

  1. Nutritional support: Your cat may experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. Feeding a high-quality, easily digestible diet and providing small, frequent meals throughout the day can help manage these symptoms and maintain adequate nutrition.
  2. Pain management: Depending on the location and severity of the lymphoma, some cats may experience pain. Pain management can include medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or opioids and alternative therapies such as acupuncture or laser therapy.
  3. Hydration: They may become dehydrated due to vomiting, diarrhea, or decreased water intake. Providing access to fresh, clean water and encouraging frequent drinking can help prevent dehydration. In some cases, fluid therapy may be necessary to rehydrate the cat.
  4. Environmental management: They may become more sensitive to environmental factors such as stress or changes in routine. Creating a calm, quiet environment and maintaining a consistent daily routine can help reduce stress and anxiety.
  5. Monitoring: Regular monitoring of the cat’s clinical signs, including weight, appetite, and behavior, is essential for evaluating treatment response and adjusting the treatment plan as needed.

It is important to work closely with a veterinarian experienced in treating feline lymphoma to ensure the best possible outcome for the cat. Regular check-ups and close communication with the veterinary team can help ensure the cat’s care is optimized for their needs.

What is Euthanasia

Euthanasia for cats is the act of intentionally ending a cat’s life in a painless and humane manner. It is a decision that is typically made by a cat owner or veterinarian when a cat is suffering from a serious and incurable illness or injury, and the cat’s quality of life has significantly deteriorated.

When a cat is seriously ill or injured, their owner may be faced with the difficult decision of whether to continue treatment or consider euthanasia. This decision can be incredibly difficult to make, as it involves balancing the cat’s quality of life with the potential for medical intervention to alleviate suffering. However, it is important to remember that euthanasia is a humane option that can provide a peaceful and dignified end to a cat’s life.

In many cases, a veterinarian will be involved in the decision-making process surrounding euthanasia. The veterinarian will typically conduct a thorough examination of the cat, and may also order diagnostic tests to assess the extent of the cat’s illness or injury. Based on this information, the veterinarian can provide guidance and recommendations to the cat owner regarding treatment options and the potential outcomes of those options.

If the decision is made to pursue euthanasia, the veterinarian will typically explain the process to the cat owner and obtain their consent. The process typically involves the administration of a medication that causes the cat to lose consciousness and then peacefully pass away. The medication is usually administered through an injection, and the cat owner may choose to be present during the process if they wish.

It is important to note that euthanasia should always be a last resort, and only considered when all other treatment options have been exhausted or are unlikely to improve the cat’s quality of life. As a cat owner, working closely with a veterinarian to make the best decisions for your cat’s health and well-being is essential. If you are faced with the difficult decision of considering euthanasia for your cat, be sure to seek guidance and support from your veterinarian and friends and family who can offer emotional support during this challenging time.


Do cats with lymphoma suffer?

Cats with lymphoma can suffer from pain, fatigue and anemia. If your cat has lymphoma, it is important to note that these symptoms are not always present.

Is gastrointestinal lymphoma in cats painful?

No, it is not. Gastrointestinal lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the gastrointestinal tract of cats. It is not painful but can cause weight loss and other gastrointestinal symptoms.


Some owners find this to be the most challenging part of the process. This is not a usual illness, and so owners have difficulty thinking of euthanasia as an option. It is usually necessary because continued suffering exists or the tumor has spread beyond cure. 

Sometimes, the owner and family are left with unpleasant after-effects like guilt or unresolved thoughts about what could have been, but these can be eased by thinking in advance of how you want to deal with your cat’s death.

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