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Lump on jaw.

Species: Cat
Breed: Calico
Age: 5-8 years
OK...my cat has a lump on her neck/jaw. One vet has told me it was an abscess...when meds did not work they said it was a swollen salivary gland. This vet recommended i have surgery to remove but said it is too risky for her. I then went to another vet who aspirated and said it was an infection draining into that lymph node. Microscopic findings...Reactive Lymphoid hyperplasia. They gave her meds. Her mouth WAS swollen the meds helped that but lump is still there. Only one side. Only one gland through out body. Now going back today they say it is around her ear and I should see specialist to surgically remove. I am sure that means $$$. She is eating fine...gained weight and is playing ALOT! Any thoughts? Blood work came back fine. They ruled out cancer. I appreciate this! Thank you ! Kim and Kiya!


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

It sounds like you guys have been through some frustrating times!

I have had a few cases like this. I had a recent case that was very similar except that it was in a dog. He had a lump on his neck and it didn't go away after antibiotics. Then we lanced it and put him on antibiotics and it didn't go away. We ended up doing a surgery where we completely opened it and flushed it out and also cultured the infection to make sure we were on the right antibiotics. After the the thorough surgery and a long course of antibiotics it went away. I'm not saying this is exactly what is happening for Kiya but I just wanted to share with you that this kind of thing can happen.

When there is a swelling on the lump of a cat's jaw or neck there are only a few things that it can be. The most likely is that there is some kind of an abscess (i.e. infection). The next possibility is that there is a tumor. What you are describing definitely sounds more like infection than cancer. Also, the aspirate of the lymph node that says, "reactive lymphoid hyperplasia" tells us that this is not cancer. What this phrase means is that the lymph node is reacting to something, and that is almost always infection.

So now the question is why is this not healing?

Many abscesses will not heal without surgery. When cats build an abscess they often build a very thick wall all around the center of the abscess. Often, that wall can be very hard for the antibiotics to penetrate. If this is the case then it won't heal unless it is opened up which means surgery. Another possible reason for it not to heal would be if there was something inside of the abscess. I had a cat patient once with an abscess that wouldn't heal. I did surgery on it and found that there was an entire cat tooth inside of the abscess! Once we removed it he did fine!

However, I'm a little bit confused about what it is that your vet is recommending. If the whole area is swollen I'm not exactly sure what it is what they want to remove. Has she had a surgery to explore the area? Perhaps this is what they are thinking of. From what you have described, if this was my case, that would be the next step. I'd want to do an anesthetic and cut open the swollen area and see if I can find a foreign object. If I couldn't find anything I would culture the area deep inside. This is where we put a swab in and send it to the lab to find out what kind of bacteria is growing there and exactly which antibiotic will work. And then I would thoroughly flush the area out.

I can understand your hesitation to do surgery as Kiya is bright and happy and eating well. While there is a small possibility that things could get better on their own, there is a larger possibility that she could get much sicker all of a sudden. If this is infection and it is not dealt with now, there is a chance it could spread and this could be potentially disastrous. I have had animals with horrible infections where the skin sloughed off. These have been extremely expensive to deal with.

It sounds like your vet is doing all of the same things I would. I think the plan to go with surgery is a good one.

I hope everything is ok!

Dr. Marie.



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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

THANK YOU! Yes..it's frustrating ..one vet says salivary gland..the other says no salivary cells and its an infection in lymph node!
Also the when the second vet sent aspirated sample away..it said.... Cellularity is high, consisting of heterogenous lymphoid cells(all mature stages, mostly small lymphocytes) mildly increased plasma cells, occasional neutrophis and macrophahages. Lypmphoglandular bodies in background. She said she "would expect the population to be much more homogenous if it were lymphoma.
I have made an apt. with a vet in Ithaca NY who specializes in this since BOTH vets said they would not even THINK about operating on this...as it's in a VERY bad spot. Something else to make me drink during the day!!!! LOL
Thank you for your time! Kim and Kiya


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

LOL! When you end up in the loony bin you can blame it all on your cat, ok? :)

Every vet has had cases like this. Remember that case I told you about with the dog and the abscess in this area? When I did surgery on it I must have nicked the jugular vein. There are so many serious veins arteries and nerves in this area. The darn thing bled like crazy. I eventually got it to stop but it was not an enjoyable surgery. I can definitely understand why your vets would want to refer.

By the way, the report from the pathologist (the one that was sent away) is going to be the most accurate. Usually if there is cancer it is super obvious, especially to a pathologist. So, this does look like something that can be cured. Now we just need to get down to the bottom of things!



Customer reply:

Thank you! I already have a room reserved in the Looney Bin. It's nice...with a beautiful view.
The first abscess slide showed NO salivary cells...so the second vet said INFECTION. Just yesterday an aspirated sample showed NO INFECTION...so they said salivary gland.
It has gotten larger and now is around her right ear.
Thank you so much for your time and advice. I will send you my address and room number at Looney Bin Ave..............


Customer reply:

PS...It's not a soft mass either..it's hard and doesnt move.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Abscesses can be hard or soft. It really doesn't make much difference either way.



Customer reply:

Hi Dr. Marie....I made the appointment to go to the other vet on Wednesday. But...well...I'm not sure what has happened...but...the limp...is ...gone. I thought I was losing my mind! I can still feel it a bit..but now it almost feels like a muscle. You could see it when you looked at her...now you have to TRY to find it on her. I'm going to take her to my vet tomorrow and MAYBE I won't have to go to Ithaca. Do you think it drained on its own??? Kim


Customer reply:

Hi Dr. Marie....I made the appointment to go to the other vet on Wednesday. But...well...I'm not sure what has happened...but...the limp...is ...gone. I thought I was losing my mind! I can still feel it a bit..but now it almost feels like a muscle. You could see it when you looked at her...now you have to TRY to find it on her. I'm going to take her to my vet tomorrow and MAYBE I won't have to go to Ithaca. Do you think it drained on its own??? Kim


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Interesting! It certainly is possible that it drained. Perhaps the body managed to get on top of the infection. I'd definitely see your regular vet and hopefully you won't need to go to the specialist!



Customer reply:

Is that what may have happened? I couldn't believe it! Although I NEVER count my chickens...but..She hasn't been on any antibiotics for a week. My neighbor put Holy water on it...hmmmmmmmmmmmm..
Thank you so much for all of your help!!!


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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

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