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Large lymph nodes in a cat.

Species: Cat
Breed: Domestic Short Hair
Age: 2-5 years
My cat Miko seems to have swollen lymph nodes under her neck. They've been like that for as long as I can remember (she's 2, I got her at 12 weeks). I didn't think much of it until I did a little research and found out the seriousness of it. They are both equal size (about the size of a small oblong grape), and she is in no pain when I examine them. She has no other symptoms at all, and is a very happy cat. Is this something I should be concerned about, or do some cats just have larger lymph nodes that protrude more than others (she has a very narrow head and neck)?

Thanks,
Lincoln


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Thanks for an interesting question!

I don't know that I have ever seen a cat have enlarged lymph nodes for 2 years. I'm wondering if what we are perceiving as lymph nodes are actually salivary glands. These glands sit under the jaw right next to the submandibular lymph nodes and it is often easy to confuse the two. Some cats will have larger salivary glands than others and if this is the case there is a good chance that there is nothing to worry about.

However, if they are enlarged lymph nodes it is worthwhile to have your vet examine Miko. There is a condition called idiopathic lymphadenopathy where young cats can have enlarged lymph nodes for no known reason. However, this is usually only temporary and shouldn't last as long as two years.

Other reasons for enlarged lymph nodes include a virus such as Feline Leukemia virus, or an infection called Bartonella, or even a parasitic infection of something called toxoplasmosis.

It would be a great idea to have your vet examine Miko and do a fine needle aspirate of the lumps. If they are salivary glands they will know right away. Otherwise, they can send some slides of the cells extracted away to a pathologist and find out whether we need to be worried. It is also a good idea to have your vet do some general bloodwork including a test for feline leukemia.

Unfortunately there is no cure for feline leukemia. However, if Miko has had large lymph nodes for two years and has not been ill then I would be very surprised if this is feline leukemia.

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:

Dr. Marie,

Well I can't guarantee the lymph nodes have been like this the whole two years, but as far back as I can remember they have been swollen (at least a year plus). Is there any easy way to tell the difference between the lymph nodes and the salivary glands? Should I be able to feel both?

I will definitely take Miko in as soon as I am able to, but unfortunately things are extremely tight financially at the moment.

Thanks so much for your prompt response.
Lincoln


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

You're very welcome!

It's often really difficult to tell between lymph nodes and salivary glands. I even have difficulty doing it and I am feeling animals' lymph nodes 10-20 times per day, every day!

One other thought I had was to look at Miko's teeth and gums. Are her gums really red and inflamed? If so it is possible that she has something called stomatitis which causes chronic inflammation in the mouth and would cause her lymph nodes to be enlarged. Stomatitis is usually a treatable condition.

If she is bright and eating well then I wouldn't be too worried about rushing her in right away. It would be great if you were able to put away a little money here and there and then when you have enough have her checked out.

Hope all is well!

Dr. Marie



Customer reply:

Dr. Marie,

To answer your question, no, Miko's gums are a pale pink color and not at all inflamed. She has no trouble eating and is very playful and happy.

Thanks a lot for your advice, it has helped put my mind at ease.

Lincoln


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Glad to be of 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.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.