Case Success Mackers

After vomiting blood and collapsing at home last August, Mackers was brought to his family veterinarian where they found an abdominal mass and started treatments. Within days, he collapsed again came immediately to the emergency room.

Dr. Joanna Lloyd of the NorthStar VETS Emergency and Critical Care team performed two transfusions and other stabilizing treatments before admitting him to the hospital. Tests revealed Mackers had a large cell lymphoma, and he was referred to the Oncology service. Two days later, Dr. Lisa Barber of the Oncology service began treating Mackers’ stomach lymphoma.

MackersBy late September, our team reported that Mackers’ tumor was undetectable and his blood counts were normal. By late October, he was in complete remission. He now has four months of treatment complete and two to go. By addressing the issue quickly, directly, and with the right goals in mind, Mackers enjoys a much-improved quality of life today!

Lymphoma in Cats
Lymphoma is a cancer of white blood cells, specifically lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are found throughout the body and function as part of the immune system, but the most common site of lymphoma in cats is the gastrointestinal tract. It often spreads to lymph nodes within the abdomen, spleen, liver and bone marrow. Even when it is seen in a single location, lymphoma is considered a systemic disease because lymphocytes travel throughout the body. Chemotherapy can be helpful in managing feline lymphoma.

How Lymphoma is Treated in Cats
Many people become anxious at the mention of chemotherapy due to concern over potential side effects, however, the goal for chemotherapy in pets is to improve quality of life. This means the treatments are different from what’s performed in human patients. Chemotherapy kills cells that are actively growing and dividing. Rapid growth is one of the features of lymphoma, which is a reason why the disease is responsive to chemotherapy.
The most common symptom of chemotherapy seen at home is gastrointestinal upset, including decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Fortunately, gastrointestinal upset can either be prevented or easily managed with oral medications. Another common side effect of chemotherapy is a low white blood cell count. White blood cells are the first line of defense against infection. If the white blood cells, specifically the neutrophils, dip excessively low, cats are at increased risk of infections. The infections usually arise from bacteria normally present in the cat’s body (such as the intestines) and can be life-threatening. To help minimize the risk of this complication, the patient’s blood is checked regularly to make sure the numbers don’t go too low. Antibiotics are used as a precautionary measure if needed as well as changing future doses of chemotherapy.

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