Felis ISSN 2398-2950

Spinal lymphoma

Contributor(s): Carley Abramson, Peter Dickinson


  • Lymphoma Lymphoma is the most common spinal tumor in cats.
  • Lymphoma is only second to meningioma Meningioma as the most common tumor of the central nervous system (CNS) in cats.
  • Up to 12% of cats with lymphoma have spinal cord involvement.
  • Cause: spinal lymphoma has been associated with Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) Feline leukemia virus disease and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) Feline immunodeficiency virus disease, however many virus negative cases are also reported.
  • Signs: dependant on location of the neoplasia - most commonly acute to chronic paraparesis.
  • Diagnosis: radiography, myelography, CT, MRI, surgical biopsy.
  • Treatment: chemotherapy, possible surgical debulking.
  • Prognosis: poor long-term.
  • Average of 14 weeks survival with chemotherapy but report of up to 62 weeks of survival with surgery and chemotherapy.



  • Lymphoid neoplasia.

Predisposing factors


  • Significant correlation between spinal lymphoma and FeLV.
  • Significant correlation between FIV and development of lymphoma or leukemia.


  • Spinal lymphoid neoplasia is usually extradural.
  • Lymphoblastic and immunoblastic types most common.
  • Most commonly reported in thoracolumbar extradural space.
  • Has been documented to spread up nerve roots into spinal parenchyma.
  • Rarely invades vertebral bone.


  • Average of 1 week of signs before presentation (range: 1-5 weeks).
  • Some animals have a chronic history over several weeks with acute exacerbation.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Noonan M, Kline K L & Meleo K (1997) Lymphoma of the central nervous system - a retrospective study of 18 cats. Compend Cont EducPract Vet 19 (4), 497-504 VetMedResource.
  • Lane S B, Kornegay J N, Duncan J R et al (1994) Feline spinal lymphosarcoma - a retrospective evaluation of 23 cats. JVIM (2), 99-104 PubMed.
  • Barr M C, Butt M T, Anderson K L et al (1993) Spinal lymphosarcoma and disseminated mastocytoma associated with feline immunodeficiency virus infection in a cat. JAVMA 202 (12), 1978-1980 PubMed.
  • Spodnick G J, Berg J, Moore F M et al (1992) Spinal lymphoma in cats - 21 cases (1976-1989). JAVMA 200 (3), 373-376 PubMed.
  • Suess R P Jr., Martin R A, Shell L G et al (1990) Vertebral lymphosarcoma in a cat. JAVMA 197 (1), 101-103 PubMed.
  • Mooney S C, Hayes A A, Matus R E et al (1987) Renal lymphoma in cats - 28 cases (1977-1984). JAVMA 191 (11), 1473-1477 PubMed.
  • Northington J W & Juliana M M (1978) Extradural lymphosarcoma in six cats. JSAP 19 (7), 409-416 PubMed.
  • Fox J G & Gutnick M J (1972) Horner's syndrome and brachial paralysis due to lymphosarcoma in a cat. JAVMA 160 (7), 977-980 PubMed.
  • Schappert H R, Geib L W (1967) Reticuloendothelial neoplasms involving the spinal canal of cats. JAVMA 150 (7), 753-757 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Withrow S J & MacEwen E G (2001) Small Animal Clinical Oncology. 3rd ed. New York: W B Saunders, pp 590-611.
  • Ogilvie G K & Moore A S (1996) Managing the veterinary Cancer Patient. New Jersey:Veterinary Learning Systems, pp 300-302.