Pet Illnesses

Feline Lymphoblastic Leukaemia

Leukaemia 1Leukaemia is a cancer of the cells that form into either the red or white blood cells in the blood.

There are a few types of leukaemia, and they are named according to the particular type of cell that is affected.

Therefore, lymphoblastic leukaemia is a proliferation of lymphoblasts (undifferentiated lymphocytes/cancerous white blood cells) in the circulation.

No exact cause is known for this condition, but a potential cause of this cancer is infection with Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV).

These cancerous white cells will interfere with normal blood cell production in the bone marrow and will cause the affected animal to be anaemic. The slide on the right shows a blood smear with very little red blood cells in it.

Leukaemia 3Leukaemia 4




Leukaemia 5Leukaemia 2


Diagnosis depends on observing moderate to high numbers of cancerous white blood cells in the bone marrow or in other vital organs (the spleen is a common place where this cancer can originate from or be spread to)

On physical examination, the cat may have signs such as an enlarged spleen, liver, mildly enlarged lymph nodes, pale gums, and tiny spots of bleeding on the gums. The enlargement in the previously mentioned organs is caused by infiltration of the leukaemic cells and may disrupt the specific organ's normal function. The pale gums are a sign of anaemia, and the tiny bleeding spots are caused by a reduction of cells which are responsible for blood clotting in the blood.


The only treatment for lymphoblastic leukaemia is chemotherapy. Studies have shown that prognosis with chemotherapy is poor, with an average survival time of only a few months. Results of chemotherapy would depend on the grade (severity) of the leukaemia. However, if left untreated, the estimated survival time from diagnosis is less than two weeks. Animals do not get the side effects (hair loss) of chemotherapy that humans get because they require a much lower dose of drugs in comparison to humans.