tThe lymph nodes are good indicators of the cat’s health. Lymph nodes are part of the immune system, acting as filters or traps for pathogens. Lymph nodes store and help produce some white blood cells (lymphocytes or B cells) in response to infectious agents, harmful cells or foreign substances in the cat’s system. Causes of swollen or enlarged lymph nodes in cats include:
- bacterial, viral or fungal infection
- inflammation due to foreign object/substance
- lymphoma, or other medical condition
During a medical checkup, the vet will routinely check the cat’s lymph nodes. The most common causes of swollen lymph nodes are inflammation and/or infection. Lymphoma, or cancer of the lymph nodes, affects about one in five hundred cats (.02%).
Location of Lymph Nodes on a Cat
The cat has both internal and external, or peripheral, lymph nodes.
External Lymph Nodes on Cats
Submandibular Lymph Nodes
Submandibular lymph nodes are on the neck, near the lower part of the cat’s mandible, or jaw. The submandibular lymph nodes are just under the jawbone and in close proximity to the large salivary glands.
Prescapular Lymph Nodes
The prescapular lymph nodes are on the chest, just in front of the cat’s shoulders. To find them, follow the cat’s arm up to the shoulder point.
Axillary Lymph Nodes
The axillary lymph nodes are located on the cat’s chest, behind each front leg, in the “armpit” area. Feel forward along the chest. The lymph nodes are fairly small.
Inguinal Lymph Nodes
The inguinal lymph nodes are on the abdomen, inside the rear legs, approximately in the groin area. Cats tend to have more fat here, and the lymph nodes may be harder to find.
Popliteal Lymph Nodes
The popliteal lymph nodes are on the cat’s back legs, opposite the knees. These are among the easiest lymph nodes to find by feel.
Internal Lymph Nodes in Cats
The internal lymph nodes are in the abdominal and thoracic cavities, and are almost impossible to locate by feel. The mesenteric lymph node, found in the loops of the small intestine, may become enlarged due to infection or other illness. Excessively enlarged internal lymph nodes may appear on an ultrasound or radiograph, or during exploratory surgery.