Canine Lymphoma: What You Need to Know

August 26, 2022 2 min read

One of the most common types of cancers for dogs, Lymphoma develops from specific cells in the immune system. These lymphocytes circulate through the blood, meaning the disease is considered systemic and requires full-body treatment rather than local treatment. Lymphoma can present and affect dogs differently. We will cover some of the most common symptoms and treatments for this systemic disease.

One of the challenges with lymphoma is that it can affect different organs; depending on the affected organ, you’ll see various symptoms. Luckily, for most dogs, lymphoma is not painful, and it’s often diagnosed because the owner notices lumps around the lymph nodes (chin, shoulders, and behind the knees) rather than seeing a difference in the dog’s behavior. 

Symptoms of lymphoma can include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea 
  • Weight loss
  • Coughing (for lumps around the lungs)
  • Enlarged lymph nodes or swelling, especially around the neck, under the jaw, and behind the knees
  • Increased thirst and urination

Most Common Age for Lymphoma

Most dogs diagnosed with lymphoma are between 5-9 years old. Certain breeds are more prone to lymphoma, including Boxers, Basset Hounds, St. Bernards, Scottish Terriers, Golden Retrievers, Airedale Terriers, and Bulldogs.

Diagnosing Lymphoma

Diagnosing lymphoma is a simple procedure for veterinarians. For dogs with enlarged lymph nodes or bumps, the vet can aspirate some of the fluid for testing without sedating the dog. Many vet clinics can evaluate the sample within a few hours. If the aspiration results are insufficient, the vet can biopsy the lump.

If your veterinarian suspects lymphoma, they will want to run other diagnostic tests to eliminate other diseases and determine if the lymphoma has spread to other areas of the body. These tests generally include routine blood work, chest x-rays, and abdominal ultrasounds.

Treating Lymphoma

It can be terrifying if your dog is diagnosed with lymphoma. Luckily, lymphoma is very responsive to treatment. In most cases, chemotherapy is the recommended treatment plan for dogs. Almost 85% of dogs treated for lymphoma will go into remission. During treatment, supportive care and reducing stress are recommended.  The Benefab® Canine Comfort Shirt provides compressive comfort while reducing inflammation and increasing circulation.

Dogs tolerate chemotherapy much better than people, so the dosage is much lower. This means fewer side effects while your dog is under treatment. The veterinarian will consider the dog's age, type of lymphoma, and other medical issues when they put together a treatment plan for your dog. There are several proven treatment protocols for lymphoma, so check with your veterinarian for the best method.

Without treatment, dogs have an expected lifespan of 1-2 months. If owners cannot or do not want to pursue chemotherapy, prednisone can be given to achieve a 1-2 month remission. Prednisone can make dogs resistant to chemotherapy, so do not start this medication unless you are confident you are not pursuing chemotherapy.

If you are unsure about the best treatment route for your dog, discuss your options with the veterinarian. The cost of treatment will vary significantly depending on the treatment plan. It’s essential to make the right decision for you, your dog’s quality of life, and your financial situation.

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