Sick dog laying down on floor

Key takeaway

Lymphoma is a blood cancer that affects the immune system, which is the body’s protective mechanism against infections, diseases, and other threats. This cancer can cause a host of health issues for your dog, so it’s important to seek diagnosis and treatment quickly.

Lymphoma is a challenging disease that can cause significant problems for dogs and their pet parents. The key to lymphoma management is early diagnosis and treatment, thus, it’s important to recognize the signs in order to provide proactive care for your pet.

To help you learn more about lymphoma in dogs, this article will outline the effects and symptoms of the disease, as well as the possible approaches to treatment.

What Is Lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a blood cancer that affects the immune system, which is the body’s protective mechanism against infections, diseases, and other threats. During lymphoma, protective white blood cells called lymphocytes turn into cancerous cells and attack the network of vessels, tissues, and organs that make up the lymphatic system. This not only weakens the immune system but also leads to a host of other health problems.

Graphic listing types of lymphoma

Types Of Lymphoma

If your dog has been diagnosed with lymphoma, it is crucial for you to learn about the four types of canine lymphoma1. This not only provides you with important details about the disease but also allows you to make informed decisions about their possible ongoing treatment. 

Multicentric lymphoma

This is the most common type of canine lymphoma. During this cancer, bean-like lymphatic system organs called lymph nodes are affected throughout the body. This causes associated symptoms to be wide-ranging in their effects and intensity.

Alimentary lymphoma

This is the second-most common type of canine lymphoma. It directly affects the gastrointestinal (GI) tract in dogs. This leads to a variety of symptoms of lymphoma in dogs that are largely related to GI tract and digestive health. 

Mediastinal lymphoma

This type of canine lymphoma affects the chest. By attacking lymphatic system organs around the chest, this cancer can cause respiratory and breathing issues in dogs. This is one of the two rare types of canine lymphoma.

Extranodal lymphoma

This is also a rare type of canine lymphoma. During this cancer, the condition goes beyond the lymphatic system and affects other organs. This may include but is not limited to the eyes, lungs, and kidneys.

Graphic listing symptoms of lymphoma

Symptoms Of Lymphoma In Dogs

Symptoms of lymphoma in dogs vary based on the type of lymphoma. So, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for the spectrum of symptoms associated with the different types of lymphoma.

  • Multicentric lymphoma. Symptoms include but are not limited to painless swelling of lymph nodes. These affected lymph nodes are most commonly found under the jaw,behind the knee, and in front of the shoulders. Other signs may include fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, as well as swelling in the face and legs.
  • Alimentary lymphoma. This may outline signs such as vomiting and diarrhea. At the same time, common lymphoma symptoms such as lethargy and weight loss may also be present during this cancer. 
  • Mediastinal lymphoma. Since this type of canine lymphoma targets the chest, its symptoms commonly include difficulty in breathing and fluid build-up in the chest (called pleural effusion). Your dog may also have a more frequent need to urinate and show a higher urge to drink water as well. Swelling of the face and front legs is also common in this cancer. 
  • Extranodal lymphoma. This canine lymphoma affects organs that do not belong to the lymphatic system. Depending upon which area is affected by the cancer, this type of lymphoma may include wide-ranging symptoms. For instance, if this lymphoma affects your dog’s bones, the symptom may show up in the form of frequent fractures. Other signs may include fatigue and weight loss. 

In order to find suitable treatment solutions, it is important that you reach out for the advice of qualified veterinarians who could guide you through the process of detecting and treating the disease. This gives your dog a better chance to improve their quality of life. 

What Causes Lymphoma In Dogs?

There is no definitive conclusion to what may cause canine lymphoma. The available studies present a limited exploration of the causes of canine lymphoma. In turn, they leave no precise answer to what may increase the risk of lymphoma in different dogs.

With that being said, there are certain risk factors of lymphoma that are not proven by large-scale studies and research. These include but are not limited to infections, environmental factors, as well as compromised immunity.

It is also important to note that despite the unavailability of certain risk factors, it is established that lymphoma could affect dogs of any age, breed, and size. But it is also crucial to remember that lymphoma most commonly targets dogs that are in late adulthood, which ranges between 8-11 years of age.

Owner comforting sick dog

Lymphoma Diagnosis

If your vet suspects that your dog’s medical history and current symptoms point to lymphoma, they may extract tissue samples from different organs. These organs commonly include lymph nodes, but may also cover any other sites that seem to be affected by lymphoma. 

Afterward, these tissue samples are evaluated under lab processes for signs of lymphoma. These procedures may include a cytology exam or a histopathologic tissue evaluation. Once the results determine the diagnosis of lymphoma, your veterinarian may require additional tests such as X-rays, urine tests, and blood tests. This helps them deduce the stage and extent of the cancer.

This allows your vet to not only give you a yes or no answer about your dog’s lymphoma but also form a treatment plan for it.

>90% of all dogs achieve complete remission when multicentric canine lymphomas are treated with aggressive, multi-agent chemotherapy protocols.

Canine Lymphoma Treatment

There are different approaches to the treatment of canine lymphoma. The most effective treatments depend upon the staging of the cancer, the prognosis of the disease, and the condition of the patient. 

Chemotherapy. This is the most common treatment for canine lymphoma. It is usually given in intravenous (IV) form, where the medication goes directly into the bloodstream. The treatment cycle most commonly uses the cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine and prednisone (CHOP) protocol. This protocol may last for up to four months and require your dog to get IV treatments every week or every other week.

Fortunately, more than 90% of all dogs achieve complete remission when multicentric canine lymphomas are treated with aggressive, multi-agent chemotherapy protocols.

Bone marrow transplant. This is an uncommon form of treatment where your dog undergoes surgery for a bone marrow transplant. This type of approach is often only administered when chemotherapy is not ideal due to the progression of the disease or its associated effects. 

Oral steroids. Oral steroids have a less effective prognosis than IV chemotherapy. But they are still given in cases where dogs cannot go through IV treatment or surgical approaches. The dosage of these medications varies on a case-by-case basis. 

Lymphoma In Dogs: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the life expectancy of a dog with lymphoma?

The life expectancy or prognosis of a dog with lymphoma may range from a few months to a year.5 The prognosis depends on each dog’s overall health, the progression of the disease, and their response to available treatment. In order to get a clearer outlook, you should speak to your vet about what to expect.

What are the first signs of lymphoma?

The first signs of lymphoma may be similar to many other diseases. But if you notice symptoms such as swelling on your dog’s face or legs as well as fatigue, loss of appetite, or weight loss, you should speak to a qualified vet right away. Having regular checkups also helps to ensure that your dog is able to get timely diagnoses and treatments for a variety of health issues. 

What are the final stages of lymphoma in dogs?

The final stages of lymphoma may involve progression to different lymph nodes, lymphatic organs, or other organs. The associated symptoms may also differ on a case-to-case basis. Only your veterinarian can help you determine the final stages of your dog’s lymphoma and help you manage it according to the most suitable treatment plans.

Owner playing with dog outside

Final Notes

Canine lymphoma is a serious cancer that involves wide-ranging and life-changing symptoms. In order to manage the condition, it is important that you reach out to a vet in a timely manner. This ensures that your dog can live a healthier life despite their diagnosis and spend the rest of their time being surrounded by the compassion and affection that you hold for them. 

At Dutch, we understand how grueling it can be for any pet parent to cope with a life-changing diagnosis for your dog. In order to help you through this difficult time, our platform connects you to licensed veterinarians in multiple states while also providing you with the resources to learn more about a variety of pet health topics.

Through Dutch’s affordable and accessible solutions, you are able to obtain timely management as well as treatment options that can help improve your dog’s quality of life. This ensures that even in challenging circumstances, you can count on a reliable solution to give your pet the care that they deserve

References

  1. Canine Lymphoma by Timothy M. Fan et al. “Canine Lymphoma | Circulatory System.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Jul 2019 | Updated Oct 2020. https://www.merckvetmanual.com/circulatory-system/canine-lymphoma/canine-lymphoma 

  2. “Canine Lymphomas.” Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. https://vet.purdue.edu/pcop/canine-lymphoma-research.php 

  3. “Lymphoma in Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment.” By Anna Burke et al. November 2016. American Kennel Club. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/lymphoma-in-dogs-symptoms-diagnosis-and-treatment/  

  4. Canine Lymphoma. American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation. “AKC Canine Health Foundation | Canine Lymphoma.” August 2009. https://www.akcchf.org/canine-health/your-dogs-health/canine-lymphoma.html

  5. “Lymphoma in Dogs Fact Sheet.” Davies Veterinary Specialists, 7 Apr. 2020, https://vetspecialists.co.uk/fact-sheets-post/lymphoma-in-dogs-fact-sheet/