Canine Lymphoma - Causes, Signs, and Treatment

Canine with Lymphoma

November 7 is National Canine Lymphoma Awareness Day

National Canine Lymphoma Awareness Day was submitted by Terry Simons, a well-respected and popular dog agility trainer and competitor, who lost his furry best friend, Reveille, to lymphoma in 2011. During the last year that Reveille lived with the disease, Simons searched for information regarding treatments that might prolong his fur-ever friend’s life. This search put Simons on the path to founding CLEAR (Canine Lymphoma Education Awareness and Research). This non-profit organization strives to create a better tomorrow for dogs facing a canine lymphoma diagnosis through clinical research. CLEAR also helps concerned dog parents better understand the disease their dog is fighting and the choices available to help their furry friend.

What is Canine Lymphoma?

Dog in heaven

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that is common to people and dogs. Unfortunately, lymphoma is one of the most common canine cancers. 7 to 24 percent of all canine tumors are related to lymphoma and 85 percent of all blood-based tumors. Lymphoma tends to target organs that support the immune system’s functioning, such as the spleen, bone marrow, and lymph nodes, although it can affect any organ in the body.

The four main types of lymphoma found in dogs are extranodal lymphoma, mediastinal lymphoma, alimentary lymphoma, and multicentric lymphoma. Multicentric lymphoma is the most common form, at approximately 80 percent of all lymphoma cases. Each type of lymphoma has its own characteristics, including how aggressive the disease is and the expected survival rate. Lymphoma typically progresses very rapidly, and the average survival rate for untreated dogs after a diagnosis is only four to six weeks.😢

What is the Cause of Lymphoma?

Although the cause is unknown, experts believe that most of the factors are genetic and come from the dog’s environment. Several factors have been identified as predisposing a dog to develop lymphoma. The disease seems to be more common in dogs six years of age or older but can still strike in younger dogs. There appears to be an increased incidence of canine lymphoma in certain breeds, including many of the “big-boned” breeds:

  • Bernese Mountain Dogs
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Chow Chows
  • Scottish Terriers
  • Boxers
  • Saint Bernards
  • Poodles
  • Basset Hounds
  • Bull Mastiffs
  • Airedale Terriers
  • English Bulldogs
  • German Shepherds
  • Beagles

What are the Symptoms of Canine Lymphoma?

Although the majority of dogs diagnosed with lymphoma do not show symptoms of the disease, some signs of cancer that pet parents should be aware of include:

  • Swelling of the lymph nodes
  • A bump that continues to grow
  • Red, irritated patches which become ulcerated
  • Loss of weight, vomiting, and diarrhea (which accompanies gastrointestinal lymphoma)
  • Difficulty breathing (found in dogs with mediastinal lymphoma)
  • A sore that will not heal
  • Weakness and loss of interest in physical activities

Early Detection of Canine Lymphoma

Vet examining dog for lymphoma

You must be taking your dog in for their regular check-ups. Early detection and treatment are essential to ensure a successful outcome for your four-legged friend. If canine lymphoma is suspected, your veterinarian will ask you about your dog’s health history, including any symptoms you have seen. Be sure to tell them everything you can think of because this will help your veterinarian diagnose the disease more effectively.

How your vet will diagnose lymphoma? Suppose your vet thinks what you have described are signs of lymphoma. In that case, your dog will undergo a full physical exam, including lab tests, to determine blood cell counts and look for other biochemical indicators of disease. Sometimes, fluid from the lymph node is collected and analyzed to assess the type of lymphoma more accurately. X-rays, ultrasound exams, and other forms of diagnostic imaging may also be performed. Ultimately, your veterinarian will be able to determine whether cancer is present, and if so, what type and which organs or systems are affected and how they will proceed in fighting the lymphoma.

Lymphoma is Not Curable - YET!

Although lymphoma is not curable yet, it is one of the most successfully treated cancers, and most dogs will respond to treatment. The traditional treatment for canine lymphoma has been chemotherapy, generic human drugs that have been around for decades and adapted for use in the veterinary setting.

Dogs tend to respond well to chemotherapy and typically tolerate it better than humans do. Most canine lymphoma patients treated with chemo don’t lose their hair). However, some side effects can include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and decreased appetite, just like in humans. Some chemotherapy drugs can also have heart or liver side effects. In some cases, additional canine lymphoma procedures are prescribed, such as surgery and/or radiation therapy.

Dog sick with lymphoma

Today, dog cancer treatments, with TANOVEA-CA1 leading the way, have the potential to put canine lymphoma into remission, to give pets and their owners more quality time together. TANOVEA-CA1 is an exciting new cancer treatment for dogs specifically designed to target and kill canine lymphoma cells. It is easy to administer and only requires five doses for a full treatment. But with the advances that have been made to-date and ongoing research, there is hope that one day a cure for lymphoma cancer will ultimately be found. Dogs treated with TANOVEA-CA1 is helping dogs enjoy more walks, playing games of fetch, and being a beloved member of the family for even longer.

Salmon Oil for Dogs Daily Supplement for Dogs

Salmon oil for dogs is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting properties. In dogs with lymphoma, omega-3 fatty acids can help to:

Reduce inflammation, which can help to slow the growth of cancer cells.
Boost the immune system, which can help the body fight off cancer cells.
Reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine found that dogs with lymphoma who were given fish oil supplements had a longer disease-free interval and survival time than dogs who did not receive fish oil supplements.

It is important to note that salmon oil is not a cure for cancer, but it can be a helpful addition to a dog's treatment plan. If you are considering giving your dog salmon oil, be sure to talk to your veterinarian first.

How to Observe National Canine Lymphoma Awareness Day

First and foremost, educate yourself! Be aware of the signs and symptoms, and be sure to take your furry friend to the vet once you see any of the symptoms listed above. Remember that finding it early will help prolong their life with you.

Second, be sure to keep up on their wellness checks! While there is no reliable preventative method for this disease, taking your pup to the vet is a great way to make sure that he or she is healthy, up-to-date on vaccines, and your vet can catch potential abnormalities early. Catching abnormalities early is vital with any condition, as it can increase the chances of curing your pet and managing the symptoms before they become too severe.

Unfortunately our furry friends aren’t here very long, so be sure to take the time and love them as much as they love you.

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