What is Lymphoma in Dogs?
Lymphoma is a type of cancer common in dogs and is one of the most common canine cancers. In dogs, lymphoma refers to a group of approximately 30 different cancers that attack organs that support the functioning of the immune system, such as the spleen, bone marrow, and lymph nodes. Consequently, lymphoma mainly targets those areas, but it can affect any organ in the body.
Is Lymphoma Common in Dogs?
Lymphoma is a relatively common cancer, accounting for 15-20% of new cancer diagnoses in dogs. It is most common in middle-aged and older dogs, and some breeds are predisposed. Golden Retrievers, Boxer Dogs, Bullmastiffs, Basset Hounds, Saint Bernards, Scottish Terriers, Airedale Terriers, and Bulldogs all appear to be at increased risk of developing lymphoma.
There are several different types of lymphoma in dogs, varying in severity and prognosis. Below are the four main types of lymphoma found in dogs:
- Multicentric (systemic) lymphoma - This is, by far, the most common type of canine lymphoma. Multicentric lymphoma accounts for approximately 80-85% of cases of lymphoma in dogs. In multicentric lymphoma, lymph nodes throughout the body are affected.
- Alimentary lymphoma - This term is used to describe lymphoma that affects the gastrointestinal tract. Alimentary lymphoma is the second most common type of lymphoma.
- Mediastinal lymphoma - In this rare form of lymphoma. Lymphoid organs in the chest (such as the lymph nodes or the thymus) are affected.
- Extranodal lymphoma - This type of lymphoma targets a specific organ outside of the lymphatic system. Extranodal lymphoma is rare but may develop in the skin, eyes, kidney, lung, or nervous system.
Hard to Detect
Lymphoma in dogs can be hard to detect. It is essential to know the signs of lymphoma so you can take your dog to the vet if they are showing any of these symptoms or changes in behavior. If caught early, your dog’s veterinarian can treat them with chemotherapy before cancer spreads too far and becomes difficult (or impossible) to cure.
Knowledge is Key
Knowing what could be happening with your furry family member will help keep you both happy and healthy! Here are some general indicators that something might not be correct: depression, loss of appetite, weight loss, bumps under their skin, hair loss on one side of their body only (this may indicate a tumor), coughing up blood or pus-like material.
Signs to Look Out For
Some of the most common symptoms are listed below. If you notice any of these signs, it is best to get your furry friend to the vet as soon as possible: ➢ Lethargy
➢ Loss of appetite
➢ Weight loss
➢ Difficulty breathing
➢ Increased thirst and urination
➢ Swelling of the front legs or face
➢ Raised nodules or lesions
➢ Swollen lymph nodes
How Your Vet will Diagnose Lymphoma
If your veterinarian suspects that your dog may have cancer, they’ll run various tests. Most often, cytology or biopsy is the best way to diagnose lymphoma.
During cytology, they will insert a fine needle into an organ to extract a small tissue sample. For a biopsy, they’ll surgically remove a small piece of the organ we suspect may be affected by cancer. In some cases, they may even remove the entire lymph node. Although they strive to remove as little tissue as possible to ensure comfort and safety for your dog, larger samples improve the chances of reaching an accurate diagnosis of lymphoma.
Once they have confirmed your dog has lymphoma, they will recommend staging tests to determine how much the disease has spread throughout your pet’s body. Determining how much cancer has spread helps them assess your dog’s prognosis. Staging tests also help us determine whether your dog has other health problems or conditions that could affect their overall prognosis or treatment options.
Early detection is critical in treating lymphoma. When it comes to something as precious as your pet’s health, it is always best to err on the side of caution. No pet parent wants to think about their dog having lymphoma (or other types of cancer). If you have any reason to suspect that your canine companion could be seriously ill, we encourage you to contact your vet right away. Any symptoms that persist for more than a day or two warrant bringing your dog in for an exam.
Although lymphoma is not curable, it is one of the most successfully treated cancers, and most dogs will respond to chemo 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 (although there are some breed exceptions). However, the side effects can include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and decreased appetite.
Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system in your dog. If left untreated, this deadly disease can spread to other parts of your dog’s body and potentially lead to death. Thankfully there are ways to detect and treat it if caught early. The earlier you catch it, the easier (and less expensive) treatment will be. Pet owners need to know what symptoms look like and be aware when something isn't right with their pets' health. A veterinarian should always be consulted when noticing any of the symptoms listed above. When did you last see your vet?