Vet Corner | Lymphoma in Dogs
Lymphoma is a common type of cancer in dogs as well as in humans. Most of us heard about it, but we weren’t exactly sure what it was. There were many questions we wanted to be answered, so we talked to vets that specialize in this form of cancer. If you’re worried about your dog’s health and you suspect lymphoma, here are a few things we found out that might interest you.
The shortest possible definition of lymphoma is - cancer. More precisely, lymphoma is an umbrella term vets, and human doctors use to describe a wide variety of cancers. To fully understand this type of cancer in dogs, we first need to understand what lymphocytes are.
Lymphocytes are white blood cells, or rather, a type of white blood cells. Their job is to help and boost the dog’s immune system and fight off potential infections. Think of them as soldiers fighting diseases within the dog’s body. Lymphocytes are concentrated in different organs of the body. However, most of these white blood cells can be found in the bone marrow, spleen, and lymph nodes. That is exactly where most lymphomas are diagnosed.
Unfortunately, dogs can develop more than 30 types of lymphomas. They are all slightly different because they attack different parts of the dog’s body. However, dogs usually get diagnosed with the four most common types. These most common types of lymphoma in dogs are;
- Extranodal lymphoma
- Multicentric lymphoma
- Mediastinal lymphoma
- Alimentary lymphoma
Here’s what you should know about them;
Extranodal lymphoma is a term used for a specific type of this disease that affects particular organs. The most common organs extranodal lymphoma attacks are skin, eyes, central nervous system, kidneys, and lungs. When the disease develops, vets call it cutaneous lymphoma.
Multicentric lymphoma is the most common type of this disease. By some estimates, it is responsible for 80 - 85% of all lymphoma cases.
Out of these four types, mediastinal lymphoma is the rarest. It will affect the thymus or mediastinal lymph nodes. In some cases, this lymphoma can affect both of these things.
Alimentary lymphoma will affect the dog’s intestines. Most of the disease’s symptoms will be localized there. It is the second most common type of canine lymphoma, and it is responsible for less than 10% of all cases.
The most important thing dog owners can do is notice lymphoma symptoms early. However, that is often easier said than done. Symptoms will be different in these four common types of disease because they all affect different parts of the dog’s body. Here are the most common symptoms of these four types of lymphoma in dogs;
Symptoms will depend on the affected organ. However, the most commonly affected organ is the skin. The most common extranodal lymphoma symptoms are raised nodules on the skin and scaly lesions.
The first thing most dog owners notice is swollen lymph nodes. As multicentric lymphoma develops, the dog can develop fever, lethargy, weakness, anorexia, and dehydration.
This type of lymphoma is most commonly found in the lungs. Dogs will have breathing issues and increased thirst and urination.
As we already mentioned, alimentary lymphoma affects the dog’s intestines. All of their symptoms will be connected to their GI tract. Dogs with this type of disease will lose weight, become anorexic, vomit, get diarrhea, and become lethargic.
VET TIP: While enlarged lymph nodes can signify lymphoma, it can also be a symptom of other diseases. It is best not to panic and make sure you talk to your vet and have them run detailed tests.
One of the most important questions all dog owners whose dogs were diagnosed with lymphoma want to know is, “Is lymphoma in dogs treatable?” Naturally, we want to know what the odds of our dog’s survival are. If they survive, we want to know what long-term effects the dog might endure. Here is the first part of those questions;
As you can probably imagine, the treatment for different types of lymphoma will be very different. The exact treatment will depend on the type of lymphoma and its aggressiveness. The veterinary community agrees the best way to treat lymphoma in dogs is with chemotherapy. For example, cutaneous lymphoma is treated with lomustine chemotherapy protocol, and the best way to treat multicentric lymphoma is protocol UW-25.
Most of us want to know the prognosis as soon as possible. We want to know if our dogs can survive this disease and if they do, what consequences will they suffer. However, the answer to that question is not that simple. Cancer can be very aggressive, but it can also be less aggressive. Unfortunately, lymphoma is ultimately fatal. However, dogs might respond to chemotherapy pretty well. Remissions are not that uncommon, so you shouldn’t give up on your dog just yet. There are things we can do to make them feel as comfortable and in the best shape possible.
Unfortunately, lymphoma in dogs is not treatable, but dogs without treatment have a terrible prognosis. Their average lifespan after the diagnosis is 1 - 2 months. Dogs that receive treatment can live up to 12 months.
This might be one of the worst conversations you can have. However, discussing options and probabilities is necessary for all dog owners whose dogs were diagnosed with lymphoma. Your vet can advise you on your dog’s diet, therapy, health, supplements, and other things that might prolong your dog’s life and make it as comfortable and happy as possible.
VET TIP: Dogs and humans react differently to chemotherapy. Dogs usually react a lot better. They probably won’t lose their hair and won’t be as sick as we are. Most dogs get mild diarrhea, mildly vomit, and have lower energy levels.
World Dog Finder team