Signs of Lymphoma in Dogs

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Signs of Lymphoma in Dogs
Signs of Lymphoma in Dogs (Image: Brent and MariLynn)

Canine lymphoma, or lymphosarcoma, is the most commonly occurring form of canine cancer. The disease is characterized by the development of malignant tumors in a dog's organs, primarily the lymph nodes, liver and spleen, but lymphoma can also develop in the digestive tract, eyes and skin. It occurs wherever lymph tissue is located in the body and spreads rapidly once established. Despite its aggressiveness, canine lymphoma has a good survival rate with prompt diagnosis and an intensive treatment program.

Lumps

The swollen lymph nodes that are associated with lymphoma are round and hard and usually develop in the armpits, abdomen, back or neck. These lumps are not to be confused with the soft fatty deposits that some older dogs develop and may be difficult to detect in dogs having thick fur.

Vomiting and Loss of Appetite

The form of canine lymphoma that attacks the digestive tract can prevent a dog from digesting food. If your dog develops this type of lymphoma, you will begin to see it lose interest in food and either hack or vomit on a regular basis.

Fever

A fever on its own is not a definitive sign of canine lymphoma, but you should consult your veterinarian immediately if fever is accompanied by any of the other canine lymphoma signs.

Weight Loss

Sick dogs may become depressed and lose interest in daily activities, including eating. This will, of course, lead to weight loss. Any rapid weight loss is cause for immediate concern, particularly if it is accompanied by any of the other canine lymphoma signs.

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian will first physically examine your dog to determine whether any of its lymph nodes are enlarged. If your vet discovers enlarged lymph nodes, he will order a urinalysis and blood panel to determine your dog's general state of health and a biopsy of one of the enlarged lymph nodes to confirm the diagnosis. A biopsy also provides a window, if you will, into the progression of the disease.

Treatment

Although canine lymphoma has a high remission rate, survival is low without proper treatment. Without treatment, a canine lymphoma patient can live approximately two months following diagnosis. With treatment, your dog's chances of survival can rise by 60 to 90 percent. The most effective treatment is a combination of chemotherapy, immune system boosters, surgery and a diet low in carbohydrates (which fuel the cancer cells) and high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Chemotherapy, which involves the use of powerful cell-killing drugs, is the most common and the most effective of the individual treatments, particularly when combined with radiation. Immune system boosters, when used in conjunction with chemotherapy, will further increase survival rate. These boosters include glyconutrients (sugars) that support healthy immune function. Surgery, typically combined with chemotherapy, is indicated when the tumor is very large or is endangering vital organs. Unfortunately, fatal complications can arise with surgery, particularly if a portion of an endangered organ is removed along with the tumor.

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