November 7th is National Canine Lymphoma Awareness Day.
Canine lymphoma is one of the most common canine cancers. Lymphoma is the expansion of lymphoid cells and can include other lymphoid tissues. This illness targets organs associated with the immune system including the spleen, bone marrow, and lymph nodes but can affect other organs.
Unfortunately, there is no known cause. Scientists are looking into the possibility of genetic predisposition for this cancer, as we tend to see it happen more commonly in certain breeds, such as Golden Retrievers. Older dogs seem to be more prone to developing lymphoma but younger dogs can develop it as well.
Signs and prognosis are dependent on the type of lymphoma present, and how far it has progressed. The following is a list of some of the common types and signs we see:
- Multicentric lymphoma (most common)
- Swelling of the lymph nodes is usually the first sign. People usually first notice the lymph nodes under the jaw when they are enlarged. Without treatment the pet could develop signs of weakness, high temperature, lethargy.
- Alimentary lymphoma
- Diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, and abdominal pain.
- Mediastinal Lymphoma
- Coughing and shortness of breath due to lesions formed in the chest cavity. Swelling and increased thirst leading to urinating more.
- Extranodal lymphoma
- Is dependent on the affected organ.
Your veterinarian will need to do a full physical exam and gather history about your pet. Other diagnostics may be performed such as blood work, x-rays, ultrasound, or biopsy. Frequently, one of the first tests would be a small biopsy, called a “fine needle aspirate”, of an enlarged lymph node.
Although lymphoma is not curable, it is one of the most successfully managed cancers. The main treatment for lymphoma is chemotherapy. Quality of life is always the priority for our pets, so chemotherapy in dogs is very different than chemotherapy in humans. Great care is taken to make sure it is well tolerated, minimizing side effects as much as possible. Animals do not tend to lose hair with chemotherapy, but can have vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy or decreased appetite. With chemotherapy, as many as 70% of dogs will go into remission. However, survival times vary based on many factors, but can range anywhere from months to over 2 years.
Talk to one of our team members at Coventry Animal Hospital if you suspect your dog may have canine lymphoma.