Lymphoma In Dogs- Know The Possible Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatments
Most of us are familiar with the term lymphoma. Lymphoma in dogs is a type of cancer. Lymphoma is a type of cancer in dogs as well as people. Understanding every little detail about lymphoma is very important for all dog owners because it helps us get one step closer to its diagnosis and treatment. It also helps us take more precise and intelligent decisions on our pet’s health.
Here are detailed symptoms, diagnostic methods, and treatment options along with prognosis statistics you need to find out about lymphoma in dogs.
What is Lymphoma?
Lymphoma in dogs is quite similar to Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in humans. In fact, it is so similar that doctors and veterinarians use almost the same kind of treatments and chemotherapies to treat this condition.
If we speak scientifically, lymphoma can be considered a blanket term to describe a group of cancer-causing cells that generates from lymphocytes. These are a kind of white blood cells responsible for helping the immune system in fighting against any infection that occurs inside body cells. These cells are present in higher concentration in all those organs that play a key role in the working and function of the immune system. These organs include the spleen, bone marrow, and lymph nodes.
While lymphoma can occur and affect any organ throughout your dog’s body, these organs are at higher risk due to a higher concentration of lymphocytes. There are different types of lymphoma in dogs.
Types Of Lymphoma
There are over 30 different types of known lymphoma in dogs. All these types vary in survival rates, aggressiveness, and clinical signs. Among all these lymphomas, 4 most common types of lymphoma in dogs include:
- Extranodal lymphoma
- Mediastinal lymphoma
- Alimentary lymphoma
- Multicentric lymphoma
Let’s see all these in detail so that you can easily figure out the risks and syntoms involved.
Multicentric lymphoma in dogs is by far the most commonly found type. If we talk about the statistics, approx 80 to 85% of lymphoma in dogs is multicentric in nature. This mainly affects the lymph nodes. The most obvious manifestation is the swelling or enlargement of lymph nodes.
This lymphoma in dogs is the second common type among all these. It accounts for nearly 10% of lymphomas in dogs. It mainly targets the intestines where all the main symptoms of this type are seen.
This lymphoma is generally rare in dogs. In this type of disease, either or both the mediastinal lymph nodes or thymus are affected. These organs become enlarged. This is caused by high-grade lymphocytes.
Extranodal lymphoma in dogs indicates the type of lymphoma that occurs in a specific organ like the kidneys, lungs, central nervous system, skin, and eyes. The most among all of these are the one that occurs in the skin. This is also referred to as cutaneous lymphoma.
Causes Of Lymphoma In Cells
Cancer is a disease that we don’t know much about. The doctors and scientists are still not able to figure out what are the main causes of lymphoma in dogs, but certain advanced genetic studies might soon help in identifying the underlying chromosomal or genetic causes and their predispositions.
We should know that our dogs share the same environment with us due to which they are exposed to many cancer-causing factors present in the environment including some toxic substances like magnetic field exposure and phenylacetic acid herbicides.
This was all about the causes of lymphocytes. Know that causes are not still known and there are researchers trying hard to find out the main causes so that they can be reduced effectively.
Let’s proceed to symptoms of lymphoma so that you can detect them before it gets too late.
Symptoms Of Lymphoma In Dogs
As you already know by now that there are over 30 types of lymphoma in dogs, based on the type, the symptoms will also vary. Also, due to so many types, it becomes difficult in the initial stages to determine the type and diagnosis of lymphoma in dogs.
Let’s see the symptoms as per the type of lymphoma in dogs.
Symptoms Of Multicentric Lymphoma In Dogs
The very first symptom that you can commonly see when your dog has multicentric lymph is swollen or enlarged lymph nodes. It is very common for dogs having lymphoma to have their lymph nodes increase 3 to 10 times their regular size. Know that these swellings are not at all painful and they just feel like firm or rubbery lumps that move beneath their skin freely.
Dogs having multicentric lymphoma might also develop lethargy, anorexia, fever, and dehydration as the disease keeps progressing.
Symptoms Of Alimentary Lymphoma In Dogs
As you already read above, alimentary lymphoma is caused inside the intestine mainly so the symptoms involved include diarrhea, weight loss, anorexia, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
Symptoms Of Mediastinal Lymphoma In Dogs
Dogs having this type of lymphoma usually have difficulty in breathing. This might be due to the accumulation of a large mass inside the chest or due to the presence of fluid inside the chest known as pleural effusion. When the dogs are affected by this type, you might also notice swelling on their face and front legs along with increased urination and thirst.
Symptoms Of Extranodal Lymphoma In Dogs
The symptoms involved in this lymphoma in dogs vary depending upon the organ it affects. The most common type of this is cutaneous lymphoma which affects their skin. Some common signs of this lymphoma are raised, individual nodules, or dispersed scaly lesions. It might also be seen inside the mouth commonly affecting lips, gums, and the roof of the mouth.
If it is present inside the lungs, there are likely symptoms of respiratory distress or problems in the respiratory system. Similarly, if it affects their kidneys, they might face issues of renal failure. If lymphoma occurs in a dog’s eyes, it may even cause blindness and when it occurs in the central nervous system, it is likely to cause seizures. Also, when extranodal lymphoma is seen in bones, it will cause fractures or pain.
Diagnosis Of Lymphoma In Dogs
Once you suspect cancer in your dog after knowing several symptoms it has, it is very important that you take them to the vet as soon as you can. The veterinarians will get the condition diagnosed by taking certain samples of the organ in which all the signs are seen.
The most commonly used tool for diagnosis includes fine-needle aspiration. In this method, usually, a sample of lymph nodes of your dog or another organ that is affected is extracted and then evaluated using cytology exams or by using a histopathologic tissue evaluation.
Some vet also recommends taking “staging tests” followed by a lymphoma diagnosis to know how far this disease has progressed inside the dog’s body. These diagnostic tests are very important for doctors to understand the overall problem and status of progress. It also includes blood tests, abdominal sonograms, bone marrow aspiration, x-rays, and urinalysis.
These tests are very important for the diagnosis and to treat this condition.
Treatment For Lymphoma In Dogs
Chemotherapy is the most effective way to treat lymphoma in dogs. Also, it is proven to be very useful. Depending upon the affected organ and type of lymphoma in dogs, the therapy recommends by the vet will also differ. In certain cases, the doctors might also suggest undergoing surgery or chemotherapy to treat this condition.
For example, if the dog has developed multicentric lymphoma they might need chemotherapy protocol UW-25. This is based on the CHOP protocol used in people having similar cancer. Chemotherapy protocol called Lomustine is proven to be really effective when it comes to treating CCNU or cutaneous lymphoma in dogs. Dogs undergoing chemo also do all their activities like before unlike humans.
When it comes to chemotherapies, dogs are better at dealing with them than human beings. Chemo will not make the dog as sick as it makes people. Another fact to know is that chemo will not cause hair loss in dogs with certain exceptions like dogs belong to Poodles, Bichon Frise, old English sheepdogs, etc. The most common risks or side effects of chemotherapy in dogs are diarrhea, mild vomiting, decreased activity levels, or decreased appetite.
You must know that older dogs are at higher risk of acquiring this cancer and many recent studies have shown that neutered and spayed dogs like golden retrievers may also be at higher risk of having this sort of cancer. Though a lot more research papers are still needed to prove this point.
Prognosis Of Lymphoma In Dogs
The most common question often asked by dog owners is the rate of survival in dogs that have undergone lymphoma. The answer to this question unfortunately is not very simple. Lymphomas vary in their aggressiveness, so the prognosis will also vary depending upon the stage of their cancer and the time of treatment along with treatment choices by the owner.
If you are a dog owner and looking for a prognosis of cancer you must know the difference between the two terms “cure” and “remission”. Remissions mean that the signs and symptoms of cancer in dogs have vanished, but they could be present inside the body. Partial remission means some signs are still there in the body. Remission is quite different from cure as cure means the disease is eliminated from the body fully.
Dogs in remission might still have cancer cells inside the body. This is often seen in dogs but it is undetectable for a certain time. Treatment is really helpful because it will help buy some more time for the dogs but it barely cures this cancer. It is very unfortunate to say that, most dogs having lymphoma might or will have a relapse at some point. When the cancer is detected again, it becomes more resistant to be treated, however, in some cases, the second remission might also be achieved. Eventually, you must be familiar with the fact that lymphoma in dogs is really fatal and life-threatening.
Living With Your Dog Having Lymphoma
No one wants to hear that their dog has acquired lymphoma, but one must pay attention to their dog for symptoms because you never know what may happen. It is important to know about lymphoma so that you take your dog a step closer to their treatment and diagnosis.
Talk to your vet about all the possible treatment options that could be effective. You must also talk to them about the stages and what you can expect out of the treatment you opt for them. Discuss the chances of hospice care and what steps you can take to make your pet more comfortable and keep them out of pain.
Being aware and proactive about your pet’s cancer and the stage they are in can be really useful and helpful to improve their quality of life. In this way, you will be able to accept your role in the treatment programs. It is really hard to discuss the end of life with your vet, but you must know everything so that you can help your pet more and more.
You must know that lymphoma in dogs is really complex with a lot of factors that may affect their health negatively. You must take utmost care and give them enough time to help them live better. If you are worried that your dog might have this disease or have any questions regarding lymphoma in dogs, make sure you do not show negligence towards this thought and contact your vet as soon as possible to diagnose the condition sooner and treat it before time if possible.
This was all you needed to know about lymphoma in dogs and how you can take measures to know the signs and symptoms earlier for protecting your dog with early diagnosis and treatment.