Pet Peeves: Lymphoma in Dogs

Pet Peeves: Lymphoma in dogs

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Lymphoma is a type of cancer that arises in certain white blood cells in humans, dogs, cats and other animals. The prefix “lymph” refers to a network of tissues that help prevent infections and remove harmful toxins from the body. Lymphoma involves the growth of cancer cells in lymphatic tissue, which is found in lymph nodes, bone marrow, the liver, the spleen and other places in the GI tract and skin. 

What causes lymphoma in dogs?

Lymphoma, like other forms of cancer, is a genetic disease. Although cancer is not “inherited”, certain hereditary genes that play a role in cancer development can be connected to lymphoma in dogs. Various breeds are more likely to get the disease.

Evidence suggests exposure to certain toxins may be related to the risk of developing lymphoma. Dogs living in places where they may be frequently exposed to paints, pesticides, herbicides, smoke, and/or other toxins are more likely to be diagnosed with this form of cancer. Even excessive exposure to electromagnetic radiation—such as living near overhead power lines—may be linked to increased risk.

What are the signs?

Some dogs show no obvious signs of illness. Others have noticeably swollen lymph nodes, in areas such as the underside of the neck and in the groin. Other possible signs include lethargy, coughing, diarrhea, vomiting and weight loss.

How is lymphoma diagnosed?

Lymphoma is typically diagnosed with a needle biopsy. This is a relatively simple procedure that involves using a needle to remove a sample of cells from the affected area(s) for evaluation under a microscope.

What are the treatment options?

Treatment options include chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy. Canine lymphoma responds well to chemotherapy, with 80-90% of dogs successfully entering a remission quickly after starting therapy.

What is the prognosis?

The prognosis for dogs with lymphoma is based on various factors that are determined at the time of diagnosis.

For more questions on canine lymphoma, please speak with your primary veterinarian or a veterinary oncologist.

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