Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in Dogs

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The acute lymphoblastic leukemia also known as lymphocytic leukemia or ALL is a type of cancer that may occur in dogs and is a cancer that originated in the bone marrow of the pet. This type of leukemia is more frequent in felines, but may be present in canines as well. The condition causes symptoms such as lethargy, lack of appetite and is a fatal condition.

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

The leukocytes also known as the white blood cells are essential as they defend the dog’s body and help eliminating infections, allergies and stress.

The lymphoblastic cells are leukocytes that have not matured and when they are in excess, acute lymphoblastic leukemia or ALL occurs. The white blood cells form in the bone marrow and when these cells turn malignant, acute lymphoblastic leukemia occurs.

The acute lymphoblastic leukemia is present when the lymphoblastic cells are over 100,000. The normal amount of lymphoblastic cells in canines is around 3,500 and these cells are present in the bone marrow and in the dog’s blood.

Causes of ALL

The causes why the white blood cells turn malignant have not been precisely determined. However, the occurrence of acute lymphoblastic leukemia may be associated with the presence of certain toxins that are constantly present in the dog’s environment. Dogs exposed to radiations or benzene may be among the causes of leukemia.

The acute lymphoblastic leukemia may also be genetic, according to certain researchers.

Some dog breeds are also more prone to developing acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Symptoms of ALL

The acute lymphoblastic leukemia may have subtle symptoms which may aggravate as the condition advances. The most common symptoms of ALL include:

  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • General state of weakness
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Pale gums and mucous membranes
  • Red or purple lines or dots on the surface of the skin, which are caused by frequent bleeding under the skin

These symptoms may be indicative of other health conditions as well, so a few tests are needed to diagnose ALL.

Diagnosing Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

The vet will perform a general consult to establish the condition of the pet.

The easiest way to diagnose acute lymphoblastic leukemia is to perform a blood test and determine the number of lymphoblastic cells.

Some other signs that the dog is affected by acute lymphoblastic leukemia include an enlarged spleen, enlarged lymph nodes and a dysfunctional liver.

Treatment Options

The acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a condition that develops rapidly, unlike chronic leukemia. This type of leukemia is fatal in dogs. However, the vet may recommend chemotherapy and radiation therapy to improve the dog’s life quality.

However, the prognosis is very poor, regardless when the disease is detected.

With treatment, dogs may survive for a few months; without treatment, dogs with ALL may survive for up to 3 weeks.


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