Blood Cancer in Dogs

Blood cancer in dogs is a severe condition that involves the presence of cancerous cells in the blood, bone marrow and lymphatic system. The condition may be difficult to treat, as the cancerous cells are not localized in a single area of the body. This type of cancer is highly aggressive and will have a poor prognosis, even if detected early enough.

Causes of Blood Cancer in Dogs

The causes of blood cancer in dogs are unknown. Researchers have several theories regarding the possible causes of cancer or blood cancer in particular and according to these theories, cancer may be caused by:

  • A high amount of toxins in the dog’s day to day environment (e.g. smoke, lead or other poisonous metals or fumes)
  • The dog’s poor diet, being filled with trans fatty acids and fats
  • Genetic predisposition (there are some canine breeds such as German Shepherds that are more often affected by blood cancer)

The detection of the causes of blood cancer would increase the treatment options for the dog and give a more favorable prognosis.

Symptoms of Dog Blood Cancer

A dog affected by blood cancer may have a general state of weakness and the symptoms may vary, according to the severity of the disease and the areas that are most affected. You may notice a few symptoms such as:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Elevated fever
  • Hemorrhage from eyes, nose, ears
  • Pale gums
  • Weak pulse
  • Internal bleeding
  • Fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity
  • Anemia
  • Sudden collapse
  • Breathing problems
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Various swellings or lumps on the body

Diagnosing Blood Cancer in Canines

In order to diagnose blood cancer in your dog, the vet will perform tests including:

  • A complete blood count (CBC)
  • Blood coagulation tests
  • Serum chemistry panel
  • Urine test
  • X-rays and ultrasounds
  • A biopsy of possible lumps on the body

Treatment Options for Canine Blood Cancer

Since the cancer is not localized in a single area of the body and will also affect the lymphatic system and the bone marrow, surgery is rarely a treatment option for blood cancer in dogs. In some cases, the vet may recommend a bone marrow transplant. If surgery or bone marrow transplant won’t be possible, the vet will aim at stabilizing the dog’s condition. The dog will receive intravenous fluids and blood transfusions. Plasmapheresis may be another treatment option and will involve removing, cleaning and returning the components of the blood into the dog’s system. This procedure may be complicated and the success rates are very low. The dog may also get chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Blood Cancer Prognosis for Dogs

The prognosis for dogs that are diagnosed with blood cancer is poor. The dog may survive for a maximum of 6 months after the detection of the cancer. Blood cancer is an aggressive disease and many vets will recommend euthanasia.