Frequently Asked Canine Lymphoma Questions

When your dog is diagnosed with canine lymphoma, there are many questions that spring to mind. Only a veterinarian will have the exact answers as they pertain to your dog, so consult with one as soon as you suspect something may be wrong with your dog.

What Is Canine Lymphoma?

Canine lymphoma is a malignant tumor that affects several organs, including lymph nodes, liver and spleen. It can also occur in the digestive tract and lungs. Since it is malignant, it can spread fast if left untreated. As with most cancer, it kills by causing organ failure.

How Did My Dog Get Lymphoma?

There is no one way to develop cancer. It can be genetic, and some breeds such as golden retrievers, rottweilers, pit bulls, poodles, German shepherds, boxers, beagles and basset hounds are more prone to developing lymphoma than others. It can be caused by chemicals, cigarette smoke or sun exposure, but more often, it's caused by cells that develop abnormally and escape our body's mechanisms to kill those rogue cells. Many owners blame themselves, but there is nothing you did to cause cancer in your dog.

How Long Does He Have to Live?

If left untreated, lymphoma kills most dogs in less than two months. However, with aggressive treatment, your dog's life span increases significantly. Depending on how far the cancer has spread, your dog may live anywhere from a year to several after successful treatment.

What Are the Symptoms?

The most obvious symptom of lymphoma is lumps, which can be found on the abdomen, back, armpits or neck. Early detection is key to effective treatment so regularly check your dog for abnormal lumps. Other symptoms include vomiting, lack of appetite, weight loss and fever.

What Treatment Options Are Available?

The most commonly recommended treatment for lymphoma is chemotherapy, which kills the cancer cells in your dog's body. Since lymphoma spreads quickly and easily, surgery will often not remove all the cancer cells. Chemotherapy is often used in conjunction with radiation.

It's also important to improve your dog's diet to ensure all his nutritional needs are being met. Feeding a homecooked or raw diet can eliminate all preservatives, additives and unnecessary fillers such as corn, wheat and meat byproducts. A high-quality kibble can do this as well. Adding Omega-3s to your dog's diet can also help restore his immune system. Avoid carbohydrates, which fuel cancer production.

What Are the Side Effects of Chemotherapy?

As chemotherapy kills cancer cells, it also kills healthy cells, such as white blood cells and hair follicle cells. Thus, your dog may lose some hair, and he will be more prone to infections. Reducing his exposure to dog parks, boarding facilities and other places where he may contract diseases is important. Your dog also might experience loss of appetite or increased appetite, which leads to weight fluctuations. Your dog also may be lethargic during treatment and unexcited about activities that he previously enjoyed.

Though these side effects don't sound pleasant, your dog's chance of survival without treatment is extremely low. However, with treatment, your dog may have several years left in his life.