Gastrointestinal Lymphoma in Dogs

Gastrointestinal lymphoma is a form of cancer that affects the lymph nodes of the gastrointestinal tract. The organs involved are the stomach, intestine, liver, spleen, lymph nodes and esophagus. Primary gastrointestinal lymphoma is of T-lymphocyte origin.

Gastrointestinal Lymphoma

Gastrointestinal lymphoma is a common form of cancer that’s prevalent in breeds such as Boxers and sharpies. Nearly one fifth of all cancers are lymphomas. This cancer affects the lymphatic system and weakens the immune system of the dog making it susceptible to infections that the body can’t fight off. Middle aged and older dogs are more likely to have this form of cancer that’s caused by the proliferation of malignant lymphocytes in the lymph nodes. This proliferation results in swelling of the lymph nodes.

Both sexes are equally likely to suffer from GI lymphoma. It occurs as a single tumor or a diffuse invasion of the stomach or the intestines. Gastrointestinal lymphoma is an incurable form of cancer that’s life threatening if located in the small or large intestine as it can interfere with the excretory process. However, this form of cancer is treatable and the condition can be managed to improve your pet’s quality of life.

Symptoms of Canine Gastrointestinal Lymphoma:

  • Swelling of lymph nodes
  • Lumps
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Malnutrition
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Distension of the abdomen
  • Digested blood in the stools
  • Loss of weight 
  • Diarrhea

Causes of Gastrointestinal Lymphoma in Dogs:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Environmental conditions
  • Weakened immune system
  • Herbicides
  • Cigarette smoke 
  • Idiopathic

Diagnosis of Canine Gastrointestinal Lymphoma

A needle aspiration of an affected lymph node and biopsy of the lymph node can help confirm the diagnosis and metastasis of canine gastrointestinal lymphoma. Complete blood count, serum chemistry profile, urinalysis, X-rays, abdominal ultrasound and radiographs as well as a physical exam are necessary to diagnose the disease and also identify its stage.

Stage I involves only one lymph node and stage II involves lymph nodes of only one area. Gastrointestinal lymphoma in dogs generally presents in the III or IV stage. Stage III is characterized by the involvement of all the peripheral lymph nodes. Lumps are generally present on both the front and back half of the body. Stage IV of the disease is characterized by the involvement of the liver and spleen.

Treatment of Canine Gastrointestinal Lymphoma

Chemotherapy is effective against canine GI lymphoma. If there is a blockage in the digestive tract due to the presence of a tumor, surgery may be necessary to remove the tumor. When radiation therapy is used in conjunction with chemotherapy, the benefits observed are far greater. Improved nutrition is beneficial and foods that are rich in proteins and Omega-3 fatty acids should be included in the diet of an affected pet.

Prognosis of Gastrointestinal Lymphoma

If a pet with GI lymphoma is left untreated, the prognosis is bad and the life expectancy is not more than 2 months. Treatment with the use of multi-agent chemotherapy can increase your pet’s life expectancy by a year.

Gastrointestinal lymphoma is not curable in dogs but with treatment, you can improve both the quality and length of life. 90 percent of treated dogs can expect to survive an additional year and 15 percent can survive 2 or more years