Lymphatic Cancer in Dogs

Lymphatic cancer is also known as lymphoma and is a cancer that affects the lymph nodes. The cancer may be low grade, intermediate or high grade. Low grade lymphoma is the least aggressive type of lymphatic cancer and will give the best prognosis, provided the tumor is discovered in the early stages of development.

Lymphoma in Dogs

Lymphoma is one of the most common cancers that occur in canines. The disease is malignant and affects the lymphoid system and in some cases, it may also manifest on the skin (lymphosarcoma). The cancer affects the lymph nodes or the organs that make up the lymphoid system: the spleen, the liver or the gastrointestinal tract.

Some dog breeds are more exposed to developing lymphatic cancer, but all dog breeds may be affected by this cancer.

There are several types of lymphatic cancer:

  • Multicentric cancer, which originate in the lymph nodes
  • Gastrointestinal lymphoma, begins in the stomach, liver or intestines
  • Mediastinal occurs in the mediastinum, which is located near the heart, in the thymus
  • Cutaneous lymphoma, which affects the skin
  • Lymphoblastic leukemia

Symptoms of Lymphatic Cancer

The lymphatic cancer will manifest through:

  • Swollen lymph nodes (under the neck, in the shoulder area or behind the knee). These nodes may be palpated or if swollen, these will be visible
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Breathing issues
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Increased water intake

If the cancer affects the skin (lymphosarcoma), the dog may also display a few additional symptoms such as:

  • Red skin
  • Inflammation
  • Flaky skin
  • Skin lesions and ulceration
  • Itchiness
  • Visible lumps or bumps on the skin

These symptoms may not be noticeable during the beginning stages of the disease. The dog may not show any symptoms until the disease is in a more advanced stage such as stage 3 or 4. Given that early detection is essential, it’s important to notice any changes in the dog’s behavior or any subtle symptoms that could point to a health problem. The accessible lymph nodes (i.e. neck, shoulders and knees) can be palpated regularly to see if they are not enlarged.

Detection of Lymphatic Cancer

If the dog presents any symptoms that could indicate lymphatic cancer, the dog will have to undergo a number of tests. Blood tests along with a biopsy are essential to diagnose lymphatic cancer. The sooner the cancer is detected the better the prognosis will be. The vet will also have to establish the stage of the cancer and the origin of the tumor.

Treating Lymphatic Cancer

Lymphatic cancer will have different treatment options depending on when the problem is detected. Detected during the first 2 stages, the tumor is operable and the dog will receive chemotherapy to increase his chances of survival. If the cancer is in a more advanced stage, the removal of the tumor is not possible and only chemotherapy or radiations will be recommended.

If left untreated, the dog can die within 2 months.