Lymphoma: When Dogs Require Chemotherapy

When diagnosed with lymphoma, dogs are usually treated with chemotherapy, as it is a serious and fast growing cancer.

Dog Requires Chemotherapy Depending on Stage of Lymphoma

Lymphoma is usually discovered when a lump is found in one of the lymph nodes. A biopsy will be performed and, if the diagnosis is lymphoma, the condition will then be staged. A level of one through five is assigned to the progress of the disease. Additional tests may be required to accurately stage the cancer, and these tests will determine the course of treatment. Its most advanced stage (five) is considered end-stage and does not usually respond to chemotherapy.

Because they receive smaller doses, dogs do not suffer the same degree of chemotherapy side effects that humans do. Additionally, chemotherapy treatments have become more targeted and advanced, allowing for better results with fewer side effects.

Common Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Nausea, lethargy and infections are the most common side effects of chemotherapy treatments. Your veterinarian can prescribe antibiotics and anti-nausea medications if these symptoms appear. Some breeds--poodles, lhasa apsos and shih tzus in particular--may lose hair. After treatment, the coat will grow back.

What To Expect During Chemotherapy

Typically, chemotherapy drugs are given intravenously. Your dog may need to stay at the hospital for the day because the drugs are administered slowly.

During the first two months of the protocol, you will need to bring your dog in for frequent treatments and evaluations. Often, your veterinarian will prescribe oral drugs that you will need to administer at home.

Chemotherapy can weaken your dog's immune system and leave her susceptible to infection. If a serious infection sets in during treatment, your dog may need to be hospitalized. Fortunately, this is not common-fewer than seven percent of dogs experience severe infections.

Throughout the chemotherapy treatments, provide your dog with the highest quality food and fresh water at all times. Do not force her to walk or exercise if she wants to rest and keep her living area clean and warm.

After the initial round of chemotherapy, your dog will be evaluated. Many dogs will achieve a period of remission, and their quality of life will be good. Lymphoma, however, is a serious condition and your dog will need to be continually monitored for recurrence.

Chemotherapy treatments are achieving longer remission and survival rates, but the treatments can be costly. Your veterinarian can explain the options available to you and offer a range of treatment protocols to obtain the best possible results for your dog.