Lymphosarcoma in Dogs

Lymphosarcoma in dogs is a common cancer, which is also known as Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The development of this disease is starts slowly, but it can quickly grow.

Lymphosarcoma Explained

Lymphosarcoma is a crippling malignant cancer that can be treated. Usually it affects middle-aged to elderly dogs and certain dog breeds are prone to this disease due to genetic factors: Scottish Terriers, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers, and Bassett Hounds.

A dog’s lymphatic system is complex as it’s designed to fight off bacteria and viruses. Lymphoid tissue can be found in a dog’s intestinal tract, spleen, liver and the skin. It’s common for cancer to start in the lymph nodes, but it can also develop in a dog’s bone marrow, abdomen, skin, and chest. There are up to several different forms of lymphosarcoma that can affect a dog’s skin, bone marrow, gastrointestinal tract, mediastinum, and external lymph nodes.

Symptoms of Lymphosarcoma

Lymphosarcoma in dog is sometimes not found until the cancer is in its advanced stages. A dog owner should take a dog to see a veterinarian if he notices a swollen abdomen, limbs, and jaw. A dog with this condition may also be disoriented and lethargic. One may also notice a dog has a loss of appetite, has lost weight, has become thirstier, and has developed chronic vomiting or diarrhea. Lymphosarcoma can also cause a dog to have frequent infections; wounds that don’t heal; skin that’s thick, inflamed, red or itchy; lumps under the skin, and enlarged lymph nodes.

Diagnosing and Staging Lymphosarcoma in Dogs

The earlier a dog is diagnosed with lymphosarcoma, the better the prognosis. Unfortunately, there is little one can do when the higher stages of this cancer is found.  When a veterinarian is brought a sick dog, he’ll perform a complete physical examination. Images may need to be attained of any lumps formed, which would be done with x-ray and ultrasound machines. An analysis of a dog’s blood and urine will also be done, and a vet may require a sample of a dog’s bone marrow. To take a look at the cancer cells up close, a fine needle aspiration will be done to get fluid from a tumor and a biopsy of the tumor may be collected.

After lymphosarcoma is diagnosed, it will be staged. Stage I means only one lymph node is infected. Stage II is when more than one lymph node is infected. Stage III is when all the peripheral lymph nodes are infected. Stage IV includes all the lymph nodes, plus the liver, splen, and chest. Stage V is when the bone marrow is also infected.


The treatment of lymphosarcoma in a dog depends on the part of the body involved, how big the tumor is and if it has metastasized, and the stage of the tumor. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, cryosurgery and comfort care.

Lymphosarcoma is a treatable disease, but it’s not curable. Once diagnosed and treated, a dog should have regular aftercare exams with his veterinarian or veterinary oncologist.