Managing Canine Lymphoma Symptoms with Prednisone

The key to managing canine lymphoma is to understand this type of cancer, its aggressive nature, and to select the most appropriate, effective method of treatment. While the cure for cancer in dogs remains undiscovered, prednisone has become one of the more commonly used methods of management for canine lymphoma.

Overview of Canine Lymphoma

Canine lymphoma, also known as lymphosarcoma, is an extremely aggressive form of canine cancer. This type of cancer affects the lymphoid tissues anywhere throughout the body. The most common sites of canine lymphoma include the lymph nodes, liver and spleen, all of which contain lymphoid tissue. The reason that this is considered one of the most aggressive types of cancer is because the lymph nodes provide very quick access to other areas of the body. Simply put, the lymph nodes are a very continuous mode of transportation for cancer to travel.

Scientific research has indicated genetic predisposition to canine lymphoma, and certain dog breeds have been linked to this particular type of cancer, including Poodles, Boxers, Beagles, German Shepherds and Rottweilers.

Recognizing the Signs

Canine lymphoma does not carry a very good prognosis, so the earlier it can be identified, the longer the dog will have to live with effective management and symptom control. Depending on the type of canine lymphoma present, prognosis can range anywhere from 6 months to 12 months.

Throughout various stages of the canine lymphoma, most dog owners will notice lumps at the site of the lymph nodes, revealing that the lymph nodes have become swollen. This first place this is generally noticed is with the lymph nodes just below the neck.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Tenderness of the lymph nodes
  • Lack of appetite
  • Sudden onset of weight loss
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Fatigue and weakness

Treatment and Management

The most effective way to control the symptoms of canine lymphoma is through the use of chemotherapy drugs. These drugs can be administered in combination or alone, and their rate of effectiveness is often determined by an appropriate combination of chemotherapy drugs. Whether used alone or together, prednisone is one of the most common drugs administered for treatment of canine lymphoma.

One method in particular uses a combination of prednisone, L-asparaginase, vincristine, cyclophosphamide and doxorubicin. This is typically done as a 6-month treatment regimen, and it carries the highest life expectancy rate at 1 to 1-1/2 years after treatment begins.

Sometimes it may be elected to provide prednisone only, which is a steroidal medication that can be administered on a daily basis at home. However, managing canine lymphoma with prednisone only is one of the least effective methods of treatment; it only provides an approximate longevity of 60 days after the start of treatment.

Keep in mind, though, that dogs not receiving treatment for their canine lymphoma are only given a prognosis of 4 to 6 weeks. So whether treating with a combination of drugs or prednisone only, the prognosis is certainly going to be better than choosing not to treat at all.