Stages of Lymphoma in Dogs

Lymphoma in dogs, also known as lymphosarcoma, is a cancer that develops in the lymphocytes of the body. Since lymph nodes are present all through the pet's body, the cancer can occur in any location and pets often exhibit symptoms directly related to the location. The true cause of lymphoma in dogs is not yet established, although studies suggest, genetics play an important role.

Development of Canine Lymphoma

Dogs that suffer from lymphoma develop enlarged lymph nodes in specific parts of the body. Although some lymphomas can be felt by palpating the skin, others that grow internally can only be detected through radiographs and diagnostic tests. Other organs susceptible to lymphoma include the liver, gastrointestinal tract and bone marrow. During the diagnosis of canine lymphoma the vet will perform a complete blood count test along with biopsies or fine needle aspirate tests. This will enable the vet to determine the type and severity of lymphoma present. Lymphomas are categorized into different stages according to the number of lymph nodes and organs involved.

Stages of Lymphoma in Dogs

  • Stage 1 where the lymphoma is restricted to a single lymph node in the body or in an organ.
  • Stage 2 lymphoma involves two or more lymph nodes in a specific area of the body.
  • Stage 3 lymphoma is generalized in nature and involves several lymph nodes around the body.
  • Stage 4 lymphoma manifested in the dog's spleen or liver.
  • Stage 5 lymphoma is more aggressive in nature and involves the bone marrow, blood and other vital organs.

Treatment for Stages of Lymphoma

Most ailing pets that don't show signs of severe illness during diagnosis enter remission. Stage 3 is the most common form of lymphoma seen in dogs and most pets respond favorably to chemotherapy. If the dog has lymphoma in either stage 4 or 5 the chances of entering remission are much lower. Stage 5 is accompanied by leukemia and pets require more aggressive treatment protocols. Diagnostic tests that reveal if the cells originate from B-cells or T-cells also help determine the prognosis and course of medication.

Treatment of Lymphoma in Dogs

Although surgery may not be effective in most pets suffering from lymphoma, the vet will treat the dog with chemotherapy medication. Commonly administered chemotherapy drugs include prednisone, doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide. The drugs are available in both injection form and oral medications. Pets may also be treated at home with chemotherapy medication. However they require proper home care and attention. Medications should be administered on time, according to vet instructions. It's important to understand that pets that enter remission may require a combination of other drugs when they come out of remission. Chemotherapy is mostly scheduled on a weekly basis with intervals in between. Most pets in Stage 3 lymphoma, treated with chemotherapy survive for a minimum of one year.

Dogs with other health concerns will be treated with medication that suits their individual needs. Chemotherapy also has certain side effects that include vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy. Pet owners should work with the vet to determine the best treatment option to reduce the dog's discomfort and increase the pet's quality of life.