Swollen Lymph Nodes in Dogs

Swollen lymph nodes may be due to a disease of the tissues or an infection in the body. The lymph nodes are small glands that are present in various areas of the body such as the neck or in the shoulder area. These glands have the task of filtering blood and store the white blood cells or the lymphocytes.

Causes of Swollen Lymph Nodes

The inflammation of the lymph nodes, also known as lymphadenitis, may be due to an increased level of white blood cells and this is mostly due to:

  • An infection in the body (viral, bacterial or fungal, which can be contracted from other pets, the outdoors or ticks and fleas)
  • Internal parasites
  • An allergic reaction
  • Autoimmune conditions, which occur when the dog’s body reacts negatively to his own cells, starting to attack his own organs
  • Leukemia or cancer of the blood
  • Cancer in other areas of the body; cancer often metastizes in the neighboring lymph nodes
  • Blood marrow infection
  • Asthma
  • Stress and anxiety

However, the lymph nodes may also enlarge if there is an injury in the area of the lymph nodes or when there is an abnormal growth pressing against the nodes.

Additional Symptoms of Swollen Lymph Nodes

The lymph nodes may be palpated and they may appear enlarged. You can check the lymph nodes that are located in the dog’s body:

  • In the neck, under the mandibles  (submadibullar lymph nodes)
  • Around the shoulders
  • At the back of the leg (popliteal)
  • Close to the joints of the legs (axillary lymph nodes)
  • In the groin area (inguinal)

In addition to the swollen appearance of the lymph nodes, the dog may have additional symptoms such as:

  • Difficulties swallowing, if the dog’s lymph nodes are swollen in the neck area
  • Difficulties moving, if the axillary lymph nodes are affected
  • Constipation (inguinal swollen lymph nodes)
  • Lethargy, due to an infection
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Breathing difficulties

Diagnosing Swollen Lymph Nodes

A physical exam along with some blood tests can give the vet a clearer image to what the dog may have. Lymph node aspirates can also help with the diagnosis.

X-rays may be needed if the dog is suspected on a cancer. A biopsy is also needed if the dog has a tumor.

Dog Swollen Lymph Node Treatment Options

The treatment will depend greatly on the diagnosis:

  • Antibiotic treatment for infections
  • Anti fungal medication for infections that are caused by fungi
  • Antihistamines, steroids or allergy shots for allergic reactions
  • Removal of parasites through a deworming cure
  • Corticosteroids if the dog is affected by an autoimmune disease
  • Surgery and chemotherapy for cancers

It’s important to know whether your pet has a zoonotic infection, as you need to protect yourself and your family. You should discuss with your vet and possibly get some antibiotic treatment as well.