Everything you Want to know about Lymphoma in Dogs

Denise Lessard
Authored by Denyse Lessard
Denyse is an in Chinese medicine, homeopathy, and naturopathy, and the formulator behind most of Zumalka's natural health products for pets.

Canine lymphoma is no doubt one of the most devastating health issues that can target affected dogs. It can be described as a common cancer that disrupts the canine lymphatic system, which can lead to very serious and even fatal consequences if not properly and immediately dealt with.

If you're still having a tough time zeroing in on everything you need to know about lymphoma in dogs, then you've come to the right place! You can call this blog post a quick guide on all the crucial things to keep in mind when it comes to this pet cancer burden.

We've put together this blog post to get you in on important details like an overview of the disease, the risk factors for canine lymphomas, its clinical signs, how a diagnosis is made, as well as the treatment options that you can go for.

If you have any questions about other types of cancer affecting dogs, check out our complete guide to dog cancer for more details.

As a bonus, we're also going to reveal our favorite natural alternative when you treat lymphoma in canines. So without further ado, let's kick things off by having a brisk yet informative walkthrough on what lymphoma in dogs is and how the lymphatic system is affected.


What Exactly is Canine Lymphoma?

happy dog on outdoors

Dog lymphoma is a type of cancer that primarily involves lymph nodes, which are part of your dog's immune system. Besides helping filter unwanted substances that may have made their way inside your pet's body, the lymph nodes also contain white blood cells or lymphocytes that fight off toxins, viruses, and bacteria.

After affecting the entire lymph node, this disease progresses quickly and the lymphoma cells move to other parts of the body like the bone marrow, liver, spleen, heart, and lungs, among others. When this terrible disease spreads or metastasizes, the entire body of your canine best friend can be a target.

We'd just like to emphasize as early as now that most dogs that develop lymphoma need immediate care and attention or else they may reach the terminal stage of this health problem within just two (2) months.

The B and T cells in the lymph nodes

What's really interesting is that a dog's lymph nodes carry two (2) types of white blood cells, namely B-cells and T-cells. Although both of them have key roles in keeping a dog's immune system working ideally, B-cells and T-cells have specific functions.

B-cells are in charge of making molecules for antibodies that serve as a barrier against toxins, viruses, and bacteria, while their T counterparts deal with cells that may have already been infected by disease or some other wellness problem, such as in the case of cancer.

Moreover, these cell variants can also be separately afflicted with lymphoma. Hence, there is T-cell lymphoma and B-cell lymphoma. The number of dogs diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma is slightly lower compared to those found with B-cell lymphoma.

Multicentric lymphoma and extranodal lymphoma

A multicentric lymphoma is characterized by several and possibly enlarged lymph nodes affected all at once. Approximately 85% of all cases of dogs diagnosed with lymphoma are found to be of this class. Many lymphatic vessels will also be simultaneously affected in this situation.

Most dogs with lymphoma are diagnosed with multicentric lymphoma. Additionally, there can be complete remission to multicentric lymphomas if the disease is diagnosed and treated during its early stages.

On the other hand, an extranodal lymphoma only targets a single and possibly enlarged lymph node upon diagnosis. This type of lymphoma affects not just the lymphatic system, but can also have an impact on a dog's skin, mouth, bones, liver, eyes, as well as the nervous system, among others. Renal failure is possible as well.

This class of lymphoma in dogs is considered quite rare.


What are the Common Types of Lymphoma in Dogs?

dog taking a rest

The phrase "canine lymphoma" is an umbrella term that encompasses a lot of variations of this disease. There are three (3) types that you should keep in mind, namely mediastinal lymphoma, cutaneous lymphoma, and alimentary lymphoma.

Let's check out each one for this part of our discussion:

Mediastinal lymphoma

While deemed as "uncommon" compared to the other two, a dog diagnosed with mediastinal lymphoma is often described as having large masses in and around the chest area. Most lymphomas of this type are generally associated with pleural effusion or the accumulation of fluid in the chest. It may also involve respiratory distress and abdominal pain in some cases.

Cutaneous lymphoma

This type of dog cancer is characterized by scaly lesions and flaky, irritated skin that gets worse over time. A cutaneous lymphoma eventually becomes extremely inflamed to the point of being constantly ulcerated and moist. Clumps of inflamed skin may also form all over a dog's body in this case.

Moreover, cutaneous lymphoma may be mistaken for gum or periodontal disease due to its appearance, especially at its onset.

Alimentary lymphoma

Also referred to as "gastrointestinal lymphoma" since it can cause issues like nicks and lesions in the stomach and intestines (and all of the parts of the gastrointestinal tract), an alimentary lymphoma includes regular bouts of diarrhea and vomiting as some of its clinical signs.


Does Lymphoma in Dogs Have to Do With Enlarged Lymph Nodes?

happy dog with black and white coat

The short answer is yes.

The most obvious sign that a dog is suffering from lymphoma is the sudden enlargement of the lymph nodes. Some dogs may even have their lymph nodes expanding up to ten (10) times their normal size in certain cases.

Are there white blood cells (WBC) in the lymph nodes?

Yes, lymph nodes contain WBC. The bone marrow also produces these cells, along with red blood cells and platelets. Another interesting fact about the bone marrow is that it also produces stem cells, which help repair damaged cells and tissues in a dog's body.


Can Canine Lymphoma Affect the Bone Marrow, Too?

The short answer is yes.

As we've emphasized earlier, canine lymphoma initially begins in the lymph nodes but may subsequently spread to a different affected organ or organs and even to the central nervous system in some cases.


What Causes Lymphoma in Dogs?

dog on leash

What's surprising is that despite the strides in modern veterinary medicine, the exact cause of canine lymphoma is still unknown. However, some risk factors are speculated to be associated with this disease.

These risk factors include age, environment, as well as breed and heredity. Older dogs are more vulnerable to this disease, including those that have an improper diet or are constantly exposed to harmful chemicals that have adverse effects on the body.

Certain breeds that are usually diagnosed with lymphoma include Boxers, Golden Retrievers, Basset Hounds, Rottweilers, Airedale Terriers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Cocker Spaniels, Bullmastiffs, Great Danes, and West Highland White Terriers.


What are the Stages of Lymphoma in Dogs?

dog and pet owner walking outside

Lymphoma in dogs is often described in "stages" that give the notion of how serious the disease has already become (e.g. Stage I). It often starts by affecting a single lymph node, then progresses to other nodes in the same part of the body, eventually affecting other organs in the body. 

Stages of canine lymphoma:

  • Stage I - Only one lymph node is affected

  • Stage II - Lymph nodes in the same area are affected (one-half of the body)

  • Stage III - Multiple lymph nodes all over the body are affected

  • Stage IV - The liver or spleen is affected

  • Stage V - Blood, bone marrow, or other organs are affected

Because lymphoma in dogs can be difficult to diagnose, it is rarely diagnosed in the early stages. It is often found in Stage III or later. This is also the biggest reason why you need to get your pooch checked as soon as you observe anomalies that may already be clinical signs of this serious disease.


Symptoms of Lymphoma in Dogs

sick looking dog

What makes lymphoma in dogs tricky to spot is that some of its clinical signs may mimic those of more "regular" health issues like gum disease, tummy upsets, and nausea. Below you will find a dog's symptoms as regards this disease:

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Skin peeling and severe irritation

  • Sudden lethargy

  • Drastic decrease in appetite

  • Frequent urination

  • Swelling of the face

As a pet parent, it’s important to regularly check your pup’s lymph nodes to look for swelling. If you notice anything abnormal, make sure to take them in to see a vet for early diagnosis. Always remember that the earlier you diagnose lymphoma, the higher the chances your pet will overcome this health problem.


How is Canine Lymphoma Diagnosed?

happy looking dogThe most widely used procedure in diagnosing lymphoma is through fine needle aspiration or FNA. This involves the extraction of a tissue sample from the affected area using an extremely thin needle to determine the existence of cancer cells.

While fine needle aspiration is commonly deemed the same as lymph node biopsy, the latter procedure uses a needle that has a wider tip. However, they serve the same purpose of extracting tissue samples.

Other specialized tests are also utilized for the diagnosis of lymphoma in dogs. These can include blood tests, ultrasound, X-rays, as well as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Staging tests should be conducted as soon as possible if cancer cells are detected.  


Dog Lymphoma: Life Expectancy

What's really alarming about dog lymphoma is that it progresses quite quickly. Depending on the time the disease was discovered and the gravity of the same, an afflicted pet may only have 6-12 months to live.

However, it is crucial to keep in mind that providing timely treatment can help encourage remission (whether it's complete or partial remission) for a dog going through lymphoma. This means that for a time they don’t have any of the symptoms of cancer, and can live a normal, active life. 

A very important note: remission isn’t a cure and after some months, the cancer may become evident again and need to be treated. Flow cytometry can be resorted to in terms of monitoring if the cancerous cells are still growing and dividing or not.

And speaking of the treatment options for lymphoma in dogs, we're going to talk about them in the next part of this blog post.


How is a Dog's Lymphoma Treated?

The conventional treatment options that are available for canine lymphoma include radiation therapy, surgical removal, and chemotherapy. Each of these may be used as a standalone treatment or can be combined with the others. This means surgery may be combined with radiation therapy or chemo depending on the circumstances.

But here's the problem: while most dogs tolerate chemotherapy, some chemotherapy protocols can also adversely affect healthy cells that are naturally programmed by the body to quickly divide and multiply.

Realistically speaking, zeroing in on the ideal chemotherapy protocol for your dog can be challenging. Besides the negative effect on healthy cells, other consequences of this include drastic weight loss and a constant feeling of nausea for your pet.


Is There a Natural Way to Treatment Lymphoma?

Yes, there is a natural way to help your dog overcome lymphoma.

We know that you want the best for your dog’s health and are likely interested in exploring natural treatment options to help with your pet’s fight with cancer. Canine lymphoma holistic treatment is available!

At Zumalka, we have worked hard to design PIPTOPET, a holistic cancer product for dogs at home, made to boost the immune response, equipping their body to fight the disease on their own. 

And given that PIPTOPET will not make your dog susceptible to adverse side effects, you'll be much more at peace knowing that he will still have the quality of life he deserves even during this health crisis.


About the author

Denise Lessard
Denise Lessard


Denyse Lessard is deemed as the “mother” of Zumalka, which was established more than ten years ago to provide easily accessible natural products for pet wellness worldwide.

Besides being a trained alternative medicine therapist, Denyse also has expertise in homeopathy, naturopathy and iridology, reflexology, as well as Chinese medicine. She is a long-standing member of the Professional Union of Homeopaths of Quebec, as well as the Association of Naturopaths and Naturotherapists of Quebec.

Denyse’s philosophy as regards pet wellness is not just about only dealing with disease and illness when they get in the picture, but keeping animals in ideal health each and every day.

Find out more about Denyse when you click HERE.

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