Lymphoma in Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Lymphoma in Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Alpha Paw Sale

Jun 24, 2021

  • Lymphoma in dogs is a common type of cancer diagnosed in dogs.
  • The most common symptoms of lymphoma in dogs include lymph node enlargement, lethargy, and weight loss.
  • The treatment of choice for lymphoma is chemotherapy.
  • The life expectancy of dogs with lymphoma without treatment averages around 1 month, and the life expectancy with chemotherapy treatment averages around 1 year.

  • Lymphoma can not typically be cured and will often recur even after chemotherapy treatment.

What Is Lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a common cancer diagnosed in dogs. Lymphoma is considered a cancer of the lymphocytes which is a type of white blood cell within your dog’s body. There are organs with high numbers of lymphocytes including the lymph nodes, bone marrow, and spleen so these are the most common areas for lymphoma.

Types of Lymphoma in Dogs

There are many different types of lymphoma in dogs. These are the most common types of lymphoma diagnosed in dogs.

Multicentric Lymphoma

The most common type of lymphoma seen in dogs is multicentric lymphoma. This type of lymphoma is considered lymph node cancer. Many times owners will notice fast-growing swelling within the lymph nodes.

Alimentary Lymphoma

Another common form of lymphoma in dogs is alimentary lymphoma. This form of lymphoma mainly affects the intestinal tract. Symptoms of this form of cancer are most commonly gastrointestinal upset including vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss.

Mediastinal Lymphoma

This is a less common form of lymphoma seen in dogs. With this form of lymphoma, dogs may have difficulty breathing as this type of cancer may affect structures within the chest.

Extranodal Lymphoma

This type of lymphoma occurs when the cancer is present in other places such as the skin, kidneys, eyes, brain, or bone. Symptoms for this type of lymphoma will vary depending on what body part is affected. Cutaneous lymphoma in dogs is a type of extranodal lymphoma affecting the skin.

What breed of dog is prone to lymphoma?

Certain dog breeds may have a higher risk of developing lymphoma than others. The AKC Canine Health Foundation reported that there are several dog breeds that may be predisposed to lymphoma. These breeds include:

  • Boxers
  • Golden Retriever
  • Siberian Husky
  • Shar-Pei
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • Shih Tzu
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Basset Hound
  • Cocker Spaniel

Lymphoma in dogs: symptoms, diagnosis & treatment

What are the signs of lymphoma in a dog?

The symptoms of lymphoma in dogs vary depending on what type of lymphoma your dog has. In many dogs, the only symptom you may notice is the enlargement of a lymph node. According to BluePearl Veterinary Specialists, the most common signs of lymphoma include:

  • Swelling in one or more of the lymph nodes
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Increased drinking and peeing
  • Difficulty breathing

What are the stages of lymphoma in dogs?

Dogs can have 5 different stages of lymphoma:

  • Stage I: only one lymph node is involved
  • Stage II: more than one lymph nodes is involved on the front or the back of the body
  • Stage III: many lymph nodes are involved
  • Stage IV: other organs are involved including the spleen or liver
  • Stage V: bone marrow involvement

Diagnosing Lymphoma in Dogs

The diagnosis of lymphoma is typically done by sampling the affected lymph node. Your veterinarian will use a needle to take a small sample of the lymph node (fine needle aspirate) and send it to a veterinary diagnostic lab. The laboratory can often determine if this sample has cancer.

If the test comes back inconclusive, then your vet may recommend a biopsy. A biopsy collects a larger sample of tissue to look for cancer. Your veterinarian may recommend other tests including x-rays, blood work, and ultrasound to determine if the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.

Treatment of Lymphoma in Dogs

The recommended treatment for most cases of lymphoma in dogs is chemotherapy. Dogs typically handle chemo better than people do. They typically don’t have as many side effects from the chemo as people do. Common side effects of chemotherapy in dogs include upset stomach, diarrhea, vomiting, and eating less. Radiation therapy or surgery may be potential options for your dog, but most commonly, these will not be as effective as chemotherapy treatment for your dog.

If you cannot afford chemotherapy or if your veterinarian feels that it isn’t a good option for your dog, your veterinarian may recommend supportive care or palliative care with steroids. Prednisone is a steroid used to help decrease the symptoms of lymphoma, but it will not cure or treat lymphoma. Steroids may decrease your pet’s lymphoma symptoms and possibly buy a little extra time.

If your dog is having trouble getting on and off the furniture because they are sick from lymphoma, consider getting a PawRamp. Your pet will also need a nice soft place to lay if they aren’t feeling good, so consider this Cozy Calming Pet Bed.

Lymphoma in dogs: symptoms, diagnosis & treatment

Is lymphoma in dogs curable?

Lymphoma can be treatable but is usually not curable. Dogs that are treated with chemotherapy drugs may see remission from cancer for 12 to 18 months, but typically cancer will eventually recur. There are rare cases where we can cure lymphoma, but this is not typical.

What is the life expectancy of a dog with lymphoma?

Because every lymphoma case is slightly different, it is best to ask your veterinarian what the prognosis is for your specific dog. According to VCA specialty hospital, dogs that do not get any treatment for lymphoma will only live an average of 4 to 6 weeks. Dogs that receive chemotherapy for lymphoma may live an average of one year. This is an average and some dogs will not live a full year after diagnosis and some dogs may live longer.

How do you know it’s time to euthanize a dog with lymphoma?

This is a difficult decision that should be done in partnership with your veterinarian. If you do not have the money to afford treatment for lymphoma, and you feel like your pet is suffering, it may be time to have a discussion with your veterinarian about euthanasia. This decision is based on your pet’s quality of life and long-term prognosis.

Alpha Paw Sale
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Dr. Addie Reinhard, DVM

Member of Alpha Paw’s Board of Pet Experts

Dr. Addie Reinhard is an experienced companion animal veterinarian who lives in Lexington, KY with her husband, greyhound, and four cats. She graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, and currently practices in the central Kentucky region. Dr. Addie has special interests in preventative care, dermatology, and diseases, and she enjoys creating helpful educational resources related to these topics to help pet parents keep their four-legged family members happy and healthy. We love Dr. Addie’s passion for providing reliable veterinary insight and medical advice to help pet parents like us give their pups the happy & healthy lives they deserve!


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