Lymphoma is an abnormal growth of tissue (in the medical language it is known as neoplasia). The lymphoma or cancer originates in the lymph nodes, the liver, the spleen or other organs with lymphoid tissues such as the kidneys, skin or intestine. It is one of the most common malignancies in dogs, and specifically the hematopoietic neoplasm, which affects the blood cells, is the most frequent.
It usually occurs in adult dogs (6 to 12 years old) and any breed, although it is more frequent in some, such as Boxer, Golden Retriever and Rottweiler.
There are several forms of lymphoma, classified according to the organs affected: multicenter lymphoma (it occurs in a generalized way and represents 80% of cases of canine lymphoma), nutritional (gastrointestinal), mediastinal and extra nodal (skin cancer, renal, nervous system and eyes).
Regardless of the organ or tissue of origin, the disease can spread and affect other tissues and organs, such as lymph nodes, spleen, liver and bone marrow, is what is known as metastasis.
How is the diagnosis made?
Although new, more sophisticated and precise methods of diagnosis have recently appeared, unlike other types of tumors, a simple cytology can be used to diagnose a lymphoma in most cases.
Cytology is a quick and inexpensive method, which allows an early diagnosis of lymphoma and, therefore, begin treatment as soon as possible.
The process is to collect a small sample with a needle from the affected organs without the need to sedate the animal and that is why the risks are minimal.
Which is the treatment?
Once the diagnosis is made, chemotherapy is the treatment to multicentric lymphoma in dogs, and fortunately for our pets we have several chemotherapy protocols, which are combined with different drugs and achieve a better treatment effectiveness, as well as allowing us to adjust it to each patient.
Does lymphoma in dogs have a cure?
It depends on the type of lymphoma and the clinical stage of the disease. There are cases of lymphoma in dogs that are cured by surgery or treatments, however, there are others in which a cure is not possible and the treatment will be based on improving the quality of life. As always, the specialist who takes the case will be the one who can best establish a forecast.
Life expectancy in dogs with lymphoma
The time of life in cases of lymphoma in dogs is variable, since, as I have said, it will depend on the type and phase in which it is found. An untreated lymphoma can cause the dog’s death in a matter of weeks. With chemotherapy treatment the average life expectancy of sick dogs is around a year or a year and a half and can even reach 2-3, always counting on the diagnosis.
Symptoms of lymphoma in dogs
Depending on the clinical state or the affected system, the symptoms vary. We can suspect lymphoma if we find enlarged lymph nodes in the groin, armpit, neck or chest. In addition, the dog can appear lethargic, anorexic and, consequently, with low weight. The liver and spleen may also appear enlarged, so it is possible to notice an increase in the abdominal area.
If the breast is involved in the process, there may be fluid in the chest cavity, which is known as a pleural effusion. In these cases the dog will have breathing difficulties. When the lymphoma affects the skin we can see plates that produce itching or nodules. In the other hand, if the intestine is the affected system, there will be vomiting and diarrhea.
If you find one of these symptoms and suspect that your dog could have lymphoma, go with the veterinary immediately. Remember that everything depends on how early the diagnostic is made and the treatment starts.