As a dog parent, one of the biggest concerns is your animal friend getting sick. And what if your worst fears become a reality and you get that lymphoma diagnosis from the veterinarian? How can you treat the illness? How can you ensure your dog is as comfortable as possible? Should euthanasia be an option to consider?
When should you euthanize your dog? If your dog has canine lymphoma and has not responded to any treatment, or if he/she is experiencing chronic pain, loss of appetite, difficulty in breathing, trouble standing/walking, or lethargy, it’s best to euthanize them. While this is a painful and difficult decision to make as an owner, sometimes it is within the best interest of your canine to go through with it.
When to Euthanize A Dog With Lymphoma?
You must consult with your veterinarian beforehand when considering euthanizing a dog with lymphoma. In some cases, the vet may be able to definitively determine when to euthanize your canine, but in other cases, it may fall upon you to make the decision based on the observation you make of your pet’s attitude and behavior.
Here are some of the most telling signs that your lymphoma-afflicted dog is suffering and not enjoying a good quality of life anymore:
If your pup is experiencing pain that cannot be lessened or controlled with medication, or the veterinarian recommends that there is no other way to eliminate the dog’s pain, then you can decide to euthanize your dog. This is the best way to relieve the canine from pain rather than inadvertently subjecting him to daily suffering.
Difficulty in Breathing
If your dog’s breathing is chronic, labored, rapid, and shallow, sometimes accompanied by a chronic cough, then it might be time to put him/her down.
Loss of Appetite
If your dog stops eating, or he/she is unable to keep food down, this is a sure sign that he/she is not having a good time anymore, and euthanasia should be considered.
Trouble Standing or Walking
If you notice that your dog is unable to walk without assistance, or is unable to stand on his/her own, you should come to terms with the fact that it is time to let him/her go.
In some cases, a dog with lymphoma will lose interest in most or all of his favorite activities, such as eating treats, going for walks, getting petted, or playing with toys.
Can Dog Lymphoma Be Misdiagnosed?
There are two ways you can look at this question. One way is the canine doesn’t have lymphoma, and a misdiagnosis has been made. The second way is the lymphoma diagnosis is right, but it doesn’t appear to be.
In the first instance, a veterinarian may proclaim lymphoma but has not taken any specimen for analysis. This could happen if there is a high suspicion of lymphoma, for example, lumps in suspicious areas such the neck, jaw, in front of the shoulder blades, and behind the stifle (knee).
Swollen lymph nodes don’t always mean that your four-legged family member has cancer. It could be something completely unrelated, like a tick-borne disease. In some cases, tick-borne diseases can be misdiagnosed as lymphoma, and vice versa. This is because some tick diseases such as ehrlichiosis cause the lymph nodes to swell up, which is the most telling symptom of lymphoma.
However, because lymphoma can be potentially aggressive, if you do feel something swollen, have your vet look at it, and insist on a biopsy to determine whether or not he/she has lymphoma.
With the second instance, the diagnosis is correct, but the guardian is in denial. In many cases, a dog will act normal even though they have lymphoma. This is especially true in the early stages. Additionally, because dogs instinctively hide disease, it can be hard to tell that they are sick. In these cases, dogs may not exhibit any symptoms, but the lymphoma will continue to develop. It is important to seek treatment as soon as possible to deal with the disease as effectively as possible.
Can Dog Lymphoma Be Cured?
Although lymphoma in dogs is challenging and difficult to deal with, it is one of the most highly treatable cancers, and most canines respond favorably to treatment.
While canine lymphoma cannot be cured, the main aim of treatment is to achieve remission for as long as possible and subsequently allow dogs and their owners to spend a bit more time together. It is important to determine the type of lymphoma as this will impact treatment and prognosis. Because of the aggressive nature of lymphoma, it is important to introduce treatment as soon as it is discovered.
Since lymphoma affects the body systematically, treatment also has to be administered systematically in the form of chemotherapy to increase effectiveness. Chemotherapy allows an improved quality of life and prolongs survival times, with little or no noticeable side effects.
The type of chemotherapy used will vary depending on the type of lymphoma. Other important considerations to keep in mind when choosing a protocol include the disease-free interval, the typical duration of remission, estimated survival time, expense, and scheduling.
Causes of Dog Lymphoma
Lymphoma develops as a result of a series of genetic mutations in a lymphocyte. A lymphocyte or lymphocytes are white blood cells that fight off infections. When lymphocytes mutate abnormally, they ultimately become malignant cells, which subsequently affect body organs and functions.
There is no specific cause of lymphoma, but there might be some factors that may cause it to occur. Some research has been done regarding possible causes such as bacteria, viruses, chemical exposure, and strong magnetic fields, but the cause of this type of cancer is still unknown.
In humans, there is evidence that suppression of the immune system increases the risk factor for developing lymphoma, but there is no established link between immune suppression and lymphoma in canines.
Cost of Treating Dog Lymphoma
A common concern for owners with lymphoma-afflicted dogs is the cost of treatment. Pet parents of dogs with this condition can expect to spend around $5,000 on treatments that may extend their pet’s life for approximately a year or two with little hope of a cure.
For further treatment, you can expect to spend even more. For instance, at North Carolina State University over 70 owners of lymphoma-stricken dogs spent $16,000-$25,000 on bone marrow transplantation.
How Common is Dog Lymphoma?
Lymphoma is pretty common in dogs, ranking as the third most commonly occurring cancer in canines. Of all the conditions that cause abnormal cell growth in dogs, lymphoma accounts for about 24%, which is approximately 13-24 canines per 100,000. Dogs can suffer from this type of cancer at any age, although dogs aged 6-9 years are more susceptible. Male and female canines are both equally at risk of developing the condition.
Is a Dog with Lymphoma in Pain?
Most canines with lymphoma won’t show that they are in pain. Many dog owners tend to discover that their pooch has the condition after they feel lumps under the skin where lymph nodes are located.
What is the Life Expectancy of a Dog with Lymphoma?
The life expectancy of a dog with lymphoma generally varies depending on how medicines are administered, and whether or not the canine receives proper treatment.
Without treatment, a dog will leave for about 1 to 2 months. With the correct treatment, the average life expectancy increases to 12-14 months, with about 80-90% of dogs attaining remission. However, if the lymphoma fails to respond to chemotherapy as expects, there is a high possibility of decreased life expectancy.
How Fast Can Lymphoma Kill a Dog?
If canine lymphoma is left untreated, a dog can die from the condition within 3-4 weeks. This will vary depending on the type of lymphoma – some are known to progress rapidly within days or weeks and subsequently become life-threatening.
Types of Dog Lymphoma
There are over 30 different types of canine lymphomas, all of which vary in symptoms, aggressiveness, and survival rates. The four most widely occurring types of lymphoma to look out for are:
This is by far the most commonly occurring type of lymphoma. Approximately 80-85% of cases of lymphoma in dogs are multicentric. This type of lymphoma affects the lymph nodes, and in most cases, the most telling symptom is swollen lymph nodes. Dogs with this condition can have lymph nodes swell up to 3-10 times their usual size.
The swellings aren’t painful, and will typically feel like a firm, rubbery lump that moves beneath the skin. Other symptoms that you may notice as the disease progresses include lethargy, dehydration, general weakness, fever, and anorexia.
The second most common type of canine lymphoma is alimentary lymphoma. This condition affects the intestines, with symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, and anorexia likely to be observed.
This is a relatively rare form of lymphoma. With mediastinal lymphoma, either or both the mediastinal and thymus lymph nodes in the chest area become enlarged. This is caused by high-grade malignant T-lymphocytes.
The most obvious symptom of this type of canine lymphoma is difficulty in breathing, which may be as a result of a large mass within the chest or pleural effusion. Other symptoms include swelling of the front legs or face and increased urination and thirst.
This is a form of lymphoma that targets specific organs, such as the eyes, skin, lungs, kidneys, or central nervous system. The most common type of extranodal lymphoma is called cutaneous lymphoma, and it affects the skin.
The symptoms of extranodal lymphoma will vary depending on the organ affected. Telltale symptoms of cutaneous lymphoma are scaly, itchy lesions that may appear on the lips, gums, and roof of the mouth.
If extranodal lymphoma targets the lungs, symptoms of respiratory failure may manifest. Similarly, lymphoma in the kidneys could result in renal failure, lymphoma in the bones could cause fractures and pain, lymphoma in the central nervous system could cause seizures, and lymphoma in the eyes could lead to blindness.
Dog with Lymphoma Shaking
There are a variety of things that can cause a dog to tremble or shake, from being nervous to being cold. However, if you notice that your canine exhibits muscle tremors more frequently, it could be a sign of canine lymphoma. Other signs that may accompany the shaking include increased vocalization, heavy panting, difficulty walking, excessive grooming, and loss of appetite.
Is Dog Lymphoma Painful?
Some types of lymphoma may be painful. Alimentary lymphoma may cause abdominal pain, whereas cutaneous T-cell lymphoma may lead to the development of round, scaly, itchy patches that cause discomfort.
What Dog Breeds are Prone to Lymphoma?
Some dog breeds are at a higher risk of developing lymphoma. They include German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Saint Bernards, Boxer Dogs, Airedale Terriers, Bulldogs, Basset Hounds, Scottish Terriers, and Bullmastiffs. On the other hand, Pomeranian and Dachshund dogs are less vulnerable.
What to Feed a Dog with Lymphoma?
A proper diet for a dog with lymphoma is generally made up of high levels of protein, with minimal amounts of carbohydrates. It is of utmost importance to reduce the carbohydrate intake of a dog with this condition because cancer feeds off of the carbohydrates that you will usually find in dog food.
You may also want to incorporate fish oil supplements to reduce the metabolic alterations caused by lymphoma. Because the loss of appetite is common in dogs with this condition, try to find the most appetizing food you can find to encourage them to eat.