Lymphoma is one of the most common forms of cancer in dogs, accounting for up to 24 percent of all formations of new tissue (neoplasias, or tumors) and 83 percent of all blood cell malignancies, according to the National Canine Cancer Foundation. Lymphomas often originate in lymphoid tissues such as the lymph nodes, spleen, and bone marrow, although they may form in any body tissue. Symptoms vary significantly based on the cancer’s location in a dog’s body. Knowing what to look for can help you get your furry friend on the road to recovery after a diagnosis.
Types of Lymphoma
The term “lymphoma” describes a group of cancers divided into several main types:
- Multicentric: The most common form, which causes swollen lymph nodes
- Cutaneous: Affecting the skin
- Gastrointestinal: Affecting the intestines
- Mediastinal: Affecting organs in the chest
- Central nervous system: Affecting the central nervous system
Risks of Canine Lymphoma
The exact cause of canine lymphoma is unknown. The disease is more common in middle-aged and older dogs, with a median age of six to nine years. Certain dogs are at increased risk, including Boxers, Bull Mastiffs, Basset hounds, Saint Bernards, Bulldogs, Airedales, and Scottish Terriers. Dogs at lower risk include Dachshunds and Pomeranians.
Recognizing Symptoms of Canine Lymphoma
Dogs with early-stage lymphoma often show no signs of illness, so it’s not easy to identify symptoms until the disease has been present for quite a while. Lymphoma often becomes evident from one or more enlarged lymph nodes most commonly located directly under the dog’s jaw. Other symptoms include:
- Losing weight
- No appetite
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Increased thirst
- Eye infections
- Red, itchy patches of skin
- Lethargy or acting reclusive and depressed
The presence of these symptoms doesn’t always indicate canine lymphoma. Other non-cancerous conditions share many of these symptoms. If your dog is showing signs of illness, consult with your veterinarian. Early diagnosis increases the chances of positive treatment outcomes for any condition.
How to Look for Signs of Canine Lymphoma
Swollen lymph nodes are rarely painful and don’t often interfere with bodily functions such as swallowing and breathing. This makes it very difficult to determine the presence of lymphoma without a thorough investigation.
Regularly examine your dog, checking for lumps as you pet and scratch. By running your hands over the surface of the skin, you have an increased chance of identifying any nodules or swollen areas. If you find a hard, rubbery lump or a patch of red, flaky skin, contact your vet immediately.
Lymphoma affects many dogs from middle age onwards. The best defense is to spend lots of time scratching and petting your dog to identify swollen lymph nodes as soon as possible. If you find swelling, or if your dog develops symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea, contact a vet for a thorough diagnosis and to begin treatment. Rapid response increases the chances of a full recovery.