Lymphoma is the most common blood-borne cancer in dogs and cats. Lymphoma can be hard to detect because it often doesn't cause symptoms until later in the disease trajectory.
Lymphoma is a type of cancer that occurs when white blood cells grow and multiply abnormally. Lymphoma can affect pets at any age, but it most commonly affects middle-aged and older animals. Common lymphoma signs include swollen lymph nodes, weight loss and loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing or breathing trouble, and lameness.
A Type Of Cancer
White blood cells, also known as leukocytes, protect your pet from infection by destroying bacteria or viruses and removing old or damaged cells from the body. White blood cells are produced in bone marrow, found in the spongy material filling bones.
When the white blood cells grow out of control, they can form lymphoma tumors in other parts of your pet's body, such as its lymph nodes or organs. Lymphomas are highly treatable if caught early enough, but most pets with this disease don't have any symptoms until it has spread through their bodies.
Lymphoma can affect pets at any age, but it most commonly affects middle-aged and older animals. In pets, lymphoma is most commonly diagnosed in animals aged 6 to 10 years and in middle-aged and older animals. In fact, in a six-year-long study of around 1.61 million dogs, it was observed that large and giant breeds, usually between the ages of 6 and 7 have a higher risk of cancer.
The second most common age at which lymphoma is diagnosed is 10-15 years. And the third most common age at which lymphoma is diagnosed is 15-20 years. Generally, half the population of dogs above 10 years of age will develop cancer.
The Common Signs Of Lymphoma
A pet with lymphoma may experience any or all of the following:
Swollen lymph nodes. Small glands are located throughout your pet's body, including in the head, neck, and jaw. Lymph nodes help fight infection by producing white blood cells and storing them until they're needed to fight infection. When your pet has a tumor growing inside one of his lymph nodes, it can cause the node to become swollen and painful. Meloxicam for dogs or Prednisone for dogs can be a great way to relieve your dog’s pain while other treatments are performed.
Some pets with cancer lose interest in eating as they get sicker, while others eat more food than usual because they feel nauseous or have digestive issues like diarrhea or vomiting that make it hard for them to keep down their food without vomiting it up again right away. A slow feeder dog bowl can be used to help the dog eat at a normal rate as that will give him time to chew and digest the food properly.
Vomiting/diarrhea (vomitus). If your pet frequently vomits despite having an empty stomach, then there might be something else besides simple nausea due to illness.
Cause Of Lymphoma Not Entirely Understood
The cause of lymphoma in animals is not entirely understood, although genetics may play a role in certain types. It was found that the incidence of canine lymphoma varied across breeds and was higher in dogs whose parents had been diagnosed with cancer.
Your veterinarian will conduct a physical examination, take your pet's blood sample, perform X-rays or ultrasounds to check for swelling in the lymph nodes, and may order cytology (study of individual cells under a microscope) or biopsies. Once your veterinarian has diagnosed lymphoma in your pet, they can create an appropriate treatment plan for them.
Stages Of Cancer
There are several stages of lymphoma:
Stage I – The tumor has not spread beyond the lymph node nearest its original site.
Stage II – The tumor has spread to adjacent lymph nodes but hasn't metastasized to distant organs or tissues.
Stage III – The tumor has metastasized to other organs or tissues, spreading further into nearby lymph nodes (for example, if it spreads into a dog's liver).
The Goal Of Treatment
The goal of treatment is to slow down the progression of the disease to give your pet the best chance at a longer life without complications. Treatment options vary depending on the type of lymphoma, how advanced it is and what kind of pet you have. Lymphomas can be treated with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery, depending on their severity. However, the life expectancy is low, 10 to 12 months after chemotherapy.
Depending on your pet’s specific diagnosis and overall health status, these different stages may be treated with either curative or palliative care therapies. Curative treatments aim at removing all signs of cancer. In contrast, palliative treatments focus on reducing the symptoms caused by cancer without necessarily curing it, but both types can help improve the quality of life for pets with this disease!
The Treatment Options
The general symptoms which are associated with the condition can be treated with simple pet medications or other pet supplies like:
Having a nutritious diet for weight loss and loss of appetite. The diet can combine a home-cooked meal with options like Zignature Dog Food, Hills Science Diet. Salmon oil for dogs can also be added for added nutrition.
Cough medicine for dogs or pet medicines like Cefpodoxime Proxetil can be used to treat coughing or breathing trouble.
However, the actual first treatment option is chemotherapy, in which the pet receives drugs that kill the cancer cells. This is usually done with steroids, which reduce swelling around the tumor and decrease pain while the chemo takes effect. Your vet will help you decide what kind of chemo is best for your pet and whether it should be given at home, a hospital, or another facility.
Some pets respond well to chemotherapy, but others don’t. Some owners have been able to keep their pets alive for years by giving them weekly doses of pet medication or intravenous drips. However, others have chosen euthanasia as soon as tumors start growing again following treatment.
If you suspect your pet has lymphoma, you must see your veterinarian and get a diagnosis as soon as possible. The earlier the disease is caught, the greater the chance of successful treatment. Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam and may recommend blood tests, X-rays, or ultrasounds to help determine how far along cancer has progressed and what treatment might be best for your pet’s case.