With the various forms of canine lymphoma, there are equally as many different ways that symptoms can present themselves. Throughout the course of their diagnosis and treatment, those symptoms are bound to change both to show that they are improving and as a reflection of a change in the stage of the disease.
Some symptoms that may prompt pet parents to check in with the vet may not be particular to a specific lymphoma type. There are some overall health signals that all variations of lymphoma can experience prior to a specific diagnosis.
Nonspecific symptoms may include:
Lymphoma is a systemic cancer so it affects a lot more of the body than a localized cancer. The way that staging for lymphoma is diagnosed is based on how many lymph nodes or organs are affected.
Stage 1: There is only one lymph node that is affected
Stage 2: Multiple lymph nodes on the same side of the body are affected (diaphragm as the dividing point)
Stage 3: Multiple lymph nodes on both sides of the diaphragm are affected
Stage 4: The liver and/or spleen are impacted, either with or without swollen lymph nodes
Stage 5: Bone marrow, blood, or another organ is involved
While these classifications may impact the symptoms that your dog will experience, there are also subcategories that further classify symptoms experienced by the patient.
Substage A: The dog doesn’t show any external signs of illness
Substage B: The illness is making an impact on the patient's daily life. Examples of symptoms include loss of appetite, lethargy, weight loss, increased thirst, etc.
The most common stages for dogs are 3 and 4, and many dogs that start in Substage A will progress into Substage B and begin showing symptoms of their ailment. However, dogs who begin treatment in Substage A have a much greater chance of achieving long term survival.
If your dog is diagnosed with lymphoma and perhaps is a Substage A case, keeping an eye on their affected lymph nodes and non-affected lymph nodes can be an effective way of tracking the progression of your dog’s cancer.
In general, your vet will keep a close eye on the progression (changes seen) of the cancer cells at a microscopic level by checking your dog’s lymph nodes with fine needle aspirate (FNA) biopsies regularly and keeping tabs on the activity of the cancer cells. However, you can also use your closeness with your dog to monitor their condition.
There are some lymph nodes that are easily accessible for pet owners to check for swelling, and depending on the location of the initially affected lymph nodes, a pet parent can help to track those nodes and alert their vet when swelling develops or lessens during treatment.
Those easily accessible lymph nodes are located:
Be sure to discuss with your vet where these are located on your dog and what to look for so that you can feel confident in keeping tabs on your pet throughout their lymphoma treatment.
Some veterinary oncologists may not consider this a required part of monitoring, as it is not anywhere near as accurate as the measurements that are available in the labs, but for some pet parents it provides them with a sense of control over a situation that is almost entirely out of their power to control.
There are four main types of lymphoma, and every patient will have a range of symptoms that are unique to their individual case.
Between the 4 types of lymphoma the expected symptoms can be quite different, as they impact the body more fiercely in certain areas. Going from the most common to least common, we’ll discuss some of those symptoms.
This is the most common variation of lymphoma, it is the most clearly systemic as well, affecting mainly the lymph nodes and immune system. Dogs diagnosed with multicentric lymphoma will have more general health symptoms than some of the less common variations.
Aside from swollen lymph nodes, many of these symptoms can be signs of any other disease or even emotional conflict for your pet. If you notice these symptoms prior to a diagnosis, it’s best to check in with your vet if there is anything to be concerned about and to run any tests that may need to be performed.
Alimentary lymphoma develops in the gastrointestinal tract. This makes a lot of the specific symptoms more localized than multicentric.
Dogs with alimentary lymphoma may develop one or more of the following symptoms:
While alimentary lymphoma does not technically cause your dog any pain, the symptoms are not enjoyable for your pet or for anyone cleaning up behind your pet. The discomfort of regular stomach issues is something that will lead most pet parents to check in with their vet; this is definitely something that pet parents will want to get a handle on as quickly as possible in order to return their dog to a comfortable life.
An unusual form of lymphoma that affects the respiratory system and has the overall least optimistic diagnosis in the entire lymphoma category, many of these symptoms warrant an immediate trip to a vet or animal hospital to prevent serious complications.
Symptoms of mediastinal lymphoma include:
Should you ever encounter your dog having difficulty breathing that is not related to heat, exercise, or a choking hazard, getting them to a vet as quickly as possible can mean the difference between life and death. Should you find a pitting edema on your pet's body, please consider it an emergency and make certain to address it as soon as possible. Pitting edemas are often a sign that your pet is under severe stress and will require more severe medical attention quickly.
Extranodal lymphoma is the least common form of lymphoma to develop in dogs. Within this rare category, the most common and most studied subcategory is Cutaneous lymphoma, which affects the skin.
Symptoms of Cutaneous lymphoma include:
While skin changes don’t always mean that your dog has lymphoma, it’s always better to check with a vet if any new skin irritations appear.
Lymphoma treatments are not a one size fits all situation, and you should be able to find the best treatment for your dog without putting them through months of trial and error treatments.
ImpriMed is here to help you to prevent just that.
By using advanced technology, state-of-the-art labs, detailed databases, AI systems and your dog’s live cancer cells, ImpriMed can help your vet find the best drug combination for your dog.