Lymphoma 101

Learn everything about canine lymphoma here

When your dog has cancer, the clock starts ticking. Every day counts. But what does it mean when your dog is diagnosed with lymphoma?

A male pet parent holding up his boston terrier dog evoking happy feeling

About Canine Lymphoma

What is Canine Lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is the body's disease-fighting network. It includes the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus gland, and bone marrow.

How does it work?

Lymphoma occurs when certain white blood cells, called lymphocytes, mutate. Normally, healthy lymphocytes are the good guys: they fight infection in order to protect the body from life-threatening illnesses. But when lymphocytes become cancerous, they mutate and overproduce, attacking different parts of the body instead of infections.

Where is my dog’s lymphoma?

Lymphocytes live in lymph nodes when they aren’t needed. There are 5 major lymph nodes that are close to the skin surface, so can be seen or felt, if they are inflamed (or swollen) , and there are more on the inside of the body. As lymphoma has to do with white blood cells and because blood is everywhere in the body, the effect of the lymphoma can occur in almost any place in the body.

What are early symptoms of lymphoma?

When a dog’s abnormal white blood cells start to multiply, their immune system loses strength; the lymphocytes aren’t doing their job anymore. One of the first signs of lymphoma is a weakened immune system. Other symptoms are tiredness, so your pup may not want to walk or enjoy walking as much, due to being more tired than usual. Increase in urination, or the need to urinate more often than usual. Swollen lymph nodes, (one of the 5 areas noted above) you may notice a lump or swollen lymph node. Most times, however, lymphoma is found during a routine blood test at the vet’s office. 

Why did it take so long to diagnose my pet?

It’s rare to get an early diagnosis of lymphoma. Dogs often hide the fact that they’re sick and struggling until they can’t hide it anymore. Why hide illness? Dogs are pack animals; their instinct is not to let the pack know they’re sick so they won’t be left behind.

Why did my pet get lymphoma?

Although it’s hard to know what might be causing your dog’s specific cancer, scientists have found some links to factors that may cause cancer:

  • Genetic predisposition: Certain breeds are more likely to succumb to lymphoma than others. Unfortunately, Golden Retrievers are predisposed; 1 out of 8 Goldens will be diagnosed in their lifetime.
  • Garden pesticides: Researchers find that pets who live in homes that regularly use pesticides are more likely to be diagnosed compared to dogs from homes with more natural-based landscaping methods.
  • Above-ground power lines: Some people believe that homes with a high density of above-ground power lines may cause an electromagnetic field; a canine lymphoma study found that pet owners who lived in this type of home setting had been more prone to being diagnosed with Lymphoma.
  • Cigarette smoke: Living in a home with a smoker can cause cancer to develop in your pet.

Can lymphoma be cured?

We are sorry to say that it can’t. But you can treat the symptoms of lymphoma, as well as extend your pet’s life and improve their quality of life with the disease.

What can you do about your dog’s lymphoma diagnosis?

Lymphoma is a systemic disease, meaning that it doesn’t exist in one spot on the body the way that a cancerous tumor does. It’s not a cancer that you can just remove, and hope all goes well, but you can successfully treat it with chemotherapy.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses one or more anti-cancer drugs as part of a standardized chemotherapy regimen. Lymphoma is often treated with CHOP, which is an acronym for a chemotherapy regimen consisting of four drugs:

  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Hydroxydaunorubicin
  • Vincristine
  • Prednisone or Prednisolone

Do dogs get better with chemotherapy?

While they cannot be cured, many patients do go into remission. They can go back to their old selves and feel good for months to a full year or more. Untreated dogs, unfortunately, only survive for about 1-2 months after diagnosis.

Do all dogs respond to chemotherapy drugs in the same way?

No. Every dog, and every cancer is unique. Some dogs (and some cancers) resist certain chemo treatments and respond better to others.

How can I find out what drugs my dog will respond well to?

This is where ImpriMed comes in. ImpriMed has developed a process that uses artificial intelligence and the experience of other dogs in the past to use the information we receive from your vet to identify the best anticancer drug treatment for your pet. Our Personalized Prediction Profile uses your dog’s live cancer cells to create a hyper-specific approach for your pet. It predicts how they will respond to popular treatment regimens so that your vet will have every tool in their arsenal available to give your dog the best life they can.