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June 4, 2019 – Lymphoma is one of the most common canine cancers, accounting for a staggering 24% (by some estimates) of all cancers diagnosed in dogs. Lymphoma is a cancer of a type of white blood cell found in both blood and the lymphatic system. There are more than 30 types of lymphoma described in dogs and the different subtypes vary significantly in how they behave, how they are treated and their long-term prognosis.

Given how common lymphoma is in dogs, it’s important for all dog owners to understand the common signs of lymphoma as well as the basics of diagnosis and treatment in order to make the best and most informed decisions for your dog.

Although lymphoma can strike any breed of dog at any age, the disease most commonly affects:

  • Middle-aged to older dogs (average age 6 to 9 years old)
  • Boxers, bull mastiffs, basset hounds, St. Bernards, Scottish terriers, Airedales, golden retrievers and bulldogs

The signs of lymphoma can be very subtle or mimic other diseases. The most common signs reported are:

  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia

None of these signs is specific for lymphoma but some forms of lymphoma can result in swollen lymph nodes, vomiting and diarrhea (if abdominal organs are involved), and difficulty breathing (if the cancer is affecting the lymph nodes in the chest).

The diagnosis of lymphoma requires a combination of bloodwork, imaging (such as ultrasound), aspirates of enlarged lymph nodes or internal organs, and biopsy. Since prognosis depends on the type of lymphoma present, it’s important to do special testing on the cancerous cells.

Once a diagnosis of lymphoma is made treatment can begin. Lymphoma is treated with one of several different chemotherapy protocols, tailored to the type of cancer and the patient. Although many dog owners are understandably worried about chemotherapy, most dogs tolerate chemotherapy very well and maintain an excellent quality of life during treatment.

The good news is that complete remission is achieved in 80% to 90% of dogs with an average survival time of 10 to 12 months, and 20% to 25% of dogs will live to two years. Without treatment, dogs live only 4 to 6 weeks on average.

Morris Animal Foundation has been a leader in trying to find new, innovative therapies to treat lymphoma in dogs for three decades. Although we’re making steady progress we’ve got a long way to go to unlock the secrets of this common cancer and we need your help. Visit Morris Animal Foundation for ways you can help ensure that dogs live healthier, happier and longer lives.