When we hear the word “ cancer ,” we all have someone who we think of . It is very difficult to find someone who has not been affected by this disease in anyway , as we can all think of special people in our lives who are currently undergoing chemotherapy , who are in remission , and those who we have lost . I personally have lost a grandfather to esophageal cancer and have other family members currently undergoing radiation therapy . While we continue to make great strides in the fight against cancer in the human world , we have also been making progress for our four-legged friends . Although there are many different types of cancers that exist , we tend to see certain types much more frequently than others . Canine lymphoma is one of those cancers , making up roughly 15-20 % of new cancer diagnoses .
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Ask the Vet Understanding Canine Lymphoma : Dr . Michael McCallion
Lymphoma is defined as uncontrolled proliferation of neoplastic lymphoid cells . Lymphoid cells , mostly B-cells and T-cells , exist in the body as part of the immune system to fight off disease . These cells travel throughout the body to help fight disease and infections in various areas , thus making lymphoma a complex cancer as it can travel throughout the body ( metastasize ) easily and have many different areas of origin . The most common location of lymphoma in dogs is in the lymph nodes ( multi-centric lymphoma ), although we can see this disease present in the gastrointestinal tract , skin , bones , brain , mouth , and even the eyes .
When performing a physical exam on your dog , your veterinarian will likely feel various locations to evaluate your dog ’ s lymph nodes , such as under their neck , their chest , and behind their knees . These lymph nodes can become very enlarged in lymphoma , with most owners noticing swelling under their pet ’ s neck and pet ’ s becoming uncomfortable . Your veterinarian may aspirate your dog ’ s lymph nodes with a needle to look for these abnormal B-cells and T-cells under the microscope , or may even perform a biopsy if needed . If lymphoma is confirmed or suspected , your veterinarian may take more samples or perform imaging ( radiographs and ultrasound ) to evaluate and classify the stage and type of lymphoma present .
Due to the fact that lymphoma is a disease of cells that spread systemically throughout the body , our best option in fighting this cancer is chemotherapy . Chemotherapy , however , is very different in canines in comparison to humans . Although dogs do have their immune system suppressed by the drugs used and can have some gastrointestinal discomfort , it is very rare to see hair loss , lethargy , or the need for hospitalization as we see in humans . Many different forms of chemotherapy exist , ranging from NSAID ’ s and steroids to weekly intravenous injections . The choice of chemotherapy used should always depend on the individual patient .
New and promising drugs continue to be developed in our fight against canine cancers . Pets usually reach remission , although it is for a shorter time than achieved in humans ( usually 6-9 months ), but ultimately lymphoma does prove to be fatal . Despite a lymphoma diagnosis , there are many different ways to assure these patients continue to feel well and have a good quality of life . As always , ensure that your pet has annual examinations with your veterinarian , and if you ever have concerns do not hesitate to contact your local veterinarian .