Canine Lymphoma: Risk Factors, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Lymphoma accounts for 7 to 24% of all canine cancers and roughly 85% of all of the blood-based malignancies that happen, making it one of the vital frequent cancers present in canine. Lymphoma – additionally known as lymphosarcoma – is just not a singular kind of most cancers however reasonably a class of systemic cancers with over 30 described varieties.

Lymphoma happens when there’s a genetic mutation or sequence of mutations inside a lymphocyte that causes the cells to develop abnormally and develop into malignant, in the end affecting organs and physique features. Lymphocytes are the infection-fighting white blood cells of the immune system and are produced by the lymphoid stem cells within the bone marrow and lymphoid tissue within the bowel. Their position is to stop the unfold of illness, to offer long run immunity in opposition to viruses, help in wound therapeutic, and supply surveillance in opposition to tumors.

Lymphocytes are a part of the lymphatic system – a community of tissues and organs that assist rid the physique of poisons, waste, and different undesirable supplies. The main operate of the lymphatic system is to move lymph, a fluid containing lymphocytes, all through the physique. Unfortunately, cancerous lymphocytes flow into by way of the physique simply as the traditional lymphocytes do.

Although lymphoma can have an effect on just about any organ within the physique, it mostly turns into evident in organs that operate as a part of the immune system – the places the place lymphocytes are present in excessive concentrations – such because the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, and bone marrow. Swelling happens when the numbers of cancerous lymphocytes enhance; one of the vital frequent websites of accumulation are within the lymph nodes themselves, leading to an elevated dimension of those constructions.

Canine lymphomas are related in some ways to the non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas (NHL) which happen in people, although canine are two to 5 instances extra probably than individuals to develop lymphoma. The two illnesses are so related that nearly the identical chemotherapy protocols are used to deal with each, with related responses reported. NHL has been featured not too long ago within the high-profile circumstances involving people who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after utilizing the weed killer glyphosate (most extremely acknowledged below its best-selling model identify, Roundup).

Because of its similarity to the human kind, canine lymphoma is without doubt one of the finest understood and well-researched cancers in canine. It is without doubt one of the few cancers that may have lengthy intervals of remission, even lasting years, and though uncommon, full remission has been identified to happen.


The reason behind canine lymphoma is just not identified. It is suspected that the trigger could also be multifactorial. In an effort to find out what elements have an effect on the opportunity of creating the illness, researchers are trying on the position of environmental elements similar to publicity to paints, solvents, pesticides, herbicides, and pesticides; publicity to radiation or electromagnetic fields; the affect of viruses, micro organism, and immunosuppression; and genetics and chromosomal elements (adjustments within the regular construction of chromosomes has been reported). It is believed that canine dwelling in industrial areas could possibly be at the next threat for creating lymphoma.


Although the direct reason behind lymphoma can’t be recognized, research have discovered that there are particular breeds which are at increased threat of creating the illness. The mostly affected breed is the Golden Retriever, equally represented by B-cell and T-cell lymphomas (see under).

Other breeds exhibiting elevated incidence embrace the Airedale, Basset Hound, Beagle, Boxer, Bulldog, Bull Mastiff, Chow Chow, German Shepherd Dog, Poodle, Rottweiler, Saint Bernard, and Scottish Terrier. Dachshunds and Pomeranians have been reported as having a decreased threat of creating canine lymphoma.

Lymphoma can have an effect on canine of any breed or age, but it surely usually impacts middle-aged or older canine (with a median age of 6 to 9 years). There has been no gender predisposition famous, however there are reviews that spayed females might have a greater prognosis.

A current giant scale examine printed within the Journal of Internal Veterinary Medicine (Volume 32, Issue 6, November/December 2018) and performed by the University of Sydney School of Veterinary Science in Australia, examined veterinary data for breed, gender, and neuter standing as threat elements for creating lymphoma. Quite a lot of breeds had been noticed to be in danger that had not been beforehand recognized as being in that class.

The examine additionally demonstrated the alternative: Several breeds beforehand documented to have an elevated threat of lymphoma failed to indicate an elevated threat. Additionally, the examine discovered males had the next threat general throughout breeds, as did each women and men that had been neutered or spayed. Mixed breeds usually had a decreased threat in comparison with purebred canine. While these findings could also be inconsistent with different usually accepted threat elements, the examine states, “These three factors need to be considered when evaluating lymphoma risk and can be used to plan studies to identify the underlying etiology of these diseases.”


Typically, a canine who will get recognized with lymphoma will initially be taken to a veterinarian as a result of a number of lumps have been discovered below the neck, across the shoulders, or behind the knee. These lumps change into swollen lymph nodes. The majority of canine (60 to 80%) don’t present every other signs and customarily really feel nicely on the time of analysis.

Advanced signs depend upon the kind of lymphoma and the stage and might embrace swelling/edema of the extremities and face (happens when swollen lymph nodes blocks drainage), lack of urge for food, weight reduction, lethargy, extreme thirst and urination, rashes, and different pores and skin circumstances. Breathing or digestive points could also be current if the lymph nodes within the chest or stomach are affected.

Because the lymphatic system aids in preventing an infection, fevers are sometimes one of many first indicators of the illness. Additionally, since lymphoma impacts and weakens the immune system, canine could also be extra vulnerable to diseases, which might result in sophisticated well being points. Lymphoma itself, nevertheless, is just not considered painful to canine.

Lymphoma can happen anyplace within the physique the place lymph tissue resides and is assessed by the anatomic space affected. The 4 most typical varieties are multicentric, alimentary, mediastinal, and extranodal. Each kind has its personal set of traits that decide the scientific indicators and signs, price of development, therapy choices, and prognosis. Furthermore, there are greater than 30 totally different subtypes of canine lymphoma.

  • Multicentric Lymphoma. This is essentially the most predominant kind of lymphoma, accounting for 80 to 85% of all canine circumstances. It is much like non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in people. The first noticeable signal of this type is often enlargement of the lymph nodes within the canine’s neck, chest, or behind the knees, typically as much as 10 instances their regular dimension, with the affected person not exhibiting every other distinctive indicators of sickness.

Multicentric lymphoma tends to have a speedy onset and impacts the exterior lymph nodes and immune system; involvement of the spleen, liver, and bone marrow are additionally frequent. The illness might or might not contain different organs on the time of analysis, however it will definitely tends to infiltrate different organs, inflicting dysfunction and ultimately resulting in organ failure.

As it progresses, further signs together with lethargy, weak spot, dehydration, inappetence, weight reduction, issue respiratory, fever, anemia, sepsis, and melancholy could also be noticed. This kind can even metastasize into central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma in later levels, which might trigger seizures and/or paralysis.

  • Alimentary (Gastrointestinal) Lymphoma. This is the second most prevalent type of canine lymphoma, nevertheless it’s a lot much less frequent, accounting for less than about 10% of lymphoma circumstances.

Because it’s within the digestive tract, it’s harder to diagnose than the multicentric kind. It is reported to be extra frequent in male canine than females. This kind kinds intestinal lesions, usually ensuing within the manifestation of gastrointestinal-related indicators, together with extreme urinating or thirst, anorexia, stomach ache, vomiting, diarrhea (darkish in colour), and weight reduction because of malabsorption and maldigestion of vitamins.

The illness impacts the small or giant gut, and it has the potential to limit or block the passage of the bowels, leading to critical and sophisticated well being dangers or fatality.

  • Mediastinal Lymphoma. This is the third most typical kind of canine lymphoma, however it’s nonetheless a reasonably uncommon kind. Malignant lesions develop within the lymphoid tissues of a canine’s chest, primarily across the cardiothoracic area. This kind is characterised by enlargement of the mediastinal lymph nodes and/or the thymus. The thymus serves because the central organ for maturing T lymphocytes; because of this, many mediastinal lymphomas are a malignancy of T lymphocytes.

The signs of mediastinal lymphoma are typically pretty obvious, involving enlargement of the cranial mediastinal lymph nodes, thymus, or each. It can even trigger swelling and irregular development of the pinnacle, neck, and entrance legs.

Dogs manifesting with this illness might have respiratory issues, similar to issue respiratory or coughing and swelling of the entrance legs or face. Increased thirst leading to elevated urination can even happen; if it does, hypercalcemia (life-threatening metabolic dysfunction) ought to be examined for because it seen in 40% of canine with mediastinal lymphoma.

  • Extranodal Lymphoma. This is the rarest type of canine lymphoma. “Extranodal” refers to the way it manifests in a location within the physique aside from within the lymph nodes. Organs usually affected by this sort embrace eyes, kidneys, lungs, pores and skin (cutaneous lymphoma), and central nervous system; different areas that may be invaded embrace the mammary tissue, liver, bones, and mouth.

Symptoms of extranodal lymphoma will fluctuate enormously relying on which organ is impacted; for instance, blindness can happen if the illness is within the eyes; renal failure if within the kidneys, seizures if within the central nervous system, bone fractures if within the bones, and respiratory points if within the lungs.

The most typical type of extranodal lymphoma is cutaneous (pores and skin) lymphoma, which is categorized as both epitheliotropic (malignancy of T lymphocytes) or nonepitheliotropic (malignancy of B lymphocytes.) In the early levels, it often presents as a pores and skin rash with dry, purple, itchy bumps or solitary or generalized scaly lesions and is pretty noticeable because the situation causes discomfort.

Because of this presentation, it’s typically initially mistaken for allergy symptoms or fungal infections. As it turns into extra extreme, the pores and skin will develop into redder, thickened, ulcerated, and would possibly ooze fluids; giant lots or tumors can develop. Cutaneous lymphoma can even have an effect on the oral cavity inflicting ulcers, lesions, and nodules on the gums, lips, and roof of the mouth (typically mistaken at first as periodontal illness or gingivitis).


Within every of the 4 varieties described above, the illness will be categorized additional into subtypes. There are greater than 30 totally different histologic subtypes of canine lymphoma recognized; some researchers theorize that there could also be lots of of subtypes, primarily based on molecular evaluation of markers, classifications, and subtypes of lymphocytes.

At the second, additional data concerning the numerous subtypes would most likely not lead to important adjustments in therapy protocols. In the long run, focused therapies for subtypes may result in simpler therapies and improved prognosis.

The two main and particularly related subtypes are B-cell lymphoma and T-cell lymphoma. Approximately 60 to 80% of lymphoma circumstances are of the B-cell lymphoma subtype, which is a constructive predictor; canine with B-cell lymphoma have a tendency to reply positively to therapy with the next price of full remission, longer remission instances, and elevated survival instances. T-cell lymphoma constitutes about 10 to 40% of lymphoma circumstances and has a detrimental predictive worth primarily based on not responding as nicely to therapy and for being at the next threat for hypercalcemia.


Early detection and therapy are important to making sure the very best consequence for lymphoma circumstances. Because canine usually really feel nicely and there are sometimes solely swollen lymph nodes (with no ache exhibited) as a symptom, catching the illness early can typically be fairly tough. As a consequence, the most cancers will be fairly superior by the point a analysis is made. (Lymphoma is just not the one the illness that creates swollen lymph nodes; this symptom doesn’t assure your canine has lymphoma.)

Because multicentric lymphoma accounts for almost all of circumstances, an aspirate of an enlarged peripheral lymph node is often enough to succeed in a presumptive analysis of the most typical sorts of lymphomas.

Although analysis from cytology is pretty simply obtained, it doesn’t differentiate the immunophenotype (B versus T lymphocyte). Histopathologic tissue analysis (biopsy) is required in an effort to determine the kind with the method of immunophenotyping.

Immunophenotyping is a molecular check often carried out by movement cytometry (a complicated laser know-how that measures the quantity of DNA in most cancers cells) that classifies lymphomas by figuring out if the malignancy originates from B lymphocytes or T lymphocytes. Determining whether or not a lymphoma is B-cell or T-cell is invaluable because it gives the most effective predictive worth; the adage “B is better, T is terrible” displays this in its easiest kind.

Diffuse giant B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is the most typical histologic subtype of lymphoma occurring in canine. Most intermediate to excessive grade lymphomas are B-cell lymphomas – they have an inclination to reply higher and longer to chemotherapy than T-cell lymphomas; nevertheless, canine with T-cell lymphoma have been identified to enter remission for a number of months.

Another phenotyping check, the PCR antigen receptor rearrangement (PARR), can decide whether or not the cells are indicative of most cancers or extra per a reactive course of. For instance, as a result of the lymph nodes within the space of the jaw are reactive, the PARR check may help decide if most cancers is current or if the canine simply badly wants his enamel cleaned. The PARR check will also be used to detect minimal residual illness. Research is continuous to find out if this might be a helpful scientific marker of early recurrence.

To confirm the affected person’s general well being, a whole bodily examination might be carried out; further diagnostics usually embrace a blood chemistry panel, urinalysis, x-rays, ultrasounds, and different types of diagnostic imaging (these assessments are additionally used for staging the illness).

In specific, you will need to display for hypercalcemia. Hypercalcemia is a situation wherein the hormone PTHrP (parathyroid hormone-related peptide) creates harmful elevations within the blood calcium stage. This well-documented syndrome is related to lymphoma in canine and is most frequently seen in T-cell lymphomas.

About 15% of canine with lymphoma general could have elevated blood calcium ranges at analysis; this will increase to 40% in canine who’ve T-cell lymphoma. The situation causes further scientific indicators together with elevated thirst and urination, and, if left untreated, may cause critical injury to the kidneys and different organs and be life-threatening.

Unfortunately, because of the quickly progressive nature of lymphoma, selections concerning therapy should be made as quickly as attainable after analysis. Unlike most different types of most cancers, lymphoma requires pressing care; with out therapy, the median survival time is one month after analysis. Therefore, homeowners ought to be ready to begin therapy on the day of analysis, or inside a day or two at most.


Once a analysis of lymphoma has been made, the stage (extent) of the lymphoid malignancy ought to be decided, and to evaluate this, a number of assessments are advisable: lymph node aspirate, full blood rely, chemistry panel, urinalysis, phenotype, thoracic and chest radiographs, stomach ultrasound, and a bone marrow aspirate.

Staging is prognostically important; usually, the extra in depth the unfold, the upper the stage, the poorer the prognosis. However, even canine with superior illness will be efficiently handled and expertise remission. These assessments additionally present details about different circumstances which will have an effect on therapy or prognosis. The World Health Organization (WHO) five-tier staging system is the usual used to stage lymphoma in canine:

  • Stage I: Single lymph node is concerned.
  • Stage II: Multiple lymph nodes inside in the identical area are affected.
  • Stage III: Multiple lymph nodes in a number of areas concerned.
  • Stage IV: Involvement of liver and/or spleen (typically lymph nodes are affected however it’s attainable that no lymph nodes are concerned).
  • Stage V: Bone marrow or blood involvement, no matter different areas affected and/or different organs aside from liver, spleen and lymph nodes affected.

In addition, there are two classes of scientific substages. Dogs are categorized with substage A if scientific indicators associated to the illness are absent, and categorized as substage B if scientific indicators associated to the illness are current (systemic indicators of sickness).


Although canine lymphoma is a posh and difficult most cancers, it is without doubt one of the most extremely treatable cancers and most canine reply to therapy. In reality, many canine with lymphoma outlive animals with different illnesses similar to kidney, coronary heart, and liver illness. While lymphoma is just not curable, the objective with therapy is to shortly obtain remission for the longest interval attainable thus giving canine and their homeowners extra high quality time collectively. It is important that the kind of lymphoma is recognized as the kind impacts therapy and prognosis. And as a result of lymphoma is a really aggressive most cancers, you will need to start therapy as quickly as attainable.

Since lymphoma is a systemic illness that impacts the entire physique, the simplest therapy can also be systemic within the type of chemotherapy, which gives many canine with extended survival instances and wonderful high quality of life, with little or no unwanted effects.

The particular kind of chemotherapy therapy used will fluctuate primarily based on the kind of lymphoma. Other elements to contemplate when selecting a protocol are the disease-free interval, survival time, typical length of remission, scheduling, and expense. Again, canine with B-cell lymphoma have a tendency to reply way more favorably to therapy than these with T-cell.

Because lymphoma is so frequent in canine, there was a considerable quantity of analysis and testing of many alternative combos of chemotherapy therapies. Multiagent chemotherapy protocols are thought of the gold normal of therapy and have proven to offer the most effective response when it comes to size of illness management and survival charges, as in comparison with single agent protocols.

The Madison Wisconsin Protocol, also referred to as UW-25 or CHOP, is a cocktail of medication modeled after human lymphoma therapies and is broadly thought of to be the simplest therapy for intermediate- to high-grade canine lymphomas. This protocol makes use of three cytotoxic chemotherapy medication – cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin (hydroxydaunrubicin), and vincristine (model identify Oncovin) – together with prednisone (CHOP). The prednisone is usually given day by day at house as a pill with the rest of the protocol brokers administered by an oncology specialist.

On common, 70 to 90% of canine handled with CHOP expertise partial or full remission. For canine with B-cell lymphomas, 80 to 90% will be anticipated to realize remission throughout the first month. The median survival time is 12 months with 25% of sufferers nonetheless alive at two years. For T-cell lymphoma, about 70% will obtain remission with a mean of six to eight months survival.

Other therapy choices embrace the COP chemotherapy protocol (cyclophosphamide, Oncovin [vincristine], and prednisone), vincristine and Cytoxan; single-agent doxorubicin; and and lomustine/CCNU.  As a main therapy, single-agent doxorubicin may end up in a whole remission in as much as 75% of sufferers with median survival time of as much as eight months, although cumulative therapy with doxorubicin might lead to cardiotoxicity, so the protocol could also be contraindicated in any canine with proof of or a historical past of pre-existing coronary heart illness. Lomustine/CCNU is reported to be the simplest therapy for cutaneous lymphoma.


Remission is the situation wherein the most cancers has regressed. Partial remission implies that the general proof of most cancers has been decreased by a minimum of 50%; full remission signifies that the most cancers has develop into undetectable to any available diagnostic screening (but it surely doesn’t imply that the lymphoma has left the canine’s physique, solely that it has been handled into dormancy).

A canine in remission is basically indistinguishable from a cancer-free canine. The lymph nodes will return to regular dimension and any sickness associated to the most cancers often resolves. Overall, there may be roughly a 60 to 75% likelihood of reaching remission whatever the protocol chosen.

Studies present that the common time for a canine to be in remission the primary time is eight to 10 months, together with the interval of chemotherapy administration. Remission standing is frequently monitored; for canine with enlarged lymph nodes it usually includes checking the scale of the lymph nodes. For canine with different sorts of lymphoma, periodic imaging could also be advisable. The Lymphoma Blood Test (LBT) from Avacta Animal Health will also be used monitor standing since LBT ranges can enhance lower than eight weeks earlier than relapse.

Unfortunately, remission ultimately relapses typically, however many canine can restart chemotherapy with the hope of regaining remission standing. At instances, the identical chemotherapy protocol could also be used. For canine efficiently handled initially with the CHOP protocol, restarting CHOP on the time of the primary relapse is usually advisable. About 90% of these handled with a second CHOP protocol will obtain one other full remission, nevertheless, the length is often shorter than the primary time.

If a affected person doesn’t reply to the primary CHOP protocol earlier than completion or the therapy fails throughout the second protocol, using rescue protocols will be tried; these consist of medication that aren’t present in the usual chemotherapy protocols and stored in reserve for later use.

Commonly used rescue protocols embrace LAP (L-asparaginase, lomustine/CCNU, and prednisone) and MOPP (mechlorethamine, vincristine, procarbazine and prednisone). These are much less more likely to lead to full remission and a few canine will solely obtain a partial remission, with an general response price of about 40 to 50%, and a median survival price of 1.5 to 2.5 months.

Because most cancers cells evolve over time, the illness can develop into proof against sure medication. Further therapies will be given, however it may possibly develop into harder to realize remission a second or third time and there doesn’t seem like any substantial impact on survival instances.


Here are some compelling alternate options to contemplate along with the usual protocols described above:

  • Prednisone. This is often a part of most lymphoma therapy protocols as a result of it truly destroys lymphoma cells. It may even be administered as a standalone therapy. The common survival time with out chemotherapy is about one month however treating with prednisone alone can enhance this to about two to 3 months, with a mean of 50% responding.
  • Tanovea-CA1 (rabacfosadine). This is a promising new development in treating canine lymphoma. This drug has been conditionally authorized to be used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), pending a full demonstration of its effectiveness (further area research are presently going down to acquire full approval).

Tanovea-CA1 is designed to focus on and destroy malignant lymphocytes and can be utilized not solely to deal with canine which have by no means obtained any therapy but additionally these now not responding to chemotherapy. It has demonstrated a 77% general response and a 45% full response price. It is run by veterinarians in 5 therapies each three weeks through intravenous infusion and is proven it to be usually well-tolerated.

  • Bone Marrow Transplant. One of the latest approaches to treating canine lymphoma is the bone marrow transplant – a type of stem cell remedy – modeled after a technique utilized in human medication. The course of includes the canine receiving and finishing CHOP remedy (which places the most cancers in remission); the harvesting and preservation of wholesome stem cells from the affected person; the administration of radiation to destroy any remaining most cancers cells; and the returning of wholesome cells to repopulate and restore blood cells.

In people, the treatment price is about 40 to 60%; the process has been decided to be protected to be used in canine with treatment charges of 33% for B-cell lymphomas and 15% for T-cell lymphomas. The course of is dear ($19,000 to $25,000) and requires about two weeks of hospitalization. Currently there are solely two places within the U.S. providing the process: the North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine (in Raleigh) and Bellingham (Washington) Veterinary Critical Care.

At some level lymphomas develop into proof against therapy and no additional remissions will be obtained. Eventually the uncontrolled most cancers will infiltrate an organ (usually the bone marrow or the liver) to such an extent that the organ fails. Under these circumstances, it’s best to concentrate on top quality of life for the longest attainable survival time.


Like most cancers, the eventual prognosis for canine with lymphoma isn’t very uplifting. But it’s a very treatable most cancers, and canine stay nicely and longer with therapy. Several prognostic elements have been recognized for estimating a canine’s response to therapy and survival time:

  • Dogs with indicators of systemic sickness (substage B) are inclined to have a worse prognosis than canine with substage A.
  • Dogs with lymphoma histologically categorised as being both intermediate- or high-grade are typically extremely conscious of chemotherapy, however early relapse is frequent with shorter survival instances.
  • Dogs with lymphoma histologically categorised as being low-grade have a decrease response price to systemic chemotherapy but expertise a constructive survival size benefit when in comparison with intermediate- or high-grade tumors.
  • Dogs with T-cell lymphomas have a shorter survival time in comparison with canine with B-cell primarily based malignancies.
  • Dogs with diffuse alimentary, central nervous system, or cutaneous lymphoma are inclined to have shorter survival instances when in comparison with canine with different anatomic types of lymphoma.
  • Presence of hypercalcemia or anemia or a mediastinal mass are all related to a poorer prognosis.
  • Intestinal lymphoma has a really poor prognosis.
  • Expectations for circumstances with Stage V lymphoma are a lot decrease than these assigned to Stages I to IV.
  • Prolonged pre-treatment with corticosteroids is commonly a detrimental prognostic issue.
  • Ultimately, the estimates for survival instances depend upon the kind of lymphoma mixed with the stage and the therapy possibility chosen (if any).
  • In the absence of therapy, many of the canine recognized with lymphoma succumb to the illness in 4 to 6 weeks.
  • The median survival time with a multi-agent chemotherapy protocol is 13 to 14 months.
  • Traditional chemotherapy leads to whole remission in roughly 60 to 90% of circumstances with a median survival time of six to 12 months.
  • In about 20 to 25% circumstances, canine stay two years or longer after initiation of normal chemotherapy therapy.
  • Dogs handled with rescue protocols have a survival price of 1.5 to 2.5 months.
  • Studies point out that canine who underwent splenectomy present a median survival price of 14 months.
  • Complete treatment is uncommon, however not exceptional. Bone marrow transplants present promise and potential for elevated treatment charges.

Above all, do not forget that prognoses are solely tips primarily based on common accumulative experiences. They are numbers, and as a pricey buddy and veterinary oncologist has stated to me many instances, “Treat the dog, not the numbers.”

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