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 some of the widespread cancers present in canines. Lymphoma – additionally known as lymphosarcoma – will not be a singular sort of most cancers however somewhat a class of systemic cancers with over 30 described sorts.

Lymphoma happens when there’s a genetic mutation or sequence of mutations inside a lymphocyte that causes the cells to develop abnormally and turn out to be malignant, in the end affecting organs and physique capabilities. 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 function is to forestall the unfold of illness, to offer long run immunity towards viruses, support in wound therapeutic, and supply surveillance towards 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 major perform of the lymphatic system is to move lymph, a fluid containing lymphocytes, all through the physique. Unfortunately, cancerous lymphocytes flow into by means of the physique simply as the conventional lymphocytes do.

Although lymphoma can have an effect on nearly any organ within the physique, it mostly turns into evident in organs that perform 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 improve; some of the widespread websites of accumulation are within the lymph nodes themselves, leading to an elevated measurement of those buildings.

Canine lymphomas are comparable in some ways to the non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas (NHL) which happen in people, although canines are two to 5 instances extra doubtless than folks to develop lymphoma. The two illnesses are so comparable that just about the identical chemotherapy protocols are used to deal with each, with comparable responses reported. NHL has been featured just lately within the high-profile circumstances involving people who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after utilizing the weed killer glyphosate (most extremely acknowledged underneath its best-selling model identify, Roundup).

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


The explanation for canine lymphoma will not be recognized. It is suspected that the trigger could also be multifactorial. In an effort to find out what components have an effect on the potential of creating the illness, researchers are wanting on the function of environmental parts akin 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 components (modifications within the regular construction of chromosomes has been reported). It is believed that canines dwelling in industrial areas could possibly be at a better danger for creating lymphoma.


Although the direct explanation for lymphoma can’t be recognized, research have discovered that there are specific breeds which might be at greater danger 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 danger of creating canine lymphoma.

Lymphoma can have an effect on canines of any breed or age, however it typically impacts middle-aged or older canines (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 latest massive 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 danger components for creating lymphoma. Numerous breeds had been noticed to be in danger that had not been beforehand recognized as being in that class.

The examine additionally demonstrated the other: Several breeds beforehand documented to have an elevated danger of lymphoma failed to indicate an elevated danger. Additionally, the examine discovered males had a better danger general throughout breeds, as did each women and men that had been neutered or spayed. Mixed breeds typically had a decreased danger in comparison with purebred canines. While these findings could also be inconsistent with different typically accepted danger components, 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 identified with lymphoma will initially be taken to a veterinarian as a result of a number of lumps have been discovered underneath the neck, across the shoulders, or behind the knee. These lumps develop into swollen lymph nodes. The majority of canines (60 to 80%) don’t present some other signs and customarily really feel effectively on the time of prognosis.

Advanced signs rely 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, canines could also be extra vulnerable to sicknesses, which may result in difficult well being points. Lymphoma itself, nonetheless, will not be regarded as painful to canines.

Lymphoma can happen wherever within the physique the place lymph tissue resides and is classed by the anatomic space affected. The 4 commonest sorts are multicentric, alimentary, mediastinal, and extranodal. Each sort has its personal set of traits that decide the scientific indicators and signs, fee of development, remedy choices, and prognosis. Furthermore, there are greater than 30 completely different subtypes of canine lymphoma.

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

Multicentric lymphoma tends to have a fast onset and impacts the exterior lymph nodes and immune system; involvement of the spleen, liver, and bone marrow are additionally widespread. The illness might or might not contain different organs on the time of prognosis, 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 point, dehydration, inappetence, weight reduction, issue respiratory, fever, anemia, sepsis, and despair could also be noticed. This type may metastasize into central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma in later levels, which may trigger seizures and/or paralysis.

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

Because it’s within the digestive tract, it’s harder to diagnose than the multicentric type. It is reported to be extra widespread in male canines than females. This sort varieties intestinal lesions, usually ensuing within the manifestation of gastrointestinal-related indicators, together with extreme urinating or thirst, anorexia, stomach ache, vomiting, diarrhea (darkish in coloration), and weight reduction on account of malabsorption and maldigestion of vitamins.

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

  • Mediastinal Lymphoma. This is the third commonest sort of canine lymphoma, however it’s nonetheless a reasonably uncommon type. Malignant lesions develop within the lymphoid tissues of a canine’s chest, primarily across the cardiothoracic area. This type is characterised by enlargement of the mediastinal lymph nodes and/or the thymus. The thymus serves because the central organ for maturing T lymphocytes; consequently, 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 may trigger swelling and irregular development of the top, neck, and entrance legs.

Dogs manifesting with this illness might have respiratory issues, akin to issue respiratory or coughing and swelling of the entrance legs or face. Increased thirst leading to elevated urination may happen; if it does, hypercalcemia (life-threatening metabolic dysfunction) needs to be examined for because it seen in 40% of canines 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 apart from within the lymph nodes. Organs usually affected by this kind 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 significantly 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 commonest 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 generally initially mistaken for allergy symptoms or fungal infections. As it turns into extra extreme, the pores and skin will turn out to be redder, thickened, ulcerated, and would possibly ooze fluids; massive plenty or tumors can develop. Cutaneous lymphoma may have an effect on the oral cavity inflicting ulcers, lesions, and nodules on the gums, lips, and roof of the mouth (generally mistaken at first as periodontal illness or gingivitis).


Within every of the 4 sorts described above, the illness may be categorized additional into subtypes. There are greater than 30 completely different histologic subtypes of canine lymphoma recognized; some researchers theorize that there could also be tons 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 in all probability not lead to important modifications in remedy protocols. In the long run, focused therapies for subtypes might result in simpler therapies and improved prognosis.

The two major 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 optimistic predictor; canines with B-cell lymphoma have a tendency to reply positively to remedy with a better fee of full remission, longer remission instances, and elevated survival instances. T-cell lymphoma constitutes about 10 to 40% of lymphoma circumstances and has a unfavorable predictive worth primarily based on not responding as effectively to remedy and for being at a better danger for hypercalcemia.


Early detection and remedy are important to making sure the very best end result for lymphoma circumstances. Because canines typically really feel effectively and there are sometimes solely swollen lymph nodes (with no ache exhibited) as a symptom, catching the illness early can generally be fairly tough. As a outcome, the most cancers may be fairly superior by the point a prognosis is made. (Lymphoma will not be 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 ample to achieve a presumptive prognosis of the commonest forms of lymphomas.

Although prognosis from cytology is pretty simply obtained, it doesn’t differentiate the immunophenotype (B versus T lymphocyte). Histopathologic tissue analysis (biopsy) is required with a purpose to establish the sort with the method of immunophenotyping.

Immunophenotyping is a molecular take a look at often carried out by movement cytometry (a classy laser expertise 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 supplies the perfect predictive worth; the adage “B is better, T is terrible” displays this in its easiest type.

Diffuse massive B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is the commonest histologic subtype of lymphoma occurring in canines. 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; nonetheless, canines with T-cell lymphoma have been recognized to enter remission for a number of months.

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

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

In explicit, it is very important display screen for hypercalcemia. Hypercalcemia is a situation by which the hormone PTHrP (parathyroid hormone-related peptide) creates harmful elevations within the blood calcium degree. This well-documented syndrome is related to lymphoma in canines and is most frequently seen in T-cell lymphomas.

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

Unfortunately, as a result of quickly progressive nature of lymphoma, selections relating to remedy must be made as quickly as attainable after prognosis. Unlike most different types of most cancers, lymphoma requires pressing care; with out remedy, the median survival time is one month after prognosis. Therefore, house owners needs to be ready to start out remedy on the day of prognosis, or inside a day or two at most.


Once a prognosis of lymphoma has been made, the stage (extent) of the lymphoid malignancy needs to be decided, and to evaluate this, a number of exams are really helpful: 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; basically, the extra in depth the unfold, the upper the stage, the poorer the prognosis. However, even canines with superior illness may be efficiently handled and expertise remission. These exams additionally present details about different circumstances which will have an effect on remedy or prognosis. The World Health Organization (WHO) five-tier staging system is the usual used to stage lymphoma in canines:

  • 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 (generally 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 apart 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 fancy and difficult most cancers, it is without doubt one of the most extremely treatable cancers and most canines reply to remedy. In truth, many canines with lymphoma outlive animals with different illnesses akin to kidney, coronary heart, and liver illness. While lymphoma will not be curable, the purpose with remedy is to rapidly obtain remission for the longest interval attainable thus giving canines and their house owners extra high quality time collectively. It is important that the kind of lymphoma is recognized as the sort impacts remedy and prognosis. And as a result of lymphoma is a really aggressive most cancers, it is very important start remedy as quickly as attainable.

Since lymphoma is a systemic illness that impacts the entire physique, the best remedy can also be systemic within the type of chemotherapy, which supplies many canines with extended survival instances and glorious high quality of life, with little or no unwanted effects.

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

Because lymphoma is so widespread in canines, there was a considerable quantity of analysis and testing of many alternative combos of chemotherapy therapies. Multiagent chemotherapy protocols are thought-about the gold customary of remedy and have proven to offer the perfect response by way of size of illness management and survival charges, as in comparison with single agent protocols.

The Madison Wisconsin Protocol, also called UW-25 or CHOP, is a cocktail of medication modeled after human lymphoma therapies and is extensively thought-about to be the best remedy 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 often given every day at residence as a pill with the rest of the protocol brokers administered by an oncology specialist.

On common, 70 to 90% of canines handled with CHOP expertise partial or full remission. For canines with B-cell lymphomas, 80 to 90% may be anticipated to attain 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 median of six to eight months survival.

Other remedy choices embrace the COP chemotherapy protocol (cyclophosphamide, Oncovin [vincristine], and prednisone), vincristine and Cytoxan; single-agent doxorubicin; and and lomustine/CCNU.  As a major remedy, single-agent doxorubicin may end up in an entire remission in as much as 75% of sufferers with median survival time of as much as eight months, although cumulative remedy 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 best remedy for cutaneous lymphoma.


Remission is the situation by which the most cancers has regressed. Partial remission implies that the general proof of most cancers has been diminished by no less than 50%; full remission signifies that the most cancers has turn out to be undetectable to any available diagnostic screening (however it 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 actually indistinguishable from a cancer-free canine. The lymph nodes will return to regular measurement and any sickness associated to the most cancers often resolves. Overall, there’s roughly a 60 to 75% likelihood of attaining remission whatever the protocol chosen.

Studies present that the typical 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 canines with enlarged lymph nodes it usually includes checking the dimensions of the lymph nodes. For canines with different forms of lymphoma, periodic imaging could also be really helpful. The Lymphoma Blood Test (LBT) from Avacta Animal Health may also be used monitor standing since LBT ranges can improve lower than eight weeks earlier than relapse.

Unfortunately, remission ultimately relapses generally, however many canines can restart chemotherapy with the hope of regaining remission standing. At instances, the identical chemotherapy protocol could also be used. For canines efficiently handled initially with the CHOP protocol, restarting CHOP on the time of the primary relapse is often really helpful. About 90% of these handled with a second CHOP protocol will obtain one other full remission, nonetheless, 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 remedy fails through the second protocol, the usage of rescue protocols may be tried; these consist of medication that aren’t present in the usual chemotherapy protocols and saved 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 prone to lead to full remission and a few canines will solely obtain a partial remission, with an general response fee of about 40 to 50%, and a median survival fee of 1.5 to 2.5 months.

Because most cancers cells evolve over time, the illness can turn out to be immune to sure medication. Further therapies may be given, however it could actually turn out to be harder to attain 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 element of most lymphoma remedy protocols as a result of it really destroys lymphoma cells. It may even be administered as a standalone remedy. The common survival time with out chemotherapy is about one month however treating with prednisone alone can improve this to about two to a few months, with a median of 50% responding.
  • Tanovea-CA1 (rabacfosadine). This is a promising new development in treating canine lymphoma. This drug has been conditionally permitted to be used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), pending a full demonstration of its effectiveness (further subject research are at present 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 canines which have by no means obtained any remedy but in addition these not responding to chemotherapy. It has demonstrated a 77% general response and a 45% full response fee. It is run by veterinarians in 5 therapies each three weeks by way of intravenous infusion and is proven it to be typically well-tolerated.

  • Bone Marrow Transplant. One of the most recent 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 fee is about 40 to 60%; the process has been decided to be protected to be used in canines with treatment charges of 33% for B-cell lymphomas and 15% for T-cell lymphomas. The course of is pricey ($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 turn out to be immune to remedy and no additional remissions may 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 give attention to top quality of life for the longest attainable survival time.


Like most cancers, the eventual prognosis for canines with lymphoma isn’t very uplifting. But it’s a very treatable most cancers, and canines dwell effectively and longer with remedy. Several prognostic components have been recognized for estimating a canine’s response to remedy and survival time:

  • Dogs with indicators of systemic sickness (substage B) are likely to have a worse prognosis than canines with substage A.
  • Dogs with lymphoma histologically labeled as being both intermediate- or high-grade are typically extremely conscious of chemotherapy, however early relapse is widespread with shorter survival instances.
  • Dogs with lymphoma histologically labeled as being low-grade have a decrease response fee to systemic chemotherapy but expertise a optimistic 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 canines with B-cell primarily based malignancies.
  • Dogs with diffuse alimentary, central nervous system, or cutaneous lymphoma are likely to have shorter survival instances when in comparison with canines 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 usually a unfavorable prognostic issue.
  • Ultimately, the estimates for survival instances rely upon the kind of lymphoma mixed with the stage and the remedy choice chosen (if any).
  • In the absence of remedy, a lot of the canines identified 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 complete remission in roughly 60 to 90% of circumstances with a median survival time of six to 12 months.
  • In about 20 to 25% circumstances, canines dwell two years or longer after initiation of normal chemotherapy remedy.
  • Dogs handled with rescue protocols have a survival fee of 1.5 to 2.5 months.
  • Studies point out that canines who underwent splenectomy present a median survival fee of 14 months.
  • Complete treatment is uncommon, however not unprecedented. Bone marrow transplants present promise and potential for elevated treatment charges.

Above all, keep in mind that prognoses are solely tips primarily based on common accumulative experiences. They are numbers, and as an expensive pal and veterinary oncologist has mentioned to me many instances, “Treat the dog, not the numbers.”

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