"Lymphosarcoma in dogs
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"Lymphosarcoma in dogs

Dogs
Health & Safety

Lymphosarcoma is a form of cancer that seems to affect some breeds more than others. It is one of the most common forms of canine cancer and it attacks blood cells known as lymphcytes. The cancer also attacks a dog's lymphoid tissues which are found in lymph nodes, the liver, spleen, bone marrow and gastrointestinal tract.

Breeds Most at Risk

As previously mentioned, there are certain breeds that seem to be more predisposed to suffering from this form of cancer than other breeds and this includes the following:

  • Bouvier des Flandres
  • Irish Water Spaniel
  • Golden Retriever
  • Boxer
  • German Shepherd
  • West Highland White Terrier
  • Pointers

Most dogs develop the condition when they are anything from six to nine years old, but it is worth noting that a dog can suffer from Lymphosarcoma at any stage of their lives and it can affect both males and females.

Causes of the Condition

Unfortunately, for the moment why some dogs develop Lymphosarcoma remains unknown and more research is needed to establish why some breeds appear to be more predisposed to suffering from this form of cancer than others.

The Different Types of Lymphosarcoma

There are five different types of Lymphosarcoma and each one is dependent on which part of a dog’s body the cancerous tumour first developed.

External lymph nodes: This is the most common form of the cancer and it's where either one or more external lymph nodes are involved. Dogs suffering from this type of Lymphosarcoma generally display the following symptoms:

  • Mild signs of being tired/lethargy
  • A loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive need to urinate
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty breathing

The severity of a dog's symptoms depends on how far the condition has spread, the size of the tumour and whether it has impacted any of a dog's vital organs. The most obvious clinical signs of there being something wrong is when a dog's lymph nodes found under their necks, in front of their shoulders or behind their knees become swollen and enlarged. The other organs that might well be affected include a dog's spleen, liver and bone marrow.

Gastrointestinal tract: Lymphosarcoma can affect a dog's gastrointestinal tract and the signs of there being something wrong could include the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of appetite

Mediastinal: this form of Lymphosarcoma attacks the lymphoid tissue found in a dog's chest. The symptoms a dog displays when suffering from this type of cancer include the following:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive need to urinate
  • Excessive thirst

Skin: Lymphosarcoma can also affect a dog's skin and is referred to as cutaneous lymphosarcoma"". The symptoms a dog typically shows when suffering from the condition include the following:

  • Flaky skin
  • Scaly skin
  • Itchy skin
  • Red and irritated skin
  • Lumps on affected areas of skin

A dog may also suffer from sore footpads and gums when they develop this form of cancer. Other vital organs in the body can also be affected and this includes liver, spleen, lymph nodes and bone marrow.

Bone marrow: when a dog's bone marrow is affected the condition is known as ""leukaemia"". The symptoms a dog typically display include the following:

  • Decreased red blood cells
  • Decreased white blood cells
  • Anaemia
  • Infections
  • Bleeding

Diagnosing the Condition

The first stage of making a diagnosis would be for a vet to do a biopsy of any affected tissues. They would also need to locate the exact position of a tumour and carry out the following tests:

  • A complete blood count
  • A serum chemistry profile
  • A urinalysis
  • An abdominal ultrasound
  • Chest X-rays
  • A bone marrow aspirate

Treatment Options

The main form of treatment for dogs diagnosed with Lymphosarcoma is chemotherapy and this type of treatment has proved to be an effective way of combatting the disorder. Most dogs when given chemotherapy go into remission which in short means the tumour disappears once the treatment is over. However, it's worth noting that because a dog goes into ""remission"", it does not mean they are cured. On the upside, it does mean the quality of a dog's life vastly improves due to having been given chemotherapy. Dogs that go into remission may still need to be given chemotherapy depending on how sick they were and how far the disease had spread throughout the body.

A dog diagnosed with the condition would need to be treated every week and their treatment would typically continue for the following six months. It's important to monitor their progress more especially when any changes have occurred to their kidney and liver functions. Vets tend to change the sort of drugs they use which is an effective way of preventing tumour cells building up a resistance to a drug and it also helps reduce the risk of dogs suffering from side effects associated with drugs they are prescribed.

The good news is the majority of dogs tolerate chemotherapy and do not generally suffer any nasty side effects. However, if they do, dogs can lose their appetite and become lethargic. Other side effects of the treatment might include nausea and vomiting, but only a small percentage of dogs undergoing chemotherapy suffer from this type of side effect. Should an owner be concerned or worried, they should contact their vet straight away.

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