What is Dog Lymphoma?

What is Dog Lymphoma?

Lymphomas are types of blood cancers that develop in the lymphatic system.

Lymphoma cancer cells invade and cause the destruction of normal, healthy tissues.

How Lymphoma Progresses

The lymph nodes are the most common areas affected by lymphoma, but it can grow anywhere in the body.

The lymph nodes swell and harden when the lymphocytes within it become cancerous.

The malignant lymphocytes then travel through the lymphatic system to nearby lymph nodes, and soon all of the nodes are affected.

As cancer progresses, the bone marrow, liver, spleen and other organs become affected.

The symptoms of dog lymphoma vary a bit depending on where the tumor is located and how far along cancer has progressed.

The universal symptoms displayed in all types of lymphoma are weight loss, weakness, lethargy, panting, and anorexia (lack of appetite).

Blood test results performed on dogs with lymphoma often show anemia, low lymphocyte levels, a high number of neutrophils, a high number of monocytes, a low number of platelets, and high liver enzymes. 

How Dog Lymphoma is Diagnosed

Radiographs and ultrasounds are often performed to evaluate the size of the lymph nodes and to get a better idea of the status of the disease.

Canine lymphomas are commonly diagnosed cancers in dogs and vary tremendously in their behavior.

Some progress rapidly and are acutely life-threatening, while others progress slowly and are managed as a chronic disease.

There is no real cure for lymphoma, but there are several options for treatment that can bring your dog into remission.

Your dog’s lymphoma prognosis and lymphoma life expectancy vary depending on the location of the tumor(s) and how far along cancer has progressed.

THE World Health Organization (WHO) has organized lymphoma into five different stages based on the degree of invasiveness and metastasis of cancer in humans.

Veterinarians consider these stages when diagnosing lymphoma in dogs.

Canine Lymphoma Stages

There are five different stages of canine lymphoma. Each stage increases in severity.

Stage I

The first stage is Stage I.

In Stage 1, cancer involves single lymph node.

Stage II

The second stage is Stage II.

In Stage II, the dog experiences regional lymphadenopathy.

In other words, cancer is restricted to one side of the diaphragm.

Stage III

The third stage is Stage III.

In Stage III, the dog suffers generalized lymphadenopathy.

In layman’s terms, an overall enlargement of the lymph nodes.

Stage IV

The fourth stage is Stage IV.

In Stage IV, the dog suffers enlargement of the liver and spleen, also called hepatosplenomegaly, with or without lymphadenopathy.

Stage V

The final stage is Stage V.

In Stage V, the dog suffers involvement of one marrow, central nervous system, or involvement of other extranodal sites.

The Most Common Dog Lymphoma Treatments

  • University of Wisconsin Chop Protocol: This is the most recommended treatment for dogs with lymphoma. This protocol utilizes cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine, and prednisone.
  • Single Agent Doxorubicin Protocol
  • COP Protocol (cyclophosphamide, vincristine or Oncovin, and prednisone)
  • Prednisone
  • Palliative radiation
  • Half body radiation
  • Bone marrow transplant with total body radiation

Treating Canine Lymphoma with Chemotherapy

When a dog has lymphoma, chemotherapy is usually the best treatment option. The most common protocol is the University of Wisconsin CHOP protocol.

The University of Wisconsin CHOP protocol has approximately a 90% response rate and usually provides dogs with 13-14 extra months of life.

The University of Wisconsin CHOP protocol usually costs $4,000 to $6,000.

Bone Marrow Transplant with Total Body Radiation Treatments

Bone marrow transplant is another available lymphoma treatment is available that proposedly puts dogs into full remission.

Treatment consists of a bone marrow transplant with total body radiation treatments.

To qualify for treatment, the dog must already be in remission.

The Procedure

The dog first undergoes chemotherapy to clear the lymphoma from the blood.

Then a medication called Neupogen is given to drive healthy stem cells into the bloodstream.

The stem cells are harvested and the dog is then given total body radiation to kill all of the lymphoma cells.

The total body radiation is so intense that the dog must have a bone marrow transplant afterward to re-plant the healthy stem cells back into the bone marrow.

During the procedure, your veterinarian must keep your dog in isolation because it has no white blood cells.

The procedure requires 2-3 weeks of hospitalization and usually runs $17,000 plus the cost of the chemotherapy. Patients must undergo chemo prior to the procedure.

Single-Agent Doxorubicin Protocol Prednisone

The Single-Agent Doxorubicin protocol offers a 60-80% response rate.


Prednisone offers a 50% response rate in making the dog feel better.

Palliative Radiation

Full-body palliative radiation eases symptoms of obstruction, shrinks lymph nodes, and shrinks lesions to improve symptoms.

Half-body radiation is yet another choice.

Half-body radiation involves treating the dog’s body one half at a time, first from the middle up, then from the middle down.

If you combine half-body radiation with the UW CHOP chemo treatment, your dog will probably gain an additional five months of life.

The question, at this point, is whether or not the toxicity from the radiation and the increased cost is worth the little bit of extra time you get with your beloved pet.

If your dog has lymphoma, you will also need to make changes in his diet.

Powerful Tools for Overcoming Dog Cancer Challenges

You might not be aware, but many cancer-fighting tools are easy to get and use at home. 

To realize your true cancer-fighting potential:

Get A Phone Consultation with One of Our TCVM Veterinarians

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When I first graduated from veterinary school, I thought I knew it all. I thought I knew everything about animals. Anatomy, physiology, drugs, surgery – learning about