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Axillary Lymph Nodes In Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment



Reviewed By: Dr. Joel Robertson

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Axillary lymph nodes in dogs are a common condition affecting the lymphatic system.

While this condition is typically benign, it can lead to more serious complications if left untreated.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment for canine axillary lymph node disease.

We’ll also look at how proper screening and diagnosis can help prevent long-term health issues related to this condition.

Key Takeaway

  • Axillary lymph nodes in dogs are small, bean-shaped structures located in the armpit area that play a crucial role in the animal’s immune system by filtering harmful substances and helping fight infections.
  • The axillary lymph nodes in dogs are located in the armpit area, nestled between the front legs.
  • The causes of swollen axillary lymph nodes in dogs can include bacterial, viral, or fungal infections, immune-mediated diseases like lupus, allergies, certain types of cancer such as lymphoma, and other conditions that trigger an immune response.

What Are Axillary Lymph Nodes In Dogs

Axillary Lymph Nodes In Dogs Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Axillary lymph nodes in dogs are part of the immune system and are located under the front legs.

These nodes drain a large area of the dog’s body, which makes them crucial for fighting off infections and diseases.

However, they can be difficult to locate before surgical resection, especially in overweight dogs or when the swelling is mild.

When these lymph nodes become swollen, a condition called lymphadenopathy could be due to various reasons such as infections within the lymph node itself or elsewhere in the body, allergies, or cancer.

Hence, it’s important to consult a veterinarian if you notice any swelling or abnormalities.

See also: Prescapular Lymph Nodes In Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Where Are Axillary Lymph Nodes Located In Dogs

Do Dogs Have Lymph Nodes

Axillary lymph nodes in dogs are part of the dog’s lymphatic system and are located on the medial side of the shoulder at the level of the shoulder joint.

Depending on the size of the dog, these nodes may be found 2 to 5 cm caudal from the shoulder joint in the triangle formed by the subscapular and brachial arteries and veins.

They are nestled within abundant fatty tissue which can make them difficult to locate before surgical resection, especially in overweight dogs.

See also: Inguinal Lymph Nodes In Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Causes of Enlarged Axillary Lymph Nodes In Dogs

  • Infections: Bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic infections can cause axillary lymph nodes in dogs to swell.
  • Immune Response: When a dog’s body is invaded by viruses or bacteria, the lymph nodes may enlarge as they work to fight off these invaders.
  • Tick-Borne Diseases: Conditions like Lyme disease can lead to swollen axillary lymph nodes in dogs.
  • Skin Conditions: Skin diseases such as demodectic mange and juvenile cellulitis can cause lymph nodes to swell.
  • Respiratory Infections: Local respiratory infections can lead to enlarged axillary lymph nodes.
  • Dental Disease: Oral health issues can sometimes cause the submandibular lymph nodes to enlarge.
  • Cancer: Lymphoma, a type of cancer, is one of the most common causes of enlarged lymph nodes in dogs. Other cancers that may spread to the axillary lymph nodes include breast cancer and skin cancers such as melanoma.
  • Inflammation: General inflammation in the body due to various diseases can also lead to swollen lymph nodes.

See also: Sublumbar Lymph Nodes In Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Symptoms of Enlarged Axillary Lymph Nodes In Dogs

  • Swelling or lumps: The most obvious symptom is the presence of enlarged lymph nodes, which may feel like a lump or swelling in the armpit area.
  • Pain or discomfort: Dogs may show signs of discomfort or pain, especially when the swollen area is touched.
  • Lethargy: Dogs may become less active or seem unusually tired.
  • Loss of appetite: Changes in eating habits or a decreased interest in food may be observed.
  • Fever: Elevated body temperature can be a sign of an infection or other medical condition causing lymph node swelling.
  • Weight loss: Unexplained weight loss could be a symptom of a more serious underlying condition such as cancer.
  • Change in behavior: Changes in behavior, such as increased aggression or anxiety, may be noticed.
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing: If the swelling is severe, it may cause difficulty in breathing or swallowing.
  • Skin changes: There may be visible changes to the skin over the affected lymph nodes, such as redness, warmth, or ulcers.

See also: Popliteal Lymph Nodes In Dogs – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Diagnosis of Enlarged Axillary Lymph Nodes In Dogs

Diagnosing axillary lymph nodes in dogs includes:

Physical Examination

The initial step in diagnosing axillary lymphadenopathy in dogs is a physical examination. During this examination, the veterinarian will manually assess for any swelling or lumps in the armpit area where the axillary lymph nodes are located.

It’s worth noting that in a healthy dog, only the submandibular and popliteal lymph nodes are typically palpable.

Fine-Needle Aspiration

If the vet suspects lymphoma or another disease, they may perform a fine-needle aspiration. This procedure involves extracting a sample from the dog’s lymph node to be evaluated either through a cytology exam or by a histopathologic tissue evaluation. Fine-needle aspiration is the most common test to diagnose lymphoma.

Blood Work

Blood tests can provide valuable information about a dog’s overall health and may indicate if an infection or other illness is causing lymph node swelling.

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests such as a CT scan or chest X-ray may be used to gain a better understanding of the lymph nodes and surrounding tissues. These tests can help identify any abnormalities and can also be useful in staging cancer if lymphoma is diagnosed.


In some cases, a biopsy may be performed to take a larger sample of tissue from the lymph node for further testing. This is usually done if the fine-needle aspiration results are inconclusive or if a more definitive diagnosis is needed.

Allergy Testing

If allergies are suspected as the cause of swollen lymph nodes, an allergy test may be conducted. Allergic reactions, including food allergies, environmental allergies, and flea allergies, can lead to swollen lymph nodes in dogs.

See also: What Do Dog Lymph Nodes Feel Like?

Treatment of Enlarged Axillary Lymph Nodes In Dogs

Treatment of axillary lymph nodes in dogs includes:

Antibiotics or Antifungals

If the swelling of the axillary lymph nodes in dogs is due to bacterial or fungal infections, the usual treatment approach involves the use of antibiotics or antifungal medications.


In cases where the swollen lymph nodes are a result of lymphoma, chemotherapy is often the chosen course of treatment. A variety of procedures exist, but most involve injections administered on a weekly basis.

It’s important to note that while chemotherapy can prolong a dog’s life, it rarely cures lymphoma, and most dogs will experience a relapse at some point.

Steroid Medication

For multicentric lymphoma, another common treatment option is a steroid medication, such as prednisone.

Surgical Technique

In certain cases, surgical excision of the lymph nodes may be considered. However, no specific surgical technique has been described for axillary and superficial axillary lymphadenectomy.

Watchful Waiting

For benign cases that don’t cause any other symptoms, a watchful approach may be adopted. This means the vet will monitor the dog’s condition without providing any immediate treatment.

See also: Can Dogs Lymph Nodes Swell From Allergies?

Recovery From Enlarged Axillary Lymph Nodes In Dogs

Recovery from axillary lymph nodes in dogs includes:

Post-Treatment Care

After treatment for swollen axillary lymph nodes, it’s important to provide proper care to your dog to aid in recovery.

This may include administering prescribed medications at the right times, ensuring a balanced diet, and providing plenty of rest. Regular follow-up appointments with your vet are also essential to monitor your pet’s progress.


The prognosis for dogs with swollen axillary lymph nodes largely depends on the underlying cause. For instance, if the swelling was due to an infection that has been effectively treated with antibiotics, the prognosis is generally good.

However, if the swelling was due to lymphoma, the prognosis can be more guarded. While chemotherapy can often help extend a dog’s life by several months or even years, lymphoma is typically not curable.

Long-Term Management

For dogs with chronic conditions that can cause lymph node swelling, long-term management may be necessary. This could involve regular medication, dietary changes, and regular vet check-ups. In some cases, vets might recommend physical therapy or other rehabilitative measures to help improve a dog’s quality of life.

Signs of Recovery

Signs that your dog is recovering from swollen axillary lymph nodes include a reduction in the size of the lymph nodes, improvement in symptoms such as lethargy or loss of appetite, and overall improved well-being. However, it’s important to continue monitoring your dog for any changes and to contact your vet if you have any concerns.

How Do Swollen Dog’s Axillary Lymph Nodes Feel Like?

Swollen axillary lymph nodes in dogs typically feel enlarged and firmer than normal and they may be spongy or hard like a marble.

The swelling can occur in one or multiple lymph nodes and typically occurs due to an underlying disease or infection.

In some cases, the nodes may cause discomfort, resulting in symptoms such as difficulty in movement or limping.

However, these swellings are often not painful and feel like a firm, rubbery lump that moves freely beneath the skin.

It’s important for owners to regularly check their dogs for any unusual lumps or swellings, particularly in areas where lymph nodes are located, such as the armpits, groin, and behind the knees.

If any abnormalities are noticed, it is advisable to seek veterinary attention promptly.

How To Check a Dog’s Axillary Lymph Nodes?

  • Start by calming your dog and getting them to a relaxed state. You can do this by petting them or speaking in a soothing voice.
  • Position your dog in a way that they are comfortable, and you can easily access their armpit area. It might be easier to do this when they are lying down.
  • Use your fingers to gently feel the armpit area. You’re looking for any unusual lumps or swellings.
  • The axillary lymph nodes are located in the armpit area, between the front legs. They should not normally be palpable in healthy dogs.
  • Apply gentle pressure as you move your fingers around the area. The lymph nodes, if swollen, may feel like small, firm, round lumps.
  • Compare the two sides. In most cases, both sides will be affected if the swelling is due to a systemic disease like lymphoma.
  • If you do feel anything unusual, don’t panic. While swollen lymph nodes can indicate an issue, it could also be something minor like an infection that can be treated with antibiotics.
  • Make sure to contact your vet if you notice any swelling. They can perform further tests to diagnose the cause of the swelling.


Q: Where are the axillary lymph nodes located in dogs?

A: The axillary lymph nodes in dogs are located in the armpit area, between the front leg and the body.

Q: What does it mean if a dog has swollen lymph nodes?

A: Swollen lymph nodes in dogs, also known as lymphadenopathy, can indicate an underlying health issue. It could be a sign of infection, inflammation, or even cancer.

Q: What can cause swollen lymph nodes in dogs?

A: Swollen lymph nodes in dogs can be caused by various factors, such as infections (bacterial, viral, fungal), immune system disorders, cancerous growths (tumors), or even allergic reactions.

Q: How are swollen lymph nodes in dogs diagnosed?

A: To diagnose swollen lymph nodes in dogs, a veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination. They may also recommend additional tests such as blood work, ultrasound, or a biopsy of the lymph nodes.

Q: What is the treatment for swollen lymph nodes in dogs?

A: The treatment for swollen lymph nodes in dogs depends on the underlying cause. It may involve antibiotics for infections, anti-inflammatory medication for inflammation, chemotherapy for cancerous growths, or other specialized treatments based on the specific condition.

Q: Should I be concerned if my dog has enlarged axillary lymph nodes?

A: Enlarged axillary lymph nodes in dogs can be a cause of concern. It is advisable to consult a veterinarian for a proper evaluation and diagnosis to determine the underlying cause.

Q: Can swollen lymph nodes in dogs be cancerous?

A: Yes, swollen lymph nodes in dogs can be indicative of cancer. It is important to consult a veterinarian for proper evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment options.

Q: How can a veterinarian determine the prognosis for a dog with swollen lymph nodes?

A: The prognosis for a dog with swollen lymph nodes depends on various factors, including the underlying cause, the stage of the condition, and the overall health of the dog. A veterinarian can provide a prognosis after conducting a proper evaluation and diagnosis.

Q: Can I palpate my dog’s axillary lymph nodes?

A: It is possible to palpate (feel) your dog’s axillary lymph nodes, but it is recommended to have a veterinarian perform this examination to avoid causing any discomfort or potential harm to your dog.

In Conclusion

Axillary lymph nodes in dogs can be caused by a variety of reasons such as bacterial infections, trauma, or cancer.

It is important for pet owners to be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with swollen axillary lymph nodes so that they can seek prompt veterinary attention if needed.

Treatment options range from antibiotics to surgery depending on the underlying cause.

With early diagnosis and treatment, your dog can make a full recovery and live a healthy life.

Please take the time and leave a comment below if this article helped you, or you have any additional questions.

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