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How Do Dogs Get Lymph Node Cancer



Reviewed By: Dr. Joel Robertson

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Lymph node cancer is a serious and potentially life-threatening illness for dogs.

It can be difficult to understand how this kind of cancer develops in our furry friends, which is why we have put together this blog post about the causes and symptoms of dog lymph node cancer.

We will discuss the risk factors associated with this type of cancer as well as the treatment options available for your canine companion if they are diagnosed with it.

Key Takeaway

  • Lymph node cancer in dogs, also known as lymphoma, is a malignant disease that affects the lymph glands and lymphatic system, causing uncontrolled growth of harmful lymphocytes.
  • Dogs get lymph node cancer, or lymphoma, due to an uncontrolled growth of cells in the lymphatic system, potentially influenced by genetic predispositions and environmental factors, although the exact cause is not fully understood.
  • The first signs of lymphoma in dogs often include swollen lymph nodes, particularly in the neck, armpits, and behind the knees, alongside other symptoms such as loss of appetite, lethargy, increased thirst, and unexplained weight loss.

What Is Lymph Node Cancer In Dogs

Lymph node cancer, also known as lymphoma, is a cancer of the lymph nodes and lymphatic system in dogs. It can be localized to one region or spread throughout the entire body.

This cancerous condition primarily affects the lymph glands and requires specialist oncology treatment.

The most effective treatment therapy for canine lymphoma is typically chemotherapy. Lymphoma in dogs is similar to a type of cancer in humans called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

It’s important to note that for most dogs, lymphoma is not a painful cancer.

See also: Can Dogs Survive Lymph Node Cancer?

How Do Dogs Get Lymph Node Cancer?

The most common cause of lymph node cancer in dogs is B-cell lymphoma, which is caused by a genetic mutation.

This mutation leads to uncontrolled cell growth, resulting in the formation of tumors.

Other potential causes include exposure to certain chemicals or toxins, viral infections, and cancer that has spread from other parts of the body.

A definitive diagnosis can only be made through lab tests and biopsy results from suspicious lymph nodes.

Fortunately, there are treatments available for canine lymph node cancer, such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and surgery.

Depending on the stage of the disease and severity of symptoms your veterinarian may recommend one or more treatment options for your pet’s condition.

In some cases, lifestyle modifications may also be recommended to improve your pet’s health. It is important to talk with your vet about the best option for your dog and your family.

See also: Do Dogs Lymph Nodes Swell When In Heat?

What Are The First Signs of Lymphoma In Dogs

  • Swollen lymph nodes: This is often the first sign of multicentric lymphoma. It is especially noticeable in the neck, behind the jaw, armpits, and behind the knees.
  • Loss of appetite: Dogs may show a decreased interest in food or stop eating altogether.
  • Lethargy: Affected dogs may display less energy or enthusiasm for activities they usually enjoy.
  • Weight loss: Unexpected or rapid weight loss can be a sign of lymphoma.
  • Increased thirst and urination: Changes in drinking and urination habits can be a sign of illness.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea: These symptoms can be associated with gastrointestinal lymphoma.
  • Difficulty breathing, kidney failure, blindness, and seizures: These are signs of lymphoma at other extranodal sites.

See also: Can A Dog Lymph Node Burst?

How Common Is Lymphoma In Dogs?

Lymphoma is a common type of cancer in dogs, accounting for approximately 10-20% of all canine cancer cases.

This disease typically affects the lymph nodes and begins in white blood cells known as lymphocytes, which normally help the body fight infections.

The most prevalent form of this cancer is multicentric lymphoma, representing about 80-85% of cases.

Multicentric lymphoma is characterized by rapid and nonpainful enlargement of the lymph nodes.

Despite being common, the long-term prognosis for lymphoma in dogs is generally poor.

Nonetheless, with appropriate treatment and care, the quality of life can be improved for affected dogs.

See also: Can Dogs Lymph Nodes Swell After Surgery?

What Is The Prognosis For Lymphoma In Dogs?

Lymphoma is one of the most common types of cancer in dogs.

While it is a serious condition, the prognosis for dogs diagnosed with lymphoma can vary depending on the type of lymphoma and the treatment provided.

Without treatment, the average life expectancy for a dog with lymphoma is typically four to six weeks. However, with effective treatment such as chemotherapy, life expectancy can be significantly extended.

For example, about 80% to 90% of dogs with lymphoma that receive treatment achieve complete remission, with an average survival time of 12-14 months.

For certain types of lymphoma, such as T cell lymphoma, approximately 70% of dogs will achieve remission with a median survival time of 6-8 months.

With advanced chemotherapy regimes, the average survival time for the most common type of lymphoma can even reach approximately 18 months.

It’s important to note that we are currently unable to cure canine lymphoma. However, many dogs can be placed into complete remission for many months, living a good quality life.

See also: What Do Dog Lymph Nodes Feel Like?

How To Prevent Lymph Node Cancer In Dogs

Here is how to prevent lymph node cancer in dogs:

Understanding The Prevention of Lymphoma in Dogs

While there are no known ways to fully prevent lymphoma in dogs, there are steps that can be taken to potentially reduce the risk and ensure early detection for the best possible outcome.

Breeding and Genetic Factors

Certain breeds are more prone to developing lymphoma than others, such as Golden Retrievers and Labradors. Therefore, working with a breeder who screens for cancer can minimize the genetic risk.

Spaying and Neutering

Research has indicated a potential correlation between spaying/neutering and the occurrence of lymphoma, as these procedures halt the production of certain reproductive hormones. However, the relationship is not definitively established and should be discussed with a veterinarian.

Diet and Health Maintenance

Maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise regimen can contribute to overall health and vitality, possibly helping to delay the onset of many types of diseases, including cancers.

Regular Vet Check-ups

Regular veterinary check-ups are crucial for early detection of any potential health issues, including lymphoma. Early detection and treatment can significantly improve the prognosis.

Treatment Options

While lymphoma isn’t preventable, it is treatable. The most effective therapy for canine lymphoma is typically chemotherapy. In some cases, surgery or radiation therapy may also be recommended.

See also: Can Dogs Live Without Lymph Nodes?


Q: What are the symptoms of lymphoma in dogs?

A: The symptoms of lymphoma in dogs can vary depending on the type and stage of the cancer. Common signs include swollen lymph nodes, loss of appetite, weight loss, lethargy, increased thirst and urination, skin lesions, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, and changes in behavior.

Q: What types of lymphoma can affect dogs?

A: Dogs can develop different types of lymphoma, including multicentric lymphoma (affecting multiple lymph nodes), cutaneous lymphoma (affecting the skin), alimentary lymphoma (affecting the gastrointestinal tract), mediastinal lymphoma (affecting the chest), and extranodal lymphoma (affecting organs outside the lymph nodes).

Q: How is lymphoma in dogs diagnosed?

A: To diagnose lymphoma in dogs, veterinarians often perform a physical examination, conduct blood tests, perform imaging tests such as X-rays and ultrasound, and may recommend a biopsy or fine-needle aspirate of enlarged lymph nodes.

Q: What are the treatment options for dogs with lymphoma?

A: The treatment options for dogs with lymphoma include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and in some cases, surgery. The choice of treatment depends on various factors such as the type and stage of lymphoma, the overall health of the dog, and the owner’s preferences.

Q: How can lymphoma in dogs be treated?

A: Lymphoma in dogs can be treated through various methods such as chemotherapy, which involves the administration of anti-cancer drugs to kill cancer cells, radiation therapy, which uses high-energy beams to target and destroy cancer cells, and immunotherapy, which stimulates the immune system to fight against cancer.

Q: What are the stages of lymphoma in dogs?

A: Lymphoma in dogs is often categorized into different stages based on the extent of the disease. The stages range from stage I (involving a single lymph node or localized area) to stage V (involving multiple lymph nodes or organs). The staging helps in determining the best treatment approach and predicting the prognosis.

Q: What are the common signs of lymphoma in dogs?

A: Common signs of lymphoma in dogs include swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, loss of appetite, lethargy, increased thirst and urination, vomiting, diarrhea, skin lesions, difficulty breathing, and changes in behavior.

Q: What causes lymphoma in dogs?

A: The exact cause of lymphoma in dogs is not fully understood, but factors such as genetics, exposure to certain environmental toxins, viral infections (such as the canine leukemia virus), and immune system abnormalities are believed to play a role in the development of lymphoma.

Q: What is the survival time for dogs with lymphoma?

A: The survival time for dogs with lymphoma can vary depending on various factors such as the type and stage of lymphoma, the treatment approach, the response to treatment, and the overall health of the dog. With appropriate treatment, some dogs can survive several months to over a year.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, lymph node cancer in dogs is a serious condition that should be taken seriously.

Dogs with lymph node cancer often experience swollen and painful lymph nodes. This can lead to other health complications if left untreated.

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

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