Lymphoma, also called lymphosarcoma, is a type of cancer that arises (often simultaneously) in lymph nodes and in organs that contain lymphiod tissue such as the spleen, liver, and bone marrow. The disease affects middle-aged and older dogs.
Affected dogs appear lethargic, eat poorly, and loose weight. The liver and spleen are often enlarged.
Chest involvement results in pleural effusion and severe shortness of breath. Skin involvement produces itchy patches or nodules on the surface of the skin that mimic other skin diseases. intestinal involvement causes vomiting and diarrhea.
Lymphoma should be suspected when enlarged lymph nodes are found in the groin, armpit, neck, or chest.
A complete blood count may show anemia and immature white blood cells. The serum calcium level is elevated in 20% of dogs with lymphoma. blood and liver function tests are usually abnormal. A bone marrow biopsy is helpful in determining if the disease is widespread.
Chest and abdominal X-rays and ultrasonography are particularly valuable in identifying enlarged lymph nodes, organs, and masses.
A diagnosis can also be made by fine needle aspiration of an enlarged lymph node. In questionable cases, the entire lymph node should be removed for more complete evaluation.
Lymphoma localized to a single lymph node may be cured bu surgical removal of the involved node. However, in most dogs, the disease is widespread and a cure is unlikely. Chemotherapy using several agents offers the best chance of remission, which may last a year or longer. When a dog comes out of remission, chemotherapy "rescue protocols" may be used to induce a second or even a third remission.
Pet Screening, a company out of Great Brittan, offers a genetic screening test for canine lymphoma, based on genetic markers in a blood sample. They suggest periodic screenings to detect lymphomas early on.
Please contact your veterinarian if you have questions regarding this condition.
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