Dog Lymphoma When To Euthanize
Lymphoma is a devastating diagnosis for the canine companions in our life.
Not only is it life-altering for our pups, but we typically know our dogs will have limited time from the moment their disease is discovered.
Understanding your dog’s lymphoma diagnosis is not only essential for offering them comfort as they maneuver treatment, but also knowing when it could be time to say goodbye.
To help you better understand when it may be time to discuss quality of life with your vet, let’s discuss the details below.
What Is Lymphoma In Dogs?
Lymphoma in dogs refers to a cancer that impacts the canine lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system in dogs is made up of the lymph nodes, lymphatic vessels, the spleen, and the tonsils, each of which play an important role in multiple body processes.
Each of these parts participate in everything from the movement of fluids throughout the body to immune responses, proving just how easy it is for this cancer to spread everywhere.
Unfortunately for our canine companions, lymphoma in dogs is quite common.
Lymphoma makes up about 15-20% of cancer diagnoses in dogs (Verified Source), and is most often found in dogs 6 and older.
Some breeds appear to be more at risk of developing the disease, but any canine friend can fall victim to lymphoma.
Some of the dogs that appear to be predisposed to canine lymphoma include:
- Golden Retrievers
- Labrador Retrievers
- Basset Hounds
- Saint Bernards
What Causes Lymphoma In Dogs?
There is no concrete cause of lymphoma in dogs.
Lymphoma in cats has often been linked to feline leukemia, but there is not yet a virus that is believed to be responsible for this cancer in our canine companions.
There is some belief with this cancer being linked to environmental factors and even genetic dispositions, but this evidence is not yet concrete.
If your dog has been diagnosed with lymphoma, you will likely be unaware of the exact cause, thus there is nothing you could have done to prevent it.
Are There Different Types Of Lymphoma In Dogs?
There are over 30 possible forms of lymphoma that can develop in dogs, but only four are commonly seen.
Though each cancer we will list below involves the canine lymphatic system, they can vary in terms of severity and treatment success.
The four common types of lymphoma in dogs include:
This is the most common form of lymphoma seen in our canine friends, with about 80-85% of cases involving this form of cancer.
This type of lymphoma invades the lymph nodes in dogs, and it can spread to lymph nodes through the entire body.
This form of lymphoma impacts the gastrointestinal tract and the lymph nodes in this region.
This is the second most common form of lymphoma seen in dogs.
This form of lymphoma impacts the lymph nodes or thymus in the chest.
This is not as common in dogs, but it is still seen in some furry friends.
This form of lymphoma is rare in dogs, but it impacts the organs outside of the lymphatic system.
This can include the skin, the eyes, the kidneys, and even the lungs.
Due to the fact that each form of lymphoma can impact different areas, this means that each form will lead to its own specific symptoms.
This also means the disease will vary in severity from dog to dog, so some of the information we discuss could range a bit.
The Signs & Symptoms Of Lymphoma In Dogs
Due to the fact that lymphoma can spread throughout the canine body, this means that symptoms of the disease can vary greatly based on the part of the body affected.
The signs will also vary based on the form of lymphoma a dog has, so let’s discuss a list of symptoms that you can see across the board.
- Swollen lymph nodes in areas such as the neck, groin, behind the knees, under the jaw, and in the armpits
- Decreased appetite or anorexia
- Weight loss
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Changes in breathing
If you ever notice any of the above symptoms in your canine companion, we suggest having your dog seen by a veterinarian.
These symptoms are not always a result of canine lymphoma, but they can point to other underlying illnesses as well.
No matter what, the above symptoms should always warrant a vet visit.
Stages Of Lymphoma In Dogs
Just like any form of cancer in humans, canine lymphoma can be diagnosed in stages based on severity.
The stages are ranked from stage 1 to 5, with stage 5 being the most advanced form of the disease.
To help you better understand what the staging of your dog’s lymphoma means, let’s discuss each stage below.
Stage 1: Only a single lymph node is affected
Stage 2: Involves lymph nodes in one portion of the body (the rear of the body, one side of the chest, only the neck, etc.)
Stage 3: Involves lymph nodes throughout the body
Stage 4: Involves the liver or the spleen
Stage 5: Involves areas such as the nervous system, bone marrow, and other outside locations
Most cases of lymphoma are diagnosed by performing an FNA on a swollen lymph node, but your vet can surgically remove a portion of the lymph node and send it to a lab for biopsy.
Can You Treat Lymphoma In Dogs?
The most effective treatment option for lymphoma in dogs is chemotherapy.
While some localized cases of lymphoma can be treated with radiation or surgical removal, the high metastatic rate makes effective treatment unlikely.
While chemotherapy for our dogs can sound intense, they actually respond to it much better than humans.
They may experience occasional nausea and vomiting, but most dogs won’t even experience this.
If dog owners are unable to pursue chemotherapy for their dog for whatever reason, steroids can be offered as a palliative option.
This will not treat the dog’s lymphoma, but it will help in decreasing their symptoms during the time they have left.
No matter the treatment option you offer your canine friend with lymphoma, they will eventually succumb to their illness.
Chemotherapy can only offer them remission for so long, so it’s important to be aware that their cancer will eventually come back.
Is Lymphoma Fatal In Dogs?
Unfortunately, lymphoma is a fatal disease in dogs.
Treatment can help in offering your dog more time, but they will eventually succumb to their cancer.
Lymphoma has a high likelihood of spreading throughout their body, so even chemotherapy will not be able to ultimately save most dogs.
Every form of lymphoma will offer dogs a different prognosis and survival time, but it is almost always a fatal condition.
How Long Can A Dog Live With Lymphoma
If your dog has just been diagnosed with canine lymphoma, you are likely wondering how much time you have left with your furry friend.
Though the standard life expectancy will vary based on the form of lymphoma and how advanced their cancer was when diagnosed, there is a general survival time to be aware of.
If a dog does receive the recommended treatment for their form of lymphoma, most dogs can survive anywhere from 8-12 months.
However, if they do not receive chemotherapy and are offered steroids alone, most of these dogs will only survive for 4-6 weeks.
Again, every case will vary, so we always suggest asking your veterinarian about your dog’s specific prognosis.
Is My Dog With Lymphoma Suffering?
Anytime a dog is diagnosed with cancer of any form, it’s important for the owners to be aware of the signs of a dog suffering from their illness.
Our dogs can’t verbalize the pain they are experiencing, so it’s up to us to examine their behaviors and speak up for them.
We never want our pups to suffer unnecessarily, so let’s discuss some of the common signs of a dog in the late stage of lymphoma.
Some of the summon signs of a dog suffering in the final stages of lymphoma include:
- Significant weight loss
- No longer eating
- Daily lethargy or weakness
- Frequent vomiting
- Frequent diarrhea
- Frequent coughing or respiratory changes
- Disinterest in things they once enjoyed
If your dog is experiencing any of the above symptoms, it may be time to have a serious discussion with your vet.
They may even offer you other options to extend your dog’s life and offer them comfort, but this will vary based on how advanced their illness is.
No matter what, these symptoms listed above warrant a quality of life discussion.
When To Euthanize A Dog With Lymphoma
Nobody knows your canine companion better than you do.
If at any point you think your dog with lymphoma is no longer enjoying their life, it may be time to end their pain and say goodbye.
Lymphoma will eventually become severe enough to cause death, so most owners will need to make this difficult decision at some point before they start to suffer.
If your dog is experiencing the symptoms of suffering that we mentioned above, we always suggest speaking with your vet about the possibility of letting your pup go.
You and your veterinarian can determine the best option for your dog together, and you can be involved in each step of their journey until the end.
If both you and your vet agree that it is time to say goodbye, you can feel confident in the fact that you did everything possible to care for your beloved companion.
Lymphoma can lead to immense suffering for a dog, so euthanasia can be the purest form of love in these situations.
Final Thoughts On When To Put Down Your Dog With Lymphoma
If your dog has been recently diagnosed with canine lymphoma, we hope you can establish the best treatment option for your pup going forward.
By being aware of the signs of a dog suffering in their condition, you can make the best decision possible when it is time to say goodbye.
Whether you have 12 months or 6 weeks left with your dog, make sure you make them feel loved and happy.
My name is Amber. I am a dedicated animal lover that turned my passion into my career. I am a Licensed Vet Tech with 12 years of experience in veterinary medicine, but I recently took my career online to help spread accurate information on animal care. With how vast the online world is, I have a strong desire to ensure that the reader always walks away with helpful pet advice. With the experience I’ve gained from my time in this field, I have been able to travel the world, offering my services to as many animal rescues as I can find. If I am not at my laptop, or back home visiting family, you can find me somewhere in the world, cuddling every furry friend that I can find! More About Us