Lymphoma is one of the most common types of cancers found in cats and dogs. Also known as lymphosarcoma, this disease typically originates in an animal’s lymphoid tissues, which are found in the lymph nodes, the bone marrow, and the spleen. However, the cancer can present in many tissues throughout the body.

The exact cause of lymphoma in many animals is unknown. However, the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) has been linked to lymphoma in some feline patients. Environmental factors such as certain pesticides, chemicals, and an industrialized urban residence may increase an animal’s chance of developing this cancer. Regardless of the cause, getting your pet to your veterinarian at the first sign of health problems and getting proper treatment are crucial to ensure the most positive outcome possible.

Lymphoma and Canines 

Lymphoma can develop in dogs of any age, but it is most common in middle-aged to older canines with both genders at equal risk. Some breeds are at higher risk, including Rottweilers, Airedales, Bulldogs, Scottish Terriers, Golden Retrievers, Boxers, Bullmastiffs, Basset Hounds, and Saint Bernards.

In most cases, lymphoma in dogs can be identified by swelling in the animal’s lymph nodes, which are located under the neck, behind the knee, and in front of the shoulders. Besides swelling in these areas, the most common signs and symptoms of lymphoma in canines include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, increased thirst, loss of appetite, depression, weight loss, and increased frequency of urination. These can also be indicative of other conditions, so it is important to consult your veterinarian to determine the cause of these symptoms.

Lymphoma and Felines

Cats with the Feline Leukemia Virus or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) are at greater risk of developing lymphoma than their non-infected counterparts. However, lymphoma can develop in any age or breed of cat—even if they have neither of these predisposing conditions.

Cats can develop lymphoma in several areas, including the lymph nodes, digestive tract, kidneys, and the lungs. Each location can produce different signs and symptoms. Cats that develop lymphoma in the lungs tend to present with symptoms such as cough, difficulty breathing, or loss of appetite. Cats with lymphoma in the kidneys may develop weakness, vomiting, or increased urination/thirst. Many of these symptoms are very non-specific so examination and blood work from your veterinarian are crucial for diagnosis.

What to Do if You Detect Symptoms of Lymphoma in Your Pet

The most common indicators of lymphoma are swelling of the lymph nodes, lethargy, and vomiting. If you notice any of these three signs in your pet, you should take the animal to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Inform the vet of any symptoms you have identified and how long your pet has presented this way. This will help them determine where the problem may be located, so they can make a more accurate diagnosis.

In most cases, the veterinarian will perform a complete blood count test, a biochemistry profile, and a urinalysis to confirm or rule out lymphoma.

How Is Lymphoma Treated?

There is no known cure for lymphoma in animals, although it can be managed with varying degrees of success depending on the type and progression of the cancer. Chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery are possible options for treatment. However, the veterinarian will determine which treatment will provide the best outcome.

Current treatment protocols for canine lymphoma may include a 25-week schedule featuring intravenous administration of a variety of chemotherapy drugs, including doxorubicin, vincristine, cyclophosphamide, and L-asparaginase. Prednisone and/or cyclophosphamide may also be administered orally. Felines with lymphoma may be treated with the same drugs, albeit at lower doses.

Diamondback Drugs offers these and other medications for managing lymphoma in cats and dogs in a variety of pet-friendly formulations.

How to Prevent Lymphoma in Your Pet

Due to multiple risk factors and unknown causes associated with lymphoma in pets, the most important way to prevent the condition is to keep your pet as healthy as possible. This involves:

  • Seeing a veterinarian regularly (at least twice a year or more if you have a breed that is genetically predisposed to lymphoma)
  • Limiting your pet’s exposure to toxic chemicals (antifreeze, pesticides, herbicides, paints and solvents, etc.)
  • Feeding your pet a healthy diet
  • Providing your pet with plenty of fresh, clean water
  • Playing with your pet daily to ensure they get enough exercise and maintain a healthy weight
  • Administering veterinarian-prescribed medications exactly as instructed
  • Keeping your cat indoors and away from other cats infected with FeLV or FIV

Author: Giano Panzarella