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Lymphoma in Cats and Dogs

dog licking cat with lymphoma

What is Lymphoma?

This condition is a cancer of the white blood cells known as lymphocytes B or T, lymph tissues, lymph nodes (glands), spleen, liver, bone marrow, and thymus. Lymphoma in pets can affect the skin, eyes, central nervous system, gastrointestinal tract, liver, and lungs. Lymphosarcoma is an aggressive cancer of the white blood cells that is more common in middle-aged and older dogs and cats. This condition is more specific than lymphoma.

View of a lymphoma cell

What Causes Lymphoma in Dogs and Cats?

In cats with lymphoma feline leukemia virus (FeLV) may play a role. In dogs, we currently do not know why it develops. A genetic predisposition may exist because certain breeds, such as the golden retriever, boxer, basset hound, Sottish terrier, bulldog, Airedale terrier, and Saint Bernard seem prone to the disease. Environmental factors such as cigarette smoke may increase the risk of lymphoma. Other factors remain under investigation.

Possible causes of lymphoma in dogs and cats

Which are the Clinical Signs?

There are three common forms of lymphoma. The symptoms may be based on its form.

  • Multicentric: Widespread enlargement of the lymph nodes (glands).
  • Mediastinal: It develops in front of the chest and may cause difficulty breathing.
  • Alimentary (gastrointestinal): It can affect any portion of the stomach or intestine. This type of dog and cat lymphoma often causes weight loss, lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. Sometimes it can be confused with Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other gastrointestinal diseases. An abdominal mass may develop that can be felt during a physical examination.

In general, dog lymphoma causes skin lumps, sudden blindness, seizures, back pain, shortness of breath, fever, increased water intake, excessive urination, and abnormal bleeding can also occur.

Basic symptoms of lymphoma in dogs
Diagram of lymph nodes in dogs

What are the Diagnostic Tests?

These are the most common diagnostic tests for pet lymphoma.

  • A complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis
  • Fine-needle aspiration of a lymph node or mass for cytology
  • Biopsy
  • X-rays and ultrasound
  • Bone marrow aspiration
  • Specialized testing to determine the type of lymphoma (T or B cells)
  • Endoscopy, the insertion of a long, thin tube directly into the body to observe an internal organ or tissue in detail
  • FeLV test for cats

What are the Treatment Options for Pet Lymphoma?

It depends on the organs involved, but most dog lymphoma causes a need for chemotherapy with oral and injectable medication. The chemotherapy protocol depends on the type of lymphoma, B or T cells, and the goal is to achieve long term remission with good quality of life. The survival rate is highly variable but the ranges are typically between 9 and 24 months with chemotherapy and 4 to 6 months with oral prednisone.

How Can I Take Care of a Dog or Cat with Lymphoma?

Lymphoma in dogs causes nutrition to be more important than ever before. Adequate nutrition can improve quality of life, and in some cases, may even reverse some of the effects of the cancer. Proper nutrition and support can increase the pet’s ability to tolerate chemotherapy or radiation treatment, and improve overall quality of life. Some ingredients such as omega-3 fatty acids, arginine, and turmeric, may be very beneficial to pets with lymphoma.

Omega-3 fatty acids: Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils that can be beneficial to a pet with cancer. They not only prevent weight loss, but they can also decrease inflammation and may inhibit metastasis as well. NHV PetOmega 3 is an excellent source of EPA and DHA. It is made from sardine, anchovy, and North Atlantic cod liver oil.

Arginine: Arginine can benefit the immune system and may slow tumor growth and metastasis. Turkey and pork are both high-quality sources of arginine, as well as cooked chickpeas.

Turmeric: Turmeric has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It may have an additive or synergistic effect with chemotherapeutic agents. It can increase overall vitality and help to provide support against cancer. NHV Turmeric is an excellent supplement, not only for pets battling cancer, but for pets in all walks of life. Studies have linked the frequent use of turmeric to lower rates of some cancers.