Article By: Izzy Stout, RVT
November is National Pet Cancer Awareness Month. IndyVet is proud to have an in-house Oncology Department who works with clients and pets with cancer every single day. One of the most common types of cancer that our Oncology Department sees is called Lymphoma. We have everything you need to know about Pet Lymphoma.
What is Lymphoma?
Lymphoma is a cancer of the white blood cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are an important part of the body’s immune system and protect the body from infection. Lymphoma is a systemic cancer, meaning it can affect any organ of the body, but most commonly will affect organs that function as a part of the immune system, for example, lymph nodes, spleen and bone marrow. The most common type of lymphoma in dogs is called multicentric lymphoma. This type of lymphoma is usually noted first in the lymph nodes, causing the lymph nodes to become enlarged.
credit: Purdue University
credit: Ask Ariel
How is Pet Lymphoma Diagnosed?
Lymphoma is typically diagnosed by a fine needle aspirate (FNA) cytology of the affected lymph node or organ and then sent to a pathologist. These procedures are non-invasive and your pet can stay awake for this procedure. Most will use a needle no larger than a needle used in vaccines and will evaluate the contents of the sample under a microscope. Once we have a diagnosis of lymphoma, we recommend doing further diagnostic testing to determine if any other organs are involved and what subtype of lymphoma your pet has to determine the best treatment plan available. These diagnostics may include bloodwork, urinalysis, thoracic radiographs, and abdominal ultrasound.
What Kind of Treatments are Available for Pet Lymphoma?
Chemotherapy is the most effective treatment for lymphoma. There are multiple different chemotherapy protocols that can be used in the treatment of lymphoma. The most common chemotherapy treatment is the CHOP protocol, which is used in human medicine as well. This is considered the “gold standard” in treatment of lymphoma. This protocol consists of a variety of chemotherapy drugs given once a week for about 20-25 weeks. Chemotherapy treatments in pets are tolerated very well. Though there can still be side effects, they are generally not as severe as reported in humans. The most common side effects include, vomiting, anorexia, diarrhea, and lethargy. Supportive medications are often sent home with you to aid in the treatment of these side effects. Overall less than 20% of patients will experience side effects with less than 1% being severe.
The goal of treatment is to maintain a good quality of life in our patients. Lymphoma is not a curable disease, but it is treatable. We can achieve remission in most patients, but ultimately lymphoma will relapse. Remission, by definition, means a decrease of disappearance of cancer signs and symptoms. When a patient relapses, this means the return of signs or symptoms after a period of improvement. In these cases, we can often treat again either with the same protocol or a different drug, but it is common to get an even shorter remission time each time a patient is treated.
As a part of IndyVet Oncology, our top priority is the comfort of you and your pet. We understand that this is a very difficult and emotional time. We will take you step by step through your pet’s diagnosis and treatment options and will always keep your pet’s quality of life our priority.
Vail, David M. Withrow and MacEwen’s Small Animal Clinical Oncology. Elsevier, 2020.