Lymphoma in dogs

Lymphoma is a cancer of the immune system that can affect the lymph nodes, gastrointestinal tract, chest, skin and multiple organs. Up to 85% of dogs with lymphoma have the “multicentric” form, which originates in lymph nodes and spreads to other organs. 

The majority of lymphoma cases in dogs are similar to intermediate or high-grade non-Hodgkins lymphoma in humans. Early lymphoma signs in dogs can mimic infectious or immune-mediated diseases. 

What are common lymphoma signs in dogs?

Early signs include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Depression

Intermediate to advanced signs include: 

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Swollen face or leg
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Coughing or shortness of breath

Depression is a sign of lymphoma in dogs.

How is lymphoma managed in dogs?  

Lymphoma management is not curative, but designed to improve your dog’s quality and length of life. Chemotherapy is the most effective treatment for multicentric canine lymphoma. Less than 5% of dogs experience serious side effects. 

Dogs undergoing chemotherapy need regular veterinary visits and diagnostic tests to monitor their status and prognosis. If chemotherapy is not an option, steroids can temporarily reduce clinical signs. Discussing a personalised management plan with your veterinarian and a veterinary oncologist is important for the best outcome for your dog.

What is the prognosis for dogs with lymphoma?

Dogs with untreated lymphoma, or those on steroids for palliative care, have a life expectancy of approximately two months. With chemotherapy, the median survival time is eight months to one year, but some dogs can survive two years or more. Unfortunately, most dogs in remission from lymphoma eventually relapse into a more drug-resistant form.

Management tips for dogs with lymphoma

At-home needs include:

  • Easy access to food and water, and a comfortable location
  • Consistency with medications
  • Modified surfaces to increase traction
  • Ramps and safety gates 
  • Close monitoring of breathing, appetite, urination and bowel movements
  • Watching for signs of worsening disease or relapse

For end-of-life care:

In a crisis:

Immediately contact your vet if your dog has difficulty swallowing or breathing, has uncontrollable vomiting or diarrhoea, collapses, or vocalises in pain.

It is vital to begin end-of-life care discussions before your dog‘s condition becomes unmanageable or they begin losing their quality of life. 

The team at Goodbye Good Boy offers individualised support to help you and your family navigate this progressive disease by providing quality-of-life checks, in-home euthanasia, cremation and aftercare services and personalised memorialisation options. Our services can even be pre-paid to help ease the financial burden at the time of your pet’s passing. 

To learn more about our pet end-of-life services, give us a call on 1800 953 619 or visit our website

This article was reproduced with permission from Goodbye Good Boy advisor Dr Dani McVety, of Lap Of Love.