Your dog is a beloved member of the family, and when he gets sick, it’s very difficult. One of the most difficult diagnoses that pet parents have to deal with is lymphoma.
When you first hear the news that your dog has a form of cancer, you probably are in shock and not able to take in the news. This is normal. However, as the pet parent, it’s imperative to get your own feelings under control so you can make the best decisions for your dog.
By best decisions, we mean asking the vet about the best treatments, expected outcome of treatments, and more.
In this article, we’ll take a look at lymphoma and how to know when it’s time to put your dog down. Let’s get started.
What is Canine Lymphoma?
Canine lymphoma is a type of cancer, which is very similar to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in humans. Lymphoma is a type of cancer of the blood that affects the lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are white blood cells that the immune system uses to fight off infections.
Lymphocytes are found in special organs called lymph nodes, the spleen, and the bone marrow. Lymphoma can affect any part of the body; however, it’s most often found in these areas.
Types of Canine Lymphoma
There are over 30 different types of canine lymphoma known. Each one is different, with different symptoms, survival rates, rates of aggression, and more. However, there are four main types of lymphoma that most often affects dogs, including:
Multicentric lymphoma: is the most common type of lymphoma in dogs. It affects the lymph nodes and is usually found when lymph nodes have become enlarged.
Alimentary lymphoma: is the second most common lymphoma in dogs. This type of lymphoma affects the intestines, which is where most of the symptoms are located.
Mediastinal lymphoma: is rarer in dogs and usually affects the thymus and the mediastinal lymph nodes found in the chest. These lymph nodes become enlarged; this form of lymphoma is caused by high-grade malignant T lymphocytes.
Extranodal lymphoma: this is a type of lymphoma that can affect the skin, eyes, kidneys, lungs, or the central nervous system. The most common symptoms involve the skin.
What Causes Lymphoma in Dogs?
Researchers are not sure about what precisely causes lymphoma in dogs. There may be genetic causes and predispositions, but we just don’t know for sure.
Even so, scientists are certain that many of the same environmental causes of cancer in humans may cause cancer in dogs. These can include harmful chemicals (such as pesticides), exposure to magnetic fields, and more.
But we really aren’t sure what causes this type of cancer in dogs.
Symptoms of Lymphoma in Dogs
Lymphoma symptoms in dogs vary depending on the type of lymphoma:
Multicentric lymphoma: the first symptom is usually a swollen lymph node, which may swell 3x or more than its normal size. The nodes are not painful, but dogs may develop fever, lack of appetite, weakness, and become dehydrated.
Alimentary lymphoma: the symptoms involve the intestines and may include vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, lack of appetite, and weight loss.
Mediastinal lymphoma: the most common symptom is breathing difficulty. This is because of a mass in the chest or the accumulation of fluid in the chest. The dog’s face or front legs may swell, and the dog may be very thirsty and urinate more often.
Extranodal lymphoma: this depends on the organ that’s affected by the lymphoma. Symptoms may include raised areas on the skin, in the mouth, and more. If it affects the lungs, then the dog will have difficulty breathing, and so on.
Diagnosis is most often made by fine-needle aspiration. This method extracts a sample of tissue, which is then examined for signs of cancer.
Treatment usually involves chemotherapy. The type of chemotherapy will depend on the type of lymphoma the vet has found. The good news is that chemo for dogs usually doesn’t make them, like humans who have chemo. They may have vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, and not be as active.
The prognosis for canine lymphoma varies depending on the diagnosis, the stage of cancer, and more. It is possible for a dog to go into remission; however, this doesn’t mean a complete cure. It only means the cancer is not active but may still be in the body.
It is possible for a dog to live with lymphoma, and there are methods you and your vet can use to keep your dog comfortable. However, there eventually comes when a moment when it’s time to say goodbye.
When to Euthanize Your Dog
Saying goodbye is not easy. Our pets are a major part of our lives, and we want to keep them with us as long as possible. However, as a pet parent who loves their canine companion, it’s important to think of your dog before yourself. What’s best for your dog?
You may notice these signs that your dog isn’t doing well:
- Rapid weight loss
- No interest in food at all
- Chronic vomiting and diarrhea
- Limping or lameness
- Changes in breathing/difficulty breathing
- Difficulty moving
- Majorly slowing down
When a dog gets to this point, he’s no longer able to enjoy life. He may be suffering, too, in spite of all you and the vet try to do for him.
It’s at this time you may need to make the difficult decision to let your dog go. This may be the time to euthanize your dog. The goal is to keep your fur baby from suffering unnecessarily.
There’s no harder decision to have a dog put down; however, this is the last act of love and care you can give your dog. By not letting him suffer any longer, you are putting his wellbeing before your own feelings. This is what it means to be a truly loving pet parent.
Summing It Up
If you have questions about putting your dog down, then be sure to contact your vet. They will be able to answer all of your questions and address any concerns you may have. It’s even possible the vet may offer to come to your home when it’s time to say goodbye to your dog. Euthanizing your dog at home, in his normal environment, is usually more comfortable for him. Then you and your family have a chance to be with him until the end, too.
Saying goodbye is never easy. But if your dog is suffering, then letting him go is the final way to show your love and care for your canine companion.