This national holiday was submitted by Terry Simons, a well-respected and popular dog agility trainer and competitor who lost his furry best friend, Reveille, to lymphoma in 2011.
Simons felt the need to educate himself about the disease and wanted to help others who may be going through the same thing. He created CLEAR (Canine Lymphoma Education Awareness and Research), a 501(C)3 non-profit dedicated to increasing the awareness and understanding of canine lymphoma through clinical research, as well as arming dog owners with the knowledge of prevention and treatment of this devastating disease.
What Is Canine Lymphoma?
Canine Lymphoma is a malignant disease of the various lymphatic tissues. The disease can affect many areas of the body including the liver, the spleen, and the bone marrow, however there are over 30 different types of Canine Lymphoma.
According to the National Canine Cancer Foundation, Boxers, Bull Mastiffs, Basset Hounds, Saint Bernards, Scottish Terriers, Airedales and Bull Dogs are more prone to this disease. That being said, lymphoma can still affect any dog of any breed.
Lymphoma is generally seen in aging dogs from middle aged to older. As a dog ages, his or her cellular repair slows down, resulting in the cancer becoming more prevalent and taking over the body. Unfortunately there is not much that we can do to prevent dogs from getting lymphoma, however we can protect dogs from known predispositions or causes of cancer such as secondhand smoke and specific chemicals.
Signs and Symptoms
Common symptoms of this disease include enlarged lymph nodes, lethargy, loss of appetite, weakness, and weight loss. A lymph node affected by lymphoma may feel like a hard, rubbery lump under a dog’s skin. Edema or swelling of the face or legs may occur, and occasionally a dog may experience increased thirst and urination.
Another form of the disease is gastrointestinal lymphoma. Dogs with this type of lymphoma often display symptoms such as vomiting, dark, watery diarrhea, and weight loss.
Cutaneous lymphoma affects the skin. You will notice a dog with this disease will begin to have dry, flaky, red, and itchy patches of skin anywhere on the body. As the disease progresses, the skin will become moist, thick, and have ulcers.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The best way to diagnose lymphoma in a dog is to perform a biopsy. This involves a minor surgical procedure to remove a piece of lymph node or organ that has been affected by the cancer. If a dog does in fact have lymphoma, chemotherapy is the most effective treatment method. Occasionally, a veterinarian may recommend surgery or radiation in some cases. Although some dogs may get sick from chemotherapy, most actually tolerate the therapy much better than humans do. Unfortunately, most dogs with lymphoma will experience a relapse of the cancer and the cancer cells become more resistant to the chemotherapy. Eventually, complete resistance is achieved and the cancer can no longer be treated with chemotherapy.
The life expectancy for a dog with lymphoma may depend on several factors including:
- The stage of the cancer
- How early the cancer was detected
- Treatment administered
- Response to treatment
Canine Lymphoma Vs. Human Lymphoma
Canine lymphoma and human non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are surprisingly very similar. When looking under a microscope, the two diseases are almost indistinguishable, which may help scientists of human medicine. The research of Canine Lymphoma has contributed to the research of the human form, and the continuous research of the two forms will hopefully lead to a cure in the future for both.
3 Ways To Observe This Awareness Day
One of the best ways to observe this holiday is to educate yourself and others. Learn more about the disease and what signs to look for in your own dog. Spread the information to your friends, family, and fellow dog lovers.
A second way to observe this holiday is to bring your dog to the vet for a wellness check-up. While there is not a solid preventative method for this disease, taking your pup to the vet is a great way to make sure that he or she is healthy, up-to-date on vaccines, and your vet can catch potential abnormalities early. Catching abnormalities early is important with any condition, as it can increase the chances of curing your pet and managing the symptoms before they become too severe.
Looking for another great way to participate? Adopt or foster an animal who may be sick or who needs a warm, comfortable home to recover in. There are many animals that require an alternative living space from an animal shelter, and your home could be their perfect sanctuary! Help those who may be older, sick, or overlooked, and give them a comfortable place to rest their heads.
I recently lost a German Shepherd to cutaneous lymphoma. She had a raw red spot for about a year before she died. The first vet gave a ridiculous diagnosis of flea bite allergy. I didn’t go back there. For about 6 months she had a spongy tumor on her back and drank lots more water. When she started getting tired and had other raw red spots I took her to a different vet, who misdiagnosed. By the time the 2 weeks of prednisone and anti-biotics had finished, she had gone so far downhill she couldn’t even stand. If I had known it was cancer, I would have ended her suffering sooner, maybe saving her a week of pain. If your dog gets it, go ahead and spoil her. Give her steak and chocolate. There is no cure for cancer.