Reason for Hope as We Observe National Canine Lymphoma Awareness Day

Canine Lymphoma Awareness Day graphic

National Canine Lymphoma Awareness Day is observed each year on November 7 to help draw attention to the prevalence of this deadly disease and the advances being made in treating it. Highly regarded dog agility trainer Terry Simons founded an organization called CLEAR (Canine Lymphoma Education Awareness and Research) and National Canine Lymphoma Awareness Day in honor of his dog Reveille, who died from the disease.

Today, the increased awareness of canine lymphoma and ongoing research efforts promoted and supported by these types of organizations and events are leading to a better understanding of the disease and how best to treat it.

 

What is Canine Lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that is common both in dogs and in people. Lymphoma is one of the most common canine cancers, accounting for 7 to 24 percent of all canine tumors and 85 percent of all blood-based tumors. In dogs, lymphoma actually refers to a group of approximately 30 different cancers that originate in the lymphocytes – a type of white blood cell that helps fight infection and is found throughout the body but especially in organs that support the functioning of the immune system such as the spleen, bone marrow, and lymph nodes. Consequently, lymphoma tends to target those areas, although it can affect any organ in the body.

The four main types of lymphoma found in dogs are extranodal lymphoma, mediastinal lymphoma, alimentary lymphoma, and multicentric lymphoma. Multicentric lymphoma is the most common form, at approximately 80 percent of all lymphoma cases. Each type of lymphoma has its own characteristics including how aggressive the disease is and the expected survival rate. Lymphoma typically progresses very rapidly, and the average survival rate for untreated dogs after a diagnosis is only four to six weeks.

 

German shepherd jumping

 

Canine Lymphoma Causes

The cause of canine lymphoma is unknown, and experts believe that there are likely many genetic and environmental factors that play a role. Exposure to chemicals or toxic substances like herbicides is one area that is being explored. Exposure to radiation or electromagnetic fields may be another factor.

Several factors have been identified as predisposing a dog to developing lymphoma. The disease is more common in dogs that are six years of age or older, but can even strike in younger dogs. There appears to be an increased incidence of canine lymphoma in certain breeds including:

  • Golden Retrievers
  • Chow Chows
  • Scottish Terriers
  • Boxers
  • Saint Bernards
  • Poodles
  • Basset Hounds
  • Bull Mastiffs
  • Airedale Terriers
  • English Bulldogs
  • German Shepherds
  • Beagles

A dog’s sex does not seem to be a factor in developing canine lymphoma, although there are reports that spayed females may have a better prognosis. Research into the genetic and chromosomal factors that affect a dog’s likelihood of developing cancer is ongoing.

 

Beagle looking up at camera

 

Canine Lymphoma Symptoms

The symptoms of canine lymphoma vary widely based on the type. With multicentric lymphoma, the first sign of the disease is swelling of the lymph nodes. This swelling tends to be most noticeable to pet owners in the dog’s neck, chest and behind the knees. Often there is no other sign of illness initially. If the cancer is not treated, dogs with canine lymphoma tend to develop fever, lethargy, weakness, dehydration and weight loss as the disease progresses.

Dogs with alimentary lymphoma will typically display vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and weight loss. Those with the mediastinal form of the disease develop lesions in the chest cavity that cause shortness of breath and coughing. They may also have swelling of the front legs or the face and increased thirst resulting in increased urination. The symptoms of extranodal lymphoma are different depending on the organ affected and can include blindness, kidney failure, seizures, bone fracture, and respiratory distress.

 

Diagnosing Canine Lymphoma

Early detection and treatment are both important to ensure a successful outcome. If canine lymphoma is suspected, your veterinarian will ask you about your dog’s health history, including any symptoms you have seen. The more detail you are able to provide, the more effective your veterinarian can be in diagnosing this disease.

Your dog will also undergo a full physical exam as well as lab tests to determine blood cell counts and to look for other biochemical indicators of disease. Fluid from the lymph node is often collected and analyzed to more accurately assess the type of lymphoma. X-rays, ultrasound exams, and other forms of diagnostic imaging may also be performed. Ultimately, your veterinarian will be able to determine whether cancer is present, and if so, what type and which organs or systems are affected.

 

Happy golden retriever getting pets

 

Traditional Treatment for Canine Lymphoma

Although lymphoma is not curable, it is one of the most successfully treated cancers and most dogs will respond to treatment. The traditional treatment for canine lymphoma has been chemotherapy – generic human drugs that have been around for decades and adapted for use in the veterinary setting. The specific therapy used varies based on the type of lymphoma. For example, multicentric lymphoma has historically been treated with a multiple chemotherapy drug regimen known as the University of Madison-Wisconsin protocol (UW-CHOP), whereas cutaneous lymphoma is typically treated with a drug called lomustine.

Dogs tend to respond well to chemotherapy and typically tolerate it better than humans do. Most canine lymphoma patients treated with chemo don’t lose their hair (although there are some breed exceptions), however, the side effects can include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and decreased appetite. Some chemotherapy drugs can also have heart or liver side effects. In some cases, additional canine lymphoma procedures are prescribed, such as surgery and/or radiation therapy.

 

Advanced Treatment for Canine Lymphoma

One of the most promising new advances in the fight against canine cancer is TANOVEA®-CA1 – the first FDA conditionally approved drug for the treatment of lymphoma in dogs. The drug can be used to treat dogs both naïve to and no longer responding to prior chemotherapy, and has demonstrated a 77 percent overall response and a 45 percent complete response rate, supporting a reasonable expectation of efficacy.

TANOVEA-CA1 is designed to target and kill canine lymphoma cells. It is administered every three weeks by a veterinarian in a 30-minute intravenous infusion that is convenient for pet owners – with a full course of treatment consisting of only five treatment visits (relative to 12-16 visits for traditional CHOP chemotherapy regimens). Data from clinical studies shows it to be generally well-tolerated. The most common side effects of TANOVEA-CA1 include decreased white blood cell count, diarrhea, vomiting, decreased or loss of appetite, weight loss, decreased activity level and skin problems. It should be noted that more serious and potentially fatal complications have occurred in dogs treated with TANOVEA-CA1, so it is important to speak with your veterinarian when making a treatment decision.

TANOVEA-CA1 is now available to licensed veterinarians in all 50 states, making it a promising new option for families looking to treat their dog’s lymphoma.

 

Saint bernard with kittens

 

Focused on a Cure for Canine Lymphoma

Today, novel dog cancer treatments — with TANOVEA-CA1 leading the way — have the potential to put canine lymphoma into remission, with the goal of giving pets and their owners more quality time together. However, in the majority of cases, this disease will eventually return. But with the advances that have been made to date and ongoing research, there is hope that one day a cure for lymphoma – and ultimately cancer – will be found. Until then, TANOVEA-CA1 represents an important new option which may help dogs enjoy more walks, games of fetch and being a beloved member of the family.

14 Comments

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  1. My dog has lymphoma -He had 4 treatments of chop-after the 4th he was not in remission -Oncologist changed protocols to
    Tanovea he had 1st treatment yesterday-how long to see results -his Lymph Node is still swollen

    • I’m so sorry to hear that your dog has lymphoma, and that he didn’t respond to prior treatment attempts. I hope that TANOVEA-CA1 helps him.
      Typically, responses to TANOVEA-CA1 are seen fairly quickly following the first administration. Based on data from the clinical studies use to support a reasonable expectation of effectiveness, median time to maximal response was 7 days.


  2. Is there a support group? I’d like to talk to other people going through the same stuff as me. Please post your contact information if you would like to chat. Thanks

    • There are a handful of support groups that I am aware of, all on Facebook. You might look into the following:
      Pet Cancer Support at Facebook
      LymphomaHeartDogs at Facebook
      CanineCancer at Facebook


  3. My boxer just got diagnosed. He’s on prednisone and they say a few weeks at most to live

    • I’m very sorry to hear about your boxer’s diagnosis. Have you consulted with a veterinary oncologist? There might be additional treatment options they could recommend. Because every case is unique, only a veterinarian that has examined your dog can determine a proper course of treatment.

      • My 6 yr old German Shepherd was just diagnosed with lymphoma! I am in shock. My vet wants to start her on prednisone, i am very reluctant to as I have seen what this medication does to a dog.. would appreciate your comments , any experience with this cancer would be helpful..

        • Hello Linda, I’m so sorry to hear about your Shepherd’s recent diagnosis. I’m sure some of the shock comes from having to face it in such a young dog. Lymphoma is known for striking dogs of any age, breed, and sex – it does not discriminate. I would strongly recommend that you seek the advice of a veterinary oncologist or veterinary internist. There are many options for treating lymphoma and you should have all of those options explained to you. I would be happy to help you find a specialist in your area, if you would like to tell me where you live. Also, VetDC is conducting clinical trials in several hospitals around the country, and I could direct you to one of them if you are close to any of the sites. As to prednisone, I completely understand your reservations about giving it. It is a powerful and useful drug, but you are right that it can have some very undesirable side effects. Given your reservations, I would again recommend a specialist who can help you decide an appropriate course. However, please do not discontinue the prednisone without the supervision of a veterinarian as sudden withdrawal of the drug can have negative effects as well.
          Please let me know if I can assist you in any way in finding a specialist, and I wish you and your girl the best of luck in your fight against lymphoma.


  4. My 7-year-old pit bull mix was diagnosed today with lymphoma. This is so scary. They are telling me her liver is affected. I am seeing an oncologist on Tuesday.I will talk to him about Tanovea. I pray she can be well again!

    • Hi April, we are so sorry to hear that, that is some of the scariest news you can get. We are keeping you and your pup in our thoughts and prayers. But yes, definitely visit an oncologist, they will help you determine the best treatment plan for your dog’s particular circumstances. And again, we wish your dog the best of luck in her fight.


  5. My rescued 6 year old breeder boxer was diagnosed with medial lymphoma in Sept 2018. She underwent chop but came out of remission 2 weeks prior to finishing. We are currently into rescue protocol 2 weeks on/ 2 weeks off. Vincristine, Mustagen & Procarbazine. She is doing fairly well but noticing this round of treatment is causing some loss of appetite &lethargy. She licks a lot hoping she is not in pain. Very interested in this new treatment option. She is getting wonderful care from oncology folks at Cornell Animal hospital in Ithaca, Ny.

    • Hello Kimberly – Thank you for your inquiry on the VetDC website. I’m very sorry to hear that your boxer has lymphoma. TANOVEA-CA1 may be an option for treatment, and the folks at Cornell would be the best people to ask about it since they are familiar with your dog’s medical history. They do use TANOVEA-CA1 in some cases, so they are familiar with it. The best thing you can do is contact your oncologist there and ask about TANOVEA-CA1. I wish you and your dog the best of luck moving forward with her treatment.


  6. We lost our 8 year old male boxer a year ago to Lymphosarcoma. We had no clue he was ill until he walked into the kitchen and went totally blind. Took him to the ER immediately. He passed away 6 weeks later.

    • We’re very sorry to hear that Jackie, that is heartbreaking. We send our condolences to you and your family, and may your buddy rest in peace.