Lymphoma, or lymphosarcoma, is one of the most common cancers in dogs. Retrievers are particularly genetically susceptible to this disease. Lymphoma can strike a dog at any age, but more often attacks the dogs of middle age and older. Male and female dogs have equal risk. In the general dog population, 25% of dogs will get some form of cancer, with lymphoma comprising 20% of all cases. In retrievers, these statistics increase somewhat. Statistics suggest lymphoma in dogs can possibly be avoided.
Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph gland system and lymphocytes of the body. Lymphoma can start anywhere in the dog’s body. Research shows that there is a strong genetic link with lymphoma.
Sadly, most dogs diagnosed with lymphoma, if left untreated, will only live for another 30-60 days after the diagnosis.
Signs and symptoms of lymphoma:
Often the dog with lymphoma will present with swollen lymph glands somewhere. Early warning signs to look for are: weight loss, disinterest in food, vomiting, fever, and depression. In some cases, there will be additional signs of increased thirst and urination, and an erratic pulse.
There is also a blood test that can be performed that is highly accurate in detecting lymphoma. This test needs just 1ml of blood and involves multiple bio-marker technology, which is used for detecting cancers in humans. This blood test has been developed by Pet Screen, and does not involve sedating your pooch. Your local vet should be able to provide you with more information.
The untreated dog with lymphoma has a very short life expectancy, sometimes only 30 days. Luckily, dogs with lymphoma often respond extremely well to chemotherapy. Up to 80% of dogs treated with chemotherapy will go into remission. Average survival times after chemotherapy can be as short as 9-12 months.
Prednisone is a less expensive option for reducing the dog’s symptoms and improving quality of life, but will not extend the dog’s survival rate. Prednisone can also make the cancer more immune to chemotherapy.
In addition, some vets are claiming that dogs who are fed an anti-cancer diet, and natural nutritional supplements can live a good quality life for 2 years after their diagnosis, with and without the chemotherapy. (This may depend on the severity and type of the lymphoma at the time of diagnosis.)
The Golden Retriever Foundation along with Canine Health Foundation have been conducting research into the noted statistics that Golden Retrievers who had been regularly dosed with flea and tick preventions had a dramatically reduced incidence of lymphoma. The theory is that some of the bacterial infections carried by fleas and ticks will trigger lymphoma in genetically susceptible retrievers. The suspected bacteria are Ehrlichia, Bartonella, and possibly Anaplasma.
It would appear that regularly treating your retriever for ticks and fleas may prevent them from developing lymphoma. As retrievers are genetically susceptible to this form of cancer, flea and tick medicines may well be a win-win treatment.