Dogs with lymphoma can be scared, discouraged, and in pain. Making the dog comfortable requires a combination of treatment and understanding of how to make a dog with lymphoma comfortable.
How to make my dog with lymphoma comfortable
There are a few options to help make your dog more comfortable:
1. Oral medications
Some dogs with lymphoma respond favorably to steroids. However, these drugs can have significant side effects, so they are usually reserved for those dogs that don’t respond well to chemotherapy or who have a disease that requires rapid control.
2. Subcutaneous fluids
If your dog has a swollen abdomen due to an accumulation of fluid, you can give subcutaneous fluids at home. These fluids are usually given once or twice daily and will help reduce abdominal swelling. This is also helpful if your dog is not drinking well and needs extra water. It is important to keep in mind that this does not provide nutrition and does not relieve vomiting.
3. Nutritional support
For dogs with a decreased appetite, there are several options for nutritional support. Some dogs will do well with canned food only, but others may do better on a high-calorie diet or a specially formulated veterinary prescription diet designed for cancer patients. In cases where the pet is unable to eat at all, there are several options for feeding tubes or parenteral nutrition (i.e., IV nutrition).
4. Uncluttered space
The lymphoma could affect your dog’s vision. You may notice that your dog is bumping into things. If your dog has lymphoma and is losing his vision, you can help him by keeping his living area simple and uncluttered.
5. Clean air
The lymphoma could cause your dog to have trouble breathing. Keep the air in his living space clean and fresh; a fan or air purifier may help.
6. Absorbent pads or blankets
Dogs with lymphoma sometimes become incontinent and unable to control their bodily functions. If this happens, clean up accidents as soon as they happen. Place absorbent pads or blankets on your dog’s bedding or favorite resting places. Be prepared for this problem but do not focus on it; it does not mean that your dog is suffering more than another cancer patient, just that he needs extra care from you.
7. Stress-free environment
It’s important to keep them in a stress-free environment so they don’t experience further discomfort from anxiety or depression. They’ll need plenty of sleep, which means keeping them away from loud noises—so turn off the television or music whenever possible. Try to keep the room quiet and ensure that only you or someone else they know is there with them during their treatment.
Is lymphoma painful for dogs?
A dog with lymphoma usually has swollen lymph nodes. The lymph nodes are situated in various areas around the body of a healthy dog, but they are most commonly found in the chest, abdomen and neck.
When the dog’s lymphatic system becomes infected with cancerous cells, the lymph nodes become inflamed and enlarged, which can be uncomfortable for your pet. This enlargement is often referred to as lymphadenomegaly or lymphadenopathy and is noticeable when you pet your dog. Lymphoma is generally accompanied by symptoms such as:
- Loss of appetite (anorexia)
- Weight loss (sarcopenia)
- Panting/difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
What can I give my dog with lymphoma for the pain?
There are some medications available that may help ease his pain and provide him with greater comfort during his illness. Some common medications for dogs with lymphoma are steroids such as prednisone or prednisolone and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
In addition to pain medication, you can also use a hot water bottle or electric heating pad on the lowest setting—putting this on the part of their body where they’re experiencing pain can help them feel better.
Some dogs also find comfort in being wrapped in a warm blanket. If this makes them feel good, you can use a blanket or towel and wrap them snugly with their head sticking out. You can even put a little heat under the blanket if they like, but don’t make it too hot—dogs don’t sweat as people do, so using too much heat will only make them hotter and more uncomfortable.
It’s impossible to deny the pain a dog with lymphoma endures. There are, however, some ways to make your dog comfortable and feel better.
- visit the vet regularly and make sure they are on the right medications
- make sure they are eating well
- set up a warm, safe place for them to rest
- keep them away from other animals to prevent infections
How will my dog feel during chemotherapy?
Numerous medications can be used to manage cancer and its side effects, as well as reduce overall pain. Chemotherapy is given at a dose that targets the tumor cells while minimizing side effects. The most common chemotherapy drugs used for lymphoma in dogs are cyclophosphamide, vincristine, doxorubicin, prednisone and chlorambucil.
If your dog has any side effects from chemotherapy, they are usually mild and short-lived. The most common side effect seen is low white blood cell counts that can affect the immune system. This can make your dog more susceptible to infection, but it’s something that can be monitored at home by doing simple bloodwork at your veterinarian’s office.
Some dogs will experience vomiting or diarrhea, but these usually only occur after the first couple of treatments and are easily controlled with medications from your veterinarian.
How do you know it’s time to euthanize a dog with lymphoma?
There is no easy answer. Each dog will react differently to the disease, and each owner will have different expectations. Without proper treatment, dogs usually succumb within a few months. Even with aggressive chemotherapy, the median survival time is about one year.
When you first get news of your dog’s lymphoma diagnosis, take some time to absorb the information. Your vet will be able to give you an idea of what to expect over the next few days and weeks; this will give you some idea of how much time you have. Take advantage of this time to get as much information as you can from your vet, from other owners, and from other sources like books or internet message boards.
Some dogs can be cured and many others will survive for months or years with treatment. Treatment usually consists of chemotherapy and palliative care. Some dogs may receive surgery to remove tumors and/or radiation therapy, but this is less common.
Treatment is appropriate when the benefits of getting rid of the lymphoma cells clearly outweigh the risks and side effects associated with chemotherapy. The side effects of chemotherapy vary depending on the drugs used, but most often include nausea, vomiting, anorexia, lethargy and decreased white blood cell counts. Some dogs may only experience one or two side effects while others may experience them all.
The goal of palliative care is to make your dog as comfortable as possible during his final days or weeks. If your dog is not in any pain, there’s no need to euthanize him just because he has lymphoma. Some dogs live for a year or more with lymphoma.
As your dog’s disease progresses, you may start to notice some changes in his appearance and behavior. He may show signs of pain, such as crying out when touched or carried. He might stop eating or drinking. He may lose weight and become dehydrated. You may see open skin sores or infections that won’t heal, which is often caused by the high white cell count associated with lymphoma. He might vomit frequently or have diarrhea or loss of bladder or bowel control. His gums might turn pale, and he may have trouble breathing. These are all signs that he’s becoming more uncomfortable and his body is starting to fail him.
Generally, when there’s a point where it would cause more harm than good to treat your dog, it’s time to consider euthanasia. Talk with your veterinarian about what signs and symptoms you should be on the lookout for in order to know when your dog needs to be put down.
What are the symptoms of end-stage lymphoma in dogs?
As lymphoma progresses and becomes more advanced, your dog may exhibit a variety of symptoms including enlarged lymph nodes, lethargy, vomiting, weight loss, and anemia. These are all signs that the disease is affecting your dog’s other organs. The condition can cause kidney failure, seizures or paralysis. Your veterinarian will attempt to provide supportive care and treat symptoms as they arise.
Dogs that are in the end stage of lymphoma will have symptoms that are more pronounced than they were at the beginning stages of the disease. They’re also likely to have new symptoms as well. In addition to having trouble breathing and eating and feeling tired all the time, they’ll also appear to be in pain. They may not move around much because it hurts too much to walk or play around. They may have trouble sitting or lying down comfortably. They may develop anemia, which means they’ll look very pale if you look inside their mouth or at their gums. They may also have trouble controlling their bladder, so you might find wet spots around your house that weren’t there before. Their body temperature might also drop below normal—dogs with lymphoma sometimes feel very cold.
Conclusion of making dogs with lymphoma comfortable
While we can’t cure lymphoma, we can make a big difference in how long and how well our dogs live with this disease. We know that the right combination of chemotherapy drugs, treatment length, and other therapies can extend survival time in dogs with lymphoma while maintaining a good quality of life. In addition to these treatments, we are also learning how to help our dogs feel better. This might involve some simple changes at home or by using drugs to control pain and nausea.
The main goal of chemotherapy is to slow down the progression of the disease and help your dog live a longer, more comfortable life. Unfortunately, chemotherapy can not cure lymphoma, but it can definitely extend your dog’s life by slowing down the progression of the disease. The other goals of chemotherapy are to control pain and to help your dog feel more comfortable. It’s important to know that the side effects of chemotherapy are treatable. If you notice any side effects, it’s important to tell your veterinarian immediately so that treatment can be started right away. The most common side effect is nausea, which can be treated with anti-nausea medications.
It is our hope that armed with the information and tips provided in this guide, you will be able to make your dog’s journey through the disease and its treatment more comfortable. We know that, even with careful management, there will be times when your dog seems uncomfortable and you feel helpless. That’s why we encourage you to discuss any concerns or questions with your veterinarian. The treatment strategies they can provide, and the extra comfort they can offer at times of distress, may help keep your pet more comfortable during the course of their disease—and allow you to enjoy more happy moments together.