When to Euthanize a Dog With Lymphoma

My dog has lymphoma when should I put him down? Lymphoma is a difficult cancer, with treatment that can extend your dog’s life, but the most important thing is their quality of life. Having a sick pet is a position no pet owner ever wants to be in, but sometimes we may find ourselves in such a situation.

What is lymphoma in dogs?

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the immune system, most commonly found in the lymph nodes, spleen and intestines. Since it can be found anywhere in the body, the prognosis is different depending on what type your dog has and how advanced it is.

Swollen lymph nodes may indicate lymphoma and dogs have several of them:

  • Under the jaw
  • Chest, in front of the shoulder
  • Under the armpit
  • Groin
  • Behind the knee

If you think your dog has swollen lymph nodes, call your vet as soon as possible. It could be a sign of infection which is easily treated, however, it may be lymphoma which needs to be diagnosed as early as possible. Other symptoms may include a reduced appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice (yellow gums and eyes) and breathing difficulties.

When is it time to euthanize a dog with lymphoma?

Lymphoma generally progressing quickly, with a dog having just a few weeks if they do not receive treatment. If your dog has advanced stage lymphoma with symptoms such as breathing problems, weight loss and weakness, the kindest option may be to euthanize your dog.

Is there a treatment for dogs with lymphoma?

This depends on the individual dog, how aggressive the cancer is, how far it has spread through the body and which symptoms it has caused.

If the cancer is advanced, your veterinarian may advise that euthanasia is the best option. Palliative care may be offered, such as treatment to control your dog’s symptoms, which can extend your dog’s life by several weeks, but you should consider what quality of life your dog would have.

Chemotherapy may be an option for lymphoma if it is caught early. Chemotherapy works by attacking the cancer cells, slowing the rate of growth and reducing the size of the tumors. There are no guarantees that this treatment will extend your dog’s life as each dog reacts differently. Prognosis may be as little as a few weeks or as long as a year.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for lymphoma. Treatment simply attempts to slow its progress and prolong your dog’s life. Your dog may experience mild side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy.

The most important consideration is how the treatment will affect your dog and whether prolonging his life is in his best interests. Although chemotherapy may allow him to live a little longer, would he be pain-free, comfortable and happy? It is an incredibly hard decision to make, but your veterinarian can help to guide you through your options and help you make an informed decision that is in the best interest of your dog.

FAQs on dogs with lymphoma

What causes lymphoma in dogs?

There are several causes for canine lymphoma:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Second hand smoke
  • Poor diet
  • Pesticides
  • Electromagnetic fields (scientific studies ongoing)

Although there have been many studies, there have never been any confirmed causes. Scientists can only provide data and educated analysis based on their research.

What are the final stages of lymphoma in dogs?

There are 5 stages of lymphoma in dogs. Stages 4 and 5 are considered the ‘end stage’ of the disease.

Stage 4 occurs when the cancer spreads to the liver or spleen. This affects even simple bodily functions and symptoms become difficult to manage, even with strong medication

Stage 5 occurs when the cancer spreads to the blood, bone marrow or other organs. At this point, there is no viable treatment option and most vets would recommend euthanasia as the kindest option to prevent any further suffering.

How long does a dog live after being diagnosed with lymphoma?

If the cancer is caught in the early stages, treatments such as surgery or chemotherapy may be enough to send the dog into remission. A dog diagnosed with stage 3 lymphoma would be expected to live approximately one year, but this depends on the aggressiveness of the cancer and how quickly it spreads.

Is lymphoma painful in dogs?

Pain associated with lymphoma is dependent on the location of the tumor and the severity of the condition. Dogs may experience pain if the tumor is located in the stomach or intestines as this can cause blockages during digestion, as well as vomiting and diarrhea.

As the cancer spreads to infect the organs, inflammation will cause localized pain, but this can be managed with pain medication.

How can I make a dog with lymphoma comfortable?

Caring for a dog with lymphoma can be emotionally draining, but it can make your dog’s life so much better.

Stick to a daily exercise schedule if your veterinarian directs it. Exercise releases endorphins, which are known as happy hormones. A regular walk will also keep your dog fit and give them a better chance of getting through treatment.

Cancer can alter your dog’s appetite and the kind of food their gut can tolerate. Be careful of your dog’s diet and ask your veterinarian about prescribed dog food.

If your dog’s cancer is not treatable, you need to plan ahead. There will come a time where their mobility decreases, so you should consider moving their bed downstairs and purchasing a step so they can still climb on the sofa with you.

Toilet trips will need to be increased as the cancer progressive. Unfortunately, a common side effect of lymphoma is incontinence.

Try to keep the home environment and daily routine as normal as possible. This will reduce stress to your dog, which can worsen their symptoms.

Lastly, do all the fun things your dog enjoys like walks on the beach, playdates with their friends or going to the pet store to pick out a new toy. You will cherish these memories for years to come.

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Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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