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Dog Lymphoma: When To Put Down

As a dog owner, you worry about your pup getting sick.

And what if your worst dreams come true and you get that canine lymphoma diagnosis from the veterinarian.

Should you work on treating the illness? Should you work on making the dog as comfortable as possible?

Should you consider euthanasia for the dog?

When should you put to sleep a dog with lymphoma?

It’s time to put your dog with lymphoma down when he seems to be in pain, has no appetite, and isn’t responding to treatments.

Of course, this is a very personal decision to make. And it’s certainly not an easy one.

If you find yourself faced with this terrible decision, then let us help you work through it.

We consulted with our local Middle Tennessee vet, Dr. Patel, and he’s answered all of our questions on what to do when your dog is diagnosed with lymphoma.

What Does A Canine Lymphoma Diagnosis Mean?

sick labrador retriever
image: Pxfuel

What do you understand by Lymphoma?

Many pet parents are worried about life-threatening cancer and cannot stand the thought of their dogs suffering from lymphoma.

What most pet parents need to face is that no matter the treatment, there is no guarantee of positive results.

The dog will still be in pain and even face death.

With unbearable pain, most of them resort to euthanasia.

The advice is that before that decision, the owners should understand the basic ideas.

You need to understand the whole process for your grieving period and a smooth transition for the dog.

Make sure you allocate time and have an appointment with a vet.

This kind of cancer affects the lymphoid tissues in the white blood cells, intending to protect the dog’s body.

sick pitbull

The immune system will be safe from any infections, which affect tissues in the bone marrow, liver, spleen, and other organs.

Lymphoma is life-threatening and can affect any part of the dog’s body.

It is the most popular type of cancer in canine families; it is the third in the line.

Canine neoplasias make up over 20% of the fatal record; the record makes more than ten dogs.

Most pet parents need to know that they are more vulnerable when their dogs are below the age of 10.

The gender does not matter; they are all at risk of developing the dog lymphoma symptoms and cancer.

There are different types of dog breeds; some have a higher chance and others have a lower chance of developing the cancer symptoms.

Some of them include German Shephard, Boxer, Westies, Pointers, Scotties, Golden Retrievers, Pomeranian, and Dachshund.

English Cream Dachshund Breed
image: Reddit

What Causes Dog Lymphoma?

Different genetic mutations bring about cancer in the lymphocyte.

That is the reason the cells will grow abnormally to be malignant.

It is the reason why it will affect all the organs and functionalities of the body.

Many factors will contribute to cancer cells like environmental exposure, virus, bacteria, and magnetic field.

Most of the causes are known after carrying out more investigations and tests.

When the immune system is suppressed in human beings, it can be a problem.

There is no proof of establishment in dogs.

The Different Types Of Canine Lymphoma

There are four main types of lymphoma in dogs.

  1. Multicentric Lymphoma: This is the most common – seen in 80% of dog lymphoma cases. It’s a lot like non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which humans get.
  2. Alimentary: It is the second-highest form of dog cancer, with around 10% of cases, and mostly affects the digestive tract. It is challenging to diagnose since there are no external signs. Some of the dog lymphoma symptoms include vomiting, anorexia, mal-digestion, and intestinal lesions. It affects the Shar-pei and Boxer.
  3. Mediastinal: It is a rare kind of cancer and affects the dog’s chest region. They have their lymph nodes enlarged with visible symptoms. Some of them include the face swelling, enlarged thymus, and cranial lymph nodes. Usually seen in younger dogs.
  4. Extranodal: This is the rarest type of dog lymphoma. Can affect any area of the dogs body except for lymph nodes.
vet with sick pekingese dog

Getting The Dog Lymphoma Diagnosis

Most of the dogs will have a diagnosis from the lymph nodes that have enlarged.

More dog lymphoma symptoms include polyuria and lethargy.

When the pet owner needs proper diagnosis, they will be requested to come with a detailed report of the dog’s history.

When at the animal  hospital, the medical experts will perform needle aspiration of the affected nodes to know the Lymphoma level.

What tests need confirmation of the diagnosis?

Most vets will recommend a lymph node biopsy.

The best strategy is to know the lymphoma stages.

Some of the tests include serum biochemical profile, thoracic radiography, bone marrow evaluation, complete blood count, and echocardiography.

Some pet owners are reluctant to the cardiac examination since they are not aware of the benefits.

It is essential for any cardiac abnormalities that will guide changing the chemotherapy plan.

Some of the abnormalities include thrombocytopenia because of bone marrow involvement.

Leukopenia involves the bone marrow because of the cancerous cells.

The circulating cancer cells bring about leukocytosis in the dog.

sick dog at vet getting infusion

Stages and Progression

It is essential to know about the stages to see the level of treatment.

There are two main stages of the canine Lymphoma.

  • Cytology on lower grades or small cell is known because it progresses slowly instead of the large cell lymphoma. The homogenous population is small but mature. You will not know the difference from the normal lymph nodes, and there is a need for biopsy to know about the malignancy presence.
  • Cytology on high grade is large, immature, and close to neutrophil size. When not treated, it can be life-threatening within six to eight weeks.  It is systematic cancer since it can be responsive to chemotherapy after some time. The dog can have an attack from low-grade Lymphoma then move to high-grade Lymphoma after the prognosis.

Some of them include cellular atypia, degree of necrosis, mitotic index, and invasiveness.

It will be possible to know all the areas affected by the tumor.

  • Stage one: At this point, the lymph node will be affected
  • Stage two: It involves numerous peripheral lymph nodes located diaphragm side.
  • Stage three: This is the point where there is generalized lymphadenomegaly
  • Stage four: The two affected organs are the spleen and liver
  • Stage five: The affected parts are the bone marrow and extranodal points.

Apart from the stated stages, there are two clinical subtypes.

  • Substage A: The dog will not express any clinical signs; it will have normal appetite and energy levels.
  • Substage B: At this stage, systemic signs related to the ailment and the disease will be present.

Treatment and Outlook

sick puppy with catheter

When the dog’s lymphoma treatment begins, the expectation is that the dog will enter the remission stage.

Before introducing your dog to the treatment, ensure you know the effect of the remission.

It will be like the regression condition for cancer; remission does not guarantee a cure.

It means that the dog lymphoma’s signs and symptoms have no tracing from the previous screening tests.

Even though the disease is present, it is undetectable.

It is the stage where they can attain partial and complete remission for the dog.

What is the best treatment for dog lymphoma?

The dog will undergo chemotherapy as the first treatment for the dog lymphoma.

Some of the additional treatment options include Tanoveao-CA1, Prednisone, and bone marrow transplant.

sick puppy getting infusion

The vet will prescribe drugs at lower doses for short-term side effects and minimal effect.

When the dog has high-grade, the dog suffering from Lymphoma will be on UW-25 or CHOP.

More than 70% of the dogs on CHOP will experience complete remission.

Chemotherapy comes in two phases:

  1. Induction: It happens as scheduled weekly treatments; the dog will be in immediate remission, which is more dose-intensive.
  2. Consolidation: The treatment is done in less frequency to help to kill the remaining tumor cells. Most dogs will enter into remission after chemotherapy, and for the care, it is only 10%.

When a dog is diagnosed with high-grade Lymphoma, and treatment does not commence, the dog will only have about eight weeks to survive.

After treatment with prednisone, the dog will have about three months more to survive.

Ensure that the dog is not put on aspirins since it will cause stomach ulcers.

Prednisone is significant since they kill cancer directly, but long-term use causes drug resistance.

After administering prednisone, the dog will have some changes.

Some of them include it will pant more, frequent urination, more thirst, and increased appetite.

It is advisable to allow the dog to drink the required water and urinate whenever it is necessary.

vet examining sick german shepherd

The outlook

The side effects of chemotherapy offer the best stand and outlook towards taking care of dog lymphoma.

They do not last longer like in human beings; about 70% of dogs will not have any side effects.

About less than 5% will suffer to the extent of getting attention from a vet.

Some of the side effects are:

  • Gastrointestinal: Diarrhea and vomiting are common side effects; they will crop up about five days after treatment.
  • Myelosuppression: When the dog undergoes chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant, there are higher chances of damaging the precursor cells. There will be a decrease in neutrophils and platelets.

How Much Does The Dog Lymphoma Treatment Cost?

Most pet owners have concerns regarding the treatment cost.

sick puppy at vet getting infusion

The owners of dogs with Lymphoma need to know that they can spend an average of over $4,000 to extend the dog’s life for another one or two years.

But some spend closer to $20,000 on the treatment and associated bills.

When the owners decide to pursue more treatment, it will come with additional expenses.

When To Say Goodbye

Before you decide to euthanize your dog, you need to know what it entails.

In simple words, it means intentionally ending the dog’s life for pain relief.

The dog will not suffer again from the disease since there is no chance of recovery.

It is a sad moment for the pet parent.

Some of the reasons to euthanize the dog include:

  • Chronic pain: When the vet recommends no remedy for the pain, it will be time to euthanize the dog. It will be a wise decision to relieve the dog from pain instead of suffering.
  • Loss of appetite: You will notice this when the dog cannot eat or keep the food down.
  • Trouble walking or standing: When the dog cannot walk or stand without assistance, you need time to let the dog go.
  • Breathing problems: When the time is near, the dog will show chronic and labored breathing signs.
  • Lethargy: The dogs will lose interest in their fun activities such as car riding or toys. It will be time to say goodbye as a pet owner.

Most people will ask where they can euthanize their dog.

Some may opt at home instead of the vet.

The owner might not want to see their dogs’ distresses when they are at the vet.

vet taking care of sick dog

Most people prefer their dog to enjoy her life’s final days within the family instead of the clinic.

When done by a vet at a clinic, it will be expensive.

The cost can go up by more than $300, which might be costly for the pet parents.

Look for some organization that will offer affordable services.

They will be able to come and euthanize the dog free.

When you choose to euthanize the dog, the two viable options include:

  • The dog can undergo the procedure that is done by the pet owner, who should be careful. When not done the right way, it can cause more harm and pain to the dog. You need to sedate the dog; after losing consciousness, you can say goodbye.
  • When a vet does it at home, they will choose to sedate the dog first then go on with the process. The vet can use phenobarbitone solution through IV; it is the best for rapid response. It inhibits voluntary motor movements and then a cardiac arrest.

How can a dog be euthanized using Benadryl?

Benadryl works as an aid for mercy killing at home.

Most vets will use the same drug to euthanize dogs.

You need to understand the dosage; the dog needs to be relaxed, administer Benadryl with the correct dosage, and keep an eye on the dog.

The right dosage is for each pound on the dog’s body weight every day.

When you surpass the dose, it can be fatal.

When you lose your dog from Lymphoma, it can be a sad moment.

It will affect your mental stability; that is why you need to know more about the process.

After death, it will not be easy to handle your routine and errands.

Grief and guilt will affect you, mentally and emotionally. Know the process for more comfortable grieving.

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26 thoughts on “Dog Lymphoma: When To Put Down”

  1. Thank you for sharing this information in such a compassionate way. We are facing this decision for our pit bull. He is the sweetest boy, and we don’t want him to suffer. I have just begun doing research on the T cell lymphoma. This is very heartbreaking.

    • Sorry for your hard time with your fur baby boy. We are facing this decision for our boxer girl who is 11 yrs old. My heart is broken into a million pieces. We do not want to let her go to early but we know its close.

  2. Thank-you for this article. Especially for the part about the guilt and grief afterwards. I am still suffering. It’s been 5 days but I’m torn up because I don’t know if I had her put down too soon. It was 3 months after diagnosis and those 3cmonths she was on the steroids. They worked well. She was still walking and eating but her breathing sounded so labored at times. Just when I thought she must be close, she would walk 2 km no problem or pounce on a ball. But the vet was telling me early is better than too late. I didn’t want her to not be able to breathe one day. But now I think it was too soon. Really really hard. I feel like a killer. Not handling it well.

    • Laurie, please do not beat yourself up. I am currently treating a rescue dog that I’ve only had for 4 1/2 months, for lymphoma. We weren’t going to opt for chemo, but since he still has quality of life (except for a few sore paws), we are giving it a try. Here’s the thing though, realistically I know we are going to lose him. At this point, I am going for quality of life rather than quantity. I can tell you from past experience, it is better to let them go too soon rather than too late. You do not want to see them suffer. For our situation, we are not buying time, we are just providing him relief and it is a very hard fact to face. We fought so hard to cure him from what we initially thought were skin allergies. After seeing this beautiful dog blossom and after getting rid of all the nasty skin infections, the cancer diagnosis was a cold, hard slap in the face. I am trying to look at it this way: we provided an abused, neglected, abandoned dog with the loving home he so deserves. He is happy now and seems at peace, and when the time comes, we will help him cross the rainbow bridge. It hurts beyond words, but he will go knowing he was truly loved. Your furbaby knows you loved her and that love transcends far beyond death. You did the hardest thing a pet parent has to do…you let her go with dignity and grace. Time will heal you and even though you heal, you will always carry her in your heart. Find comfort in knowing you provided a truly loving home.

      • I too have a rescue of 5 months just diagnosed with lymphoma. I’m not going to get chemo but will use prednisone. I know he will not make it. He is 11.

        • I’m sorry. Our Callie is 12 next week and is in the third month being diagnosed with ‘large cell lymphoma.’ We decided not to do chemo either, due to her age and the huge cost (we are retired seniors) She’s on prednisone and we just upped the dose…but it doesn’t seem to be working now. Both glands in her neck are larger and tonight, the skin feels warm on both sides. Labored breathing, pacing. But she still wants to play and do car rides, she’s eating and drinking. She wants to be near one of us at all times. I think she is suffering more and knows there’s something wrong – she is smart. Shoot, this is so hard! Don’t want to let her go 🙁

      • “love transcends far beyond death” Yes it does..

        I do not know what I am going to do without this little soul. She has lived beyond her breed life expectancy by over two years, I love her so much .. Thank you for your very kind reply to Jan. It’s been a month since she was diagnosed. Her breathing is difficult now so I know …..that I must help her cross soon. It is just so unbelievably

    • Yesterday my dog was diagnosed with lymphoma. I know in my heart the kindest thing I can do for him is euthanize him when the time comes. From everything I’ve read, it seems there isn’t a great deal of time from diagnosis to death. Comfort yourself knowing that you did your dog a favor. Most times they stay longer, even though they’re in pain or unhappy, just to make us happy.

  3. Our 7 year old Bull Terrier was diagnosed several weeks ago with cutaneous lymphoma and we opted to have our vet treat him with an oral chemotherapy agent which has been ineffective. Each day there are new ugly tumors…cancer is a horror; there is no other word for it. He is very smart and knows that something is wrong. We know what’s coming, and we know what we have to do but, God, I’d give everything I own to save him. I’ve never cried so hard in my life. Just devastated.

  4. Thanks for all of your wonderful comments. I also have a seven year old pit bull with lymphoma being treated with Prednisone alone. When he is given the medicine he pants and becomes nervous. Over several hours he feels better but not the best. The nodes are becoming large but after his treatment shrink a little but still are not blocking his ability to eat or drink. When my Buddy (his name) wants to go out he brings one of his toys to accompany us to the back yard. He knows when its bedtime because I have always said beddie bye nighty nights which he still responds to as he did as an eleven month old. I know his time to be with the Father is coming and I realize I have to do what is best for him. We love our babies and this has been a nightmare for me as I know the control of the situation rests with me. I am an elder woman and this is one of the hardest things I have had to face alone. Again. it’s all about my Bud. Blessings to all of you wonderful people who care so much about God’s creatures.

  5. Two weeks ago we lost our 14 month old Alapaha Bulldog to mediastinal lymphoma. It has been an emotional heartache. Guilt comes crashing in since I never acted on little things I noticed when he turned 6 months. Never did because everyone said, he’s just a puppy. Nothing could be wrong. It’s an indescribable pain watching your pet slowly decline and start to suffer knowing you have to let them go. I wish I had more time to help slow the spread for him so that he had more time with us.

  6. My 4 year old border collie mix has lymphoma and is currently on prednisone. She has very little appetite. Yesterday she laid down most of the day but today she is pacing, walking slowly. She also has bloody diarrhea. I think it may be time but I’m not sure. This is so hard.

  7. We chose to euthanize our girl soon after the diagnosis. She was lethargic and was drinking copious amounts of water and starting to lose bladder control. She was seven and had been extremely active. We did not want her to suffer at all and we knew that prednisone would only give her a few weeks. We miss her terribly but we feel like we did the kindest thing.for her.

  8. My dog Dee D was diagnosed with Lymphoma in August. We are only treating her with Prednisone. All of her lymph nodes are swollen. She has the occasion rapid breathing. She has good days & not so good days. Trying to do a bucket list of all her favorite things & of course spoiling her rotten. It’s tough knowing that the walks in the park are numbered.

  9. It’s been only 3 days since we put our 6 yr old Rosie down with lymphoma. She was acting normal right up until the day we took her in to the vet. She didn’t eat, acted lethargic, breathing fast and hard and didn’t look good overall. Next day the report came back she had large cell lymphoma and they wanted to treat her with chemo. We made an appointment with an oncology clinic, but couldn’t get in for 3 weeks. She then started having spasms in her neck and head and shaking in the body. We didn’t hesitate–after the vet told us if it were her dog that she would put her down, we decided to stop her pain and let her go. Can’t tell you how grief stricken we are, especially since we had no warning. We are in our 80’s, so don’t think we should get another dog, but we thought about it. I guess a little more time to grieve would be better than rushing to that decision. We are just so broken.

  10. My Riley is 14 1/2 – black lab mix. Diagnosed shortly before Thanksgiving. We opted to use only Prednisone due to his age. It worked for a short while but now it seems he is getting exponentially worse every day. I am just so heartbroken. I can’t stop crying. He had always been so high energy and alive. It’s devastating to see him this way. I know I need to let go soon. It’s just so hard.

  11. I have an American Eskimo, Mia, that was diagnosed with lymphoma. She has been on prednisone for 12 days. She had huge lumps in her neck, others near her groin and arm. They are gone except small ones still hear groin. She loves her car rides AND eating. She seem normal to me. Maybe less active. Still hangs her head out car window on rides. She does urinate more. I don’t think it has hit me that we are going to lose her. I am so scared that I am not going to know when the right time is. I keep praying….

    • Update:
      Mia has been eating still but just not able to keep her food down. Just started today. Also, doing her bowel movements three times since in the house. She has been on Prednisone since January 20, 2023. I am so fearful the time is getting closer.

      • Hi Cindy,
        Thank you for leaving a reply to your experience on prednisone. We just got the diagnosis last week for our 7 year old German Shepard/pit bull mix. We cannot afford chemo and I am so upset and feel like I am failing her. I am starting prednisone tomorrow morning. I am nervous because she has a sensitive stomach. How is Mia doing now? Reading your post has given me hope. Thanks,susan

    • Just got the diagnosis yesterday for my 10 yr old shih zu. So far 2nd day in has no appetite I hand fed him a mandarin orange he loves them and a couple bites of beef stick. Any idea when Prednisone will/if start to help? Alls he does is sleep and I’m not sure I’ll know when time comes also

  12. Compassionate article detailing the facts. Heartbreaking stories from the pet owners. their stories will help guide my decision when to euthanize her. She had seen my usual vet in late December, no symptoms. Took her in for preliminary exam with eye surgeon end of January 2023 when she was diagnosed. She is 14. Not going to medically intervene only to postpone the inevitable. Gotta be cruel to be kind.

  13. My cat Skuchnyy..
    My heart is torn to pieces. It was so sudden, so agressive… It’s not fair
    Everyday i wonder if it’s time to do it or if it is too soon. I just don’t want him to suffer, he doesn’t deserve this suffering
    I love him so much

  14. My Black lab pit mixed is 18 1/2 years old, still runs like a puppy, eats fast and kills his water pan. 24 hours diagnosed. His genitals and area grew three times their size and now have to let him go. I am devastated. I understand it is for his benefit. I will miss my buddy. 18 1/2 is a lifetime…I’m lucky but still makes it unbearable. Kevin from Colorado.

  15. My 13 year old Yorkie, Bella, was diagnosed with end stage lymphoma 3 weeks ago. She had swollen lymph nodes in neck and behind back legs. She had difficulties eating, breathing, not eating and had diarrhea. I feel guilty because I read an early symptom is skin problems. The vet attributed this to allergies to fleas. I started her on the prednisone 3 weeks ago and the lymph nodes shrunk within a few days and she was more comfortable. I started to feed her brown rice, chicken shredded, eggs and vegetables and she’s eating pretty well now. She does drink about a gallon of water per day and has a lot of accidents. I put down the per pads as I was getting up every two hours to let her out and it was affecting my work. I am so worried about when to put her down and feel guilty about “playing God” by making that decision. I keep praying she will just fall asleep and pass, but I know it can’t be that easy. I just hope I can be smart enough and strong enough to put her down before she suffers. Good Bless all of you and stay strong!!


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