Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute

Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute

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cancer Lymphoma



What is lymphoma?

Lymphoma, sometimes called lymphosarcoma, is a cancer of the white blood cells.  It most frequently arises in the lymph nodes, spleen, or bone marrow.  It can also start in the gastric system, skin, or thymus gland.

How do I know my dog has lymphoma?

The most common sign is an enlarged lymph node below the jaw or behind the stifle (knee.)  Affected dogs often are lethargic, anorexic, lose weight, or have swelling of the legs or face.  Occasionally they will drink and urinate frequently or have difficulty breathing, irritated patches on the skin or mouth, vomiting, or dark foul-smelling diarrhea.

The best way to diagnose lymphoma is with a biopsy; in some cases this can be done with a needle rather than surgery.  Other testing could include blood tests, x-rays, abdominal sonogram, or bone marrow tap.

What does having lymphoma mean for my dog?

Prognosis varies and is somewhat dependent on what form of lymphoma the dog has.  Some dogs will respond better to chemotherapy though most dogs will relapse after a period of remission.  With additional chemotherapy a second remission is usually possible, though of shorter duration than the first.  Most dogs will eventually die of the disease.

How common is lymphoma in Aussies?

The 2009-10 ASHGI health survey found that 2% of the dogs surveyed had lymphoma.  It is the second most common cancer in the breed, after hemangiosarcoma.

Is lymphoma inherited in Aussies?

Yes.  Specific gene(s) have not yet been identified but they probably are risk factors – not a guarantee the dog will develop cancer but something that significantly increases the likelihood the dog will do so.

What does lymphoma mean for my breeding program?

Affected dogs should not be bred and if semen is stored from a male it should be discarded because this disease is almost always fatal.  First-step kin of affected dogs (parents, full and half siblings, and offspring) should be bred only to mates with no affected close relatives.