Many find a bump or a lump on their canine companion at home. The first question is usually, “what is this?” Sometimes the second question is, “Is it a gland or a lymph node?”
These are good questions. The reason is that glands, or lymph nodes, become swollen for different reasons. Like in people, infection can do it. Many recall the phrase “swollen glands” from childhood illness like strep throat or a bad upper respiratory infection.
However, there are other causes of swollen lymph nodes that need attention. One of these is cancer of the lymphatic system, called lymphosarcoma, or lymphoma.
Like an infection, this cancer may cause swollen lymph nodes. But, instead of a normal response to an infection, this is an abnormal condition. There is no infection but the lymph nodes are swollen. In this case, the reason for the size increase is cancer cells.
So, where are the lymph nodes in dogs that one can feel at home?
There are several areas that can be checked:
- Under the lower jaw where the jaw connects with the neck area
- In front of the shoulder area
- In the hamstring area (back of the thigh)
- In the armpit
- In the groin area where the inner thigh connects with the abdominal region
If you find a large swelling in this area, bring your dog in to the vet without delay. The swelling can be tested in many cases with a simple procedure called a fine needle aspirate. This takes only a few minutes and is quite strait-forward.
Using this procedure, it is simple in most cases to determine if their are cancerous cells in the lymph node.
This is one of the Hard to Cure cancers discussed in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide. One of the reasons that lymphosarcoma is hard to cure is that it cannot be removed with surgery.
This cancer starts in the circulation, in a special portion of the circulation called the lymphatic system. The lymphatics are small vessels that deliver a fluid called lymph throughout the body. Lymph contains white blood cells, which most commonly serve to fight infection. These cells are called lymphocytes.
The lymph fluid is filtered in glands called lymph nodes.
When a dog has lymphosarcoma, it means that the normal cells in the lymphatic system, the lymphocytes, have become cancerous.
These cells flow throughout the body just like normal lymphocytes.
For this reason, we cannot remove them surgically. They are mobile when they become cancer cells, and we cannot target a single area to remove them since they are in motion.
When the numbers of cancerous lymphocytes increase, they form swellings. One of the most common areas that these cancer cells accumulate are in the normal lymph nodes themselves, increasing the size of these normal structures.
The Full Spectrum approach to dealing with dog cancer that I use for my patients includes the following steps:
- Diet change (click on the Dog Cancer Diet download above for a detailed document)
- Chemotherapy (best done under the supervision of an oncologist)
- Apocaps, the supplement I designed for my patients
- Other supplements or herbs (discussed in the Guide)
- Reduction of stress, increase social activity, build self esteem (these have real life, documented impact in human cancer survival times)
- Touch therapies (gentle massage, T-Touch, etc)
- Acupuncture for discomfort when appropriate
- Insure at least 8-9 hours of sleep in total darkness
- Consideration of homeopathy by a qualified veterinary practitioner
- Improve life quality by defining your dog’s Joys in Life and increasing them
This is a rough outline of how to use many different steps, each that gives us an edge in fighting dog cancer. Start from the top and work your way down. There are many blog posts in this site that discuss the bulk of these steps (use the search bar on the right of this page above the picture of the hand holding the capsule).
When they are all used at the same time, real increases in life quality and lifespan can result.
Dr. Demian Dressler is internationally recognized as “the dog cancer vet” because of his innovations in the field of dog cancer management, and the popularity of his blog here at Dog Cancer Blog. The owner of South Shore Veterinary Care, a full-service veterinary hospital in Maui, Hawaii, Dr. Dressler studied Animal Physiology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis before earning his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. After practicing at Killewald Animal Hospital in Amherst, New York, he returned to his home state, Hawaii, to practice at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital before heading home to Maui to open his own hospital. Dr. Dressler consults both dog lovers and veterinary professionals, and is sought after as a speaker on topics ranging from the links between lifestyle choices and disease, nutrition and cancer, and animal ethics. His television appearances include “Ask the Vet” segments on local news programs. He is the author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Veterinarians, the National Animal Supplement Council and CORE (Comparative Orthopedic Research Evaluation). He is also an advisory board member for Pacific Primate Sanctuary.