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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Signs of Dog Lymph Node Cancer

Updated: August 5th, 2019

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?”

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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.

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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:

  1. Diet change (click on the Dog Cancer Diet download above for a detailed document)
  2. Chemotherapy (best done under the supervision of an oncologist)
  3. Apocaps, the supplement I designed for my patients
  4. Other supplements or herbs (discussed in the Guide)
  5. Reduction of stress, increase social activity, build self esteem (these have real life, documented impact in human cancer survival times)
  6. Touch therapies (gentle massage, T-Touch, etc)
  7. Acupuncture for discomfort when appropriate
  8. Insure at least 8-9 hours of sleep in total darkness
  9. Consideration of homeopathy by a qualified veterinary practitioner
  10. 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 D


Leave a Comment

  1. Lightning strikes twice:( on April 22, 2013 at 7:53 am

    Hello Doctor, I guess I should start by telling you that I have lost my first baby(a boxer named Jessa) to lymphosarcoma 4 years ago. Which is when my husband and I decided to get another boxer(because we love their love), Leo. We went to our wonderful vet and we really believed this time it was just an infection, but after 2 weeks of being better he took a turn for the worse and now the lymph nodes are swollen:( One question is, could the infection could have come back? I did notice that when he started to eat solids again I gave him the food he had been eating prior to illness. I have now thrown it away and am feeding him a pureed mix of potatoes, chicken and milk through a 60cc syringe. So the other question is, could it be food related-Salmonella possibly?

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on April 24, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      Dear Lightening
      sorry to hear this news 🙁
      the short story is this: if the treatment for infection is not resolving the swollen lymph nodes you should discuss with your vet getting them tested with at least a fine needle aspirate to see if there are any cancer cells in the nodes. Earlier is better…
      I hope this helps

  2. Mrs Marcia Bridges on February 6, 2013 at 4:11 am

    My 10yr old male boxer dog (Buster) as a swollen jaw /neck to the right hand side, had him to the vets they said infection or lymph node cancer, he has had injections to reduce swelling and take down his temperature, and i have to take him back tomorrow to see if there is any change,if there is not they want to take him in and do a biopsy and check for anything else ,im petrified it is cancer,it has come on in a day the swelling, but he as been a little bit off it a few days, but still eating and playing he is a very fit and healthy boy and i dont know what to do for the best, ive heard tales of allsorts of things to do with missed leading vets and treatments any one got any true helpful advice ,would be very grateful as he means the world to us.xmarcia.x.

  3. Grieving on January 21, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Hmmmm….no replies to posts. Must be too busy selling his book.

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on January 23, 2013 at 11:36 am

      Dear Grieving, as someone who provides my time a no cost answering questions on this blog, as well as having a veterinary practice with many sick patients, and having a necessary presence at the North American Veterinary Conference recently, I may or may not be able to answer all posts.
      Thank you for you contribution.
      Dr D

  4. Charlotte on January 10, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    My dog Tia, after almost a year of mis diagnosis was diagnosed with Lymphoma today. One that will kill her any day from now. All the symptoms was their, but the vets aren’t that experienced i guess.

  5. Sheila T. Scott on October 27, 2012 at 2:01 am

    Hoping that your newsletter will give me more insights into fighting canine cancer. My 11 yr. old Golden Retriever is fighting Lymphoma diagnosed 8/2/12. Since I changed her diet and put her on supplements, also Prednisone 20 mg. every 3 days. she has been doing incredibly well, however this morning I found a lump where the lymph node is located on the fattly part of her hind leg close to the tail.
    I’m not sure what else I can do at this point but still have hope.

  6. Kathleen on May 11, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Dr Dressler,

    Thank you for your book. In relation to dog foods I wondered about Blue Buffalo, my German Shorthaired Pointer has lumps…thankfully one tested and not cancerous. Others have shown up but she seems fine. I have her on the grain free formulas and moving towards cooking for her. She is going to be 11 in June.

    I have read much information on line about Turmeric/Curcumin success and I believe that along with Doug Kaufmann’s info on Know the Cause that cancer is quite simply fungus in the body. He says it looks the same under a scope and acts the same and changing diet as well as using antifungals have helped many who watch him. Turmeric is also a powerful antifungal…perhaps the reason you have seen tumors shrink as well. Mocha will be on this soon.

    I just started her on Ionic/ph balanced water, cellfood, my Usana Essentials supplements which several Vets use now too. She has been on Omega 3’s, Ubiquinone (CoQ10) and I’ve also added Transfer Factor Plus since it clearly elevated the killer T cells. I will report back and any thoughts from you are welcomed. I know from Dr Christopher’s website that Lobelia/Mullein for glands is excellent in addressing lymph issues and more so I’m ordering it as well.

    I found it interesting to read online about some dogs in the UK living to 26 or older after being fed a vegetarian diet their whole life….your thoughts? There is a new Vegetarian dog food out.


  7. jess on February 10, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Dr Dressler:

    A week ago I left a question for you and I can not find it or an answer on the blog. It’s possible I’m looking in the wrong places but, please could you direct me or tell me the answer asap. I have the Boxer Scarlet and everyday I let go by I feel as though I am letting her down as her care taker. I appreciate all that you do for me as well as for other animal owners. ( she has mass cell and is in stage 3, as well as lymp involvement)


  8. Kevin Gentile on December 13, 2010 at 4:03 am

    Hailey has been fighting lymphoma since june of this year, she had 4 months of chemo (initially lumastine then cytosar and procarbazine). For the last month and a half only on prednisone, (we stopped chemo because of her liver values)and she has been doing very well. I read your book in the first 24 hours after her initially diagnosis and it helped me ask the right questions and get Hailey the best treatment. We’ve run into a snag recently, she has developed Cushing’s syndrome from being on prednisone and the skin on her back is hardening and begining to slough. Have you seen this before and Are there any suggestions you may be able to make that I can discuss with my vet this week?
    Thank you for any help you can provide
    Hailey and Kevin

  9. Pat Requena on September 29, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    I downloaded the Dog Cancer Diet when I initially signed up for your Dog Cancer News. However, during the download, an error occurred and I didn’t save the e-mail that allowed the download. Now when I try to download, I just get a message saying that you already have my e-mail address. Will you please send me an e-mail that would allow me to download it again?

    Thank you.

  10. eugenie stahl on September 29, 2010 at 9:58 am

    My dog is a mixed breed eleven year old with a diagnosis of mast cell cancer.
    One tumor was removed and chemotherapy was administered last year. The mast cells were found again in a lymphnode which was just removed. She has had radiation treatment for another form of cancer two years, ago, as well.
    My oncologist is recommending Palladia now . What would you advise? Thank you.

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