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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. Susan Kazara Harper on March 15, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    Hello Will,
    I’m sorry about the diagnosis; I know how hard it is. I hope you’ve read through all the blog posts about lymphoma. It’s a lousy diagnosis, but it’s still considered to be one of the most treatable of the canine cancers. There is a Golden in Hong Kong who has been thriving now for about three years since his lymphoma diagnosis. There is so much you can do. Your girl may ‘seem’ scared simply because of the emotions and stress, coupled with the nose cleaning. Let’s face it, no dogs likes us messing in that area really. Please don’t mix medications, as you mentioned in your first post. Do you have a vet oncologist? Can you communicate well with your vet? Besides the blog, I think the Dog Cancer Survival Guide book would help you a lot, and there is an entire chapter on lymphoma. You can get it in any version at One of the hardest things to do when we’re reeling from a cancer diagnosis, is to focus on joy every day with your dog. Your girl only knows today, how she feels and how you feel to her. You can turn the tide in amazing ways when you put on your armor and tell her you’re in it together, whatever happens. Then play ball, go for a walk, laugh with her, lie on the floor and get silly. It’s sometimes the best medicine possible and there are no contraindications. Please do consider the book, look at all the lymphoma blogs, and get her nutrition optimized with the Dog Cancer Diet. Good luck to you both Will.

  2. Susan Kazara Harper on February 22, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    Will, I’m sorry you haven’t had a reply before this.. .we are so backed up and doing our best. What is the situation with your dog now? Any change?

    • Will on March 3, 2015 at 9:22 am

      HI Susan thank you for the reply it means a lot. She had a biopsy which confirmed Lymphoma. It has broke my heart in more ways than one. I have her on a steroid drug to ease the suffering until i have to make the judgment. I had her on benadryl and that seemed to help before. She has been sneezing, crusty nose, lethargic and really scared of me for some reason (very uncharacteristic). I have cleaned her nose up and i leave her to rest on her medication. I keep praying that there must be some kind of a mistake but each day my hopes are fading. I don’t know how on earth i could ever prepare myself for what i know is coming. Its the hardest thing i have been through.

  3. Will on January 29, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    Hello, I am desperate for some advice from any one. My Jack Russell dog developed lumps in her throat over night about 2 weeks ago. She has had two trips to the vets who have prescribed anti-inflammatory medication. The first time she went the vet said her lymph nodes were slightly raised, the second time (a week later)the vet said that her lymph nodes had all gone down, except in the throat. Her throat glands are still swollen but not as much as they were two weeks ago. My question is, should i put her on allergy medication together with Meloxicam? I feel that i shouldn’t mix medication without advice.. However, i feel that we are still far from a positive diagnosis. Could you please give me a straight answer as to what you think this is as my vets are not being very proactive and keep putting off the aspirate and various tests i would prefer them to carry out. Many thanks to you.

  4. Annie on November 16, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    My miniature schnauzer developed over night swelling under the chin, throat area, and on both sides of the jaw, we went to vet immediately, he had difficulty swallowing, could not bark, very inactive, all blood work was normal, no fever, he was put on 2.5 prednisone every 12 hours, 1/2 Benadryl every 12 hours, and 1/4 pepsid daily a lot of the swelling has gone down, except one area under jaw, he is still not barking, and a little trouble swallowing, not playing, which is very unusual we started Friday with the above, it is Sunday, I am a wreck and am taking him back tomorrow, have you ever heard of anything like this?

  5. Susan Kazara Harper on October 13, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Hi Steph,
    OK, hold on, bless your heart. And bless you for taking care of your friend’s dog while he’s deployed. Before you and his owner dive into despair, it is definitely worth getting a proper biopsy. Many vets have a lot of experience with cancer, and feel confident giving a diagnosis by just feeling. But Steph, they’re all human, and can make mistakes. They can be wrong. Stating a sentence of 3-6 months without a confirmed biopsy … that dog is not a statistic. There is so much you can do to help, through good, real nutrition ( and many other methods. But truly, you don’t know what you’re dealing with without the results of a biopsy which can tell you the stage of cancer (if it is cancer), and further you need to know whether it has metastasized. Then come questions about “what to expect”, “how to help” etc. But only when you know for sure. I know you don’t want to give horrible news until you have it confirmed. Good luck!

    • Catherine on June 22, 2015 at 12:30 pm

      This is a really great response. Thank you x

  6. Steph on October 11, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    Thank you for this article! I am dog sitting for a very good gtiend of my husband who is in Afghanistan. We have had the dog for going on 6 years. I found two lumps under his jaw this morning and was able to get him in today. The Dr. told me all of his lymphnodes are enlarged, indicating cancer. She said he’s got about 3-6 months, without giving many details. This article helped explain more about what he has and what I can tell his owner.

    • Jill Collins on January 14, 2016 at 9:47 pm

      My pit bull Toby passed away at the young age of 9 because he had lymphoma. The first sign of trouble was a small, brown growth on the outside of his leg that was more than likely cancer. It reminded me of a mole the size of a pinky nail. We didn’t mess with because it didn’t change in size,color,or texture. Probably 1.5-2yrs later I noticed his hind legs had to knots below the knees the size of a gumball or rubber ball out of those 25¢ machines. I was telling my sister-in-law about them and she suggested I put flaxseed oil directly on the growth & put a spoonful of it in his food everyday. Her parents had a boxer, Molly, they treated two growths with and they fell off! Flaxseed oil is great for humans & animals so there was no risk in trying it. Sho told me to watch his lymph nodes under the neck, if they swell take him to the vet. So about a year later his lymph nodes under the jaw swelled to the size of a tennis ball cut in halves. My cousin is our Vet so, on my birthday 5-25-10, off to Dr. Amy lou’s zoo(we’ve called her Amy Lou since I can remember so I had zoo now, it’s Dr. Amy Allen Graves of LVH) we went. She told me it was lymphoma, he was well into the late stages, treatment would only take him faster. She said he probably had 6-8wks 8 if I was lucky. She said I’d know when it was time to bring him. I was so scared I wouldn’t know. The what if’s both ways tortured me the 1st wk but thankfully faded away. I just loved him, let him do whatever he wanted because he would have let me. 9 wks later the power was knocked out by a bad storm. It was the last wk of July in NC so it was miserablely hot & eerily silent. He started walking around the coffee table & he was having a hard time breathing. It was awful. He’d lay down for a couple minutes then he’d pace some more. The power was off 1hr but for him it was probably more like a year, an eternity for me. Obviously it was time. I knew he was ready, I couldn’t let my 1st child suffer any longer. I got him & his brother my birthday 5/25/01. Four days later they both were admitted to the hospital by my cousin for parvo. His brother didn’t come home but Toby did. Dr Amy Lou & Toby fought parvo & won. So one 7/29/2011 she released him from his cancer ridden body. I felt his energy surge thru my body. His spirit touched every nerve ending in my body & off to Heaven he went. God loves having animals on hand for all the children taken too soon. He was my heart and still is. I have a lot of regrets but opting to not treat w/chemotherapy or radiation is not one of them. For my family(brothers,parents, and husband ) it’s quality not quantity. and treatment only pays off for when the animal is diagnosed early & even then there’s no cure. Lymphoma is fatal.

  7. Susan Kazara Harper on September 22, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    How did the surgery go? Remember, even if you get a positive diagnosis, there is so much you can still do. It’s wonderful that he’s feeling great. Strong and happy make it so much better to start fighting back. Go right back to nutrition ( so he has the best foods possible … not only what to feed, but what NOT to feed, and work with your vet to put together the best protocol you can. If you haven’t already, please take a look at and consider Apocaps ( to add to your arsenal. Good luck!

  8. Cooteronascooter on September 17, 2014 at 8:54 am

    My 4 year old BMD has a bunch of swollen lymph nodes. His tick titer was negative. He had a FNA on several of the nodes. It came back as reactive adeno. However, because he has no symptoms of infection, the pathologist and vet believe him to have lymphoma. He is now scheduled to have a lymph node removed. He is acting totally normal. Eating, playing, etc. If it’s lymohoma, I hope these are good signs that he will be receptive to chemo. I feel upset because I brought him in 3 weeks ago when I felt his axillary node swollen. I am a very well versed Berner owner and know to bring them in over any lump or bump. I also know to ask the vet to put mixed breed on his info vs BMD, but my vet refused to do this. I am devastated. My dog just got his Championship, obedience and draft titles and he is an amazing dog whom I love way too much and do not want to lose. Especially at 4. I know this is a risk with Berners.

    We are putting him on doxy before the lymph node removal Friday. I have to feel like we are doing something while waiting. I’m fully prepared for a lymphoma diagnosis, but hoping it’s not (of ciurse).

    If anyone has any words of advice, please post.

  9. brady stewie on August 20, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    My dogs back right leg is swollen I have taken him to tufts veterinary and feel like I get no real answers they did a asparatis and came back not cancerious they also did a lympe node came back inclusive. Feel like I go through the same thing with tufts and never any answers it’s give him sumatrine. And come back in 7-10 days

    • Susan Kazara Harper on August 20, 2014 at 1:58 pm

      Brady, You sound frustrated, but remember it’s your right to go to another vet and/or ask to be referred for a second opinion. You know your dog better than anyone, and you are responsible for his health. Don’t worry. Vets should understand your need to get clarity. Make some calls or ask your friends if they have a vet they feel good about. Hopefully you’ll get “all clear” results, but you’ll never know until you ask. Waiting won’t improve anything. Get moving! Good luck.

  10. Terri Hoyle on September 5, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Thank You 4 this wonderfully informative article, I found it very, very easy 2 understand, everything being in “English” (everyday language) Even tho our Vet had explained it 2 us, this is nice, 2 read when my grief has somewhat accepted the shock of the devastating diagnosis. It’ll also b nice 2 reread it again, & use it 4 a learning tool, while trying 2 explain some of the Cancer symptoms 2 others. Thank U again, & also 4 info about “blog” & your other topics. Bless U 4 your dedication 2 this devastating & ever increasing disease.

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