Lymphosarcoma is a cancer of the white blood cells called lymphocytes. It is one of the most common cancers in dogs.
The worst kind of cancer is the kind you have to deal with in your dog. I heard that from a lady I saw on a video online a while back and I thought was fitting.
The thing that is tough about lymphosarcoma, also called lymphoma or LSA, is it is usually impossible to remove from the body. When we have a cancer, sometimes it can be removed, usually with a surgery. LSA most commonly occurs in the form where it is throughout the body, or “multicentric”. It actually starts in the circulation, with the cells that travel in special vessels called lymphatics. These cells are called lymphocytes.
You can’t cut out something that is flowing around the body.
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Dog lovers are usually presented with options for chemotherapy when it comes to LSA. There are a bunch of different protocols. Likely the “best” is the Madison Wisconsin, which is costly and takes 25 weeks of weekly trips with hospital stays, plus meds given daily at home. The bill is in the thousands, depending on where the treatment is being done. Most dogs respond (get better), and this remission lasts roughly a year.
There are some other protocols that can be considered.
One of the newer ones is single agent doxorubicin. Now, don’t get me wrong here. Doxorubicin is strong stuff, and my belief is that steps should be taken to try to avoid the heart toxicity that is a frequent complication (at least Coeznyme Q, L-carnitine, etc: talk to your vet or oncologist). The good news is most dogs respond, your dog gets a remission of roughly 8 or 10 months (median), and your dog only has to endure a treatment every 2 or 3 weeks, for a total of about 5 treatments. Lastly, the cost is much less than the Madison protocol.
Some vets and oncologists are using lomustine (CCNU) as a single agent. I don’t have stats yet on median survival times. Advantages are that this is available as a pill that can be given at home. It is cheaper than the other two above, but again, toxicity is a major concern. Consider the use of things like dandelion, milk thistle, or SAM-e, as well as cordyceps or indole-3-carbinol, to help with toxicities (again, talk to your vet or oncologist).
A wimpy, but cheap and easy, option is single agent prednisolone, which is given as a pill. I say wimpy because, although most dogs will improve on it, this improvement only lasts a couple of months. Overall toxicity is pretty low (except the dog usually will guzzle water, pee a ton, pant, and gobble food hungrily). Supplementation for toxicity of prednisolone is less critical than the others above but can be done.
Hope this highlights some different but available options for dog lovers dealing with LSA. The best option is the one that feels right for you, as your dog’s number one health care advocate.
All my best,
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.
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