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

Lymphosarcoma and Simpler Chemo Options for Dogs

Updated: January 3rd, 2019

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.

Get a copy of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide for more helpful tools and information

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 D

Leave a Comment

  1. Sandy Dighton on December 26, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    I lost my Casey to pneumonia after a 16 month battle with lymphoma. Now, his older sister (same parents) has been diagnosed as well. Is there a genetic component to this? Also, she is 11 and wondering if Doxirubicin would be safe to use on her.

  2. SalviaFan on August 2, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    I really like your blog It has a lot of great information. I will be checking back on this site from time to time. thanks for all the info. you can check out my Blog
    Take care now.

  3. Cheryl on July 1, 2009 at 9:45 am

    I have an 8 year old Lab that after spinal taps and MRI’s the neurolosigist is 90% sure has lymphoma of her nervous system. Can you tell me about how cytosar is for treating it and also do you know the prognosis for the cytosar is and also what is it for the CCNU? Do you reccomend starting the CCNU at a lower dose the first time?
    Thank you,
    Cheryl & Bullet Girl

  4. Judi & Abby on February 21, 2009 at 5:04 am

    A very good friend of mine lives down the street. I used to visit her with my dog Abby all the time. However, her husband is a chronic chain smoker – has a lit cigarette 100% of the time while he is awake. In the last two years, I have not gone to visit her for this reason. When I used to visit her, I would come home and have to take a shower, wash my hair, and wash my dog – I would literally wreak of smoke. I have yet to tell her why I don’t visit her but have asked her to come to my house. I suppose she is aware (how could she not?) that her husband’s horrible smoking habit has affected her social life. She has kept my dog over a period of a few weekends in the past, but I will not allow that anymore. In fact, she dog sits for various friends when they go on vacation. She tells me that she has no right to ask her husband to go outside and smoke, saying, “It is what it is.” How sad. I wonder if she has even thought about second hand smoke affecting the dogs she sits for. And now that my own dog has bladder cancer, I would never subject her to anyone’s second hand smoke.

    Thank you and keep up the excellent work you are doing.

    Judith Ann Conigliaro
    Grand Rapids, MI

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