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

What I Would Do for My Dog with Lymphoma

Updated: November 2nd, 2021

Summary

What would a veterinarian oncologist do for her dog with lymphoma? Dr. Susan Ettinger tells us how she would handle this dread disease.

When Guardians come in for a consultation with me after receiving a cancer diagnosis, they often ask “Doc, what would you do if this was your dog?”

I usually refuse to answer the question (with one important exception, which I will get to in a moment).

It’s very difficult for me to answer that question because there are way too many personal factors that go into the decision of what to do. In addition to the overall prognosis for that particular cancer, there could be other pre-existing conditions. It can become very complicated, and so much just depends upon the person who is asking.

So I can’t tell you what I would do, because really my answer is irrelevant at best and confusing at worst.

Everyone Is Different, No Answer Is the Same

Some Guardians want to be aggressive and take the treatment approach associated with longer survival times, even if it costs more, requires more visits to the oncologist, and has more side effects.

Others don’t.

For example, when I tell some Guardians the median survival time for their dog’s cancer is 18 months with treatment, they don’t feel that is long enough … while others will tell me that getting an extra three months is more than they hoped for.

What I would do for my dog is likely not what you would do for your dog.

I used to say I would have given Paige, my Labrador, a kidney if she needed it and it was medically an option.

I would have given my dog a kidney if she needed it!

(She is no longer with me, but she did not need my kidney. And no, you cannot transplant your human kidney to your dog.)

I am pretty aggressive with medical options for my own pets.

For example, I am not afraid of some side effects from diagnostics and treatment, especially when the “side effect” of not treating is worse (in my opinion).

I am more likely to go for surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy for my dog than choose a palliative approach such as pain management only.

But that is a pretty generalized statement. It’s what I would do — and that doesn’t mean it’s what YOU should do.

And again, my choice may not be the choice of the Guardian sitting across from me in the exam room with their dog by their side.

So, in order to keep from projecting my personal feelings onto Guardians, I usually just refuse to answer that question.

When it comes to lymphoma, I answer the question: CHOP.

Except when it comes to lymphoma. When it comes to lymphoma, I will share what I would do.

For me, that is an easy choice: I would treat my dog with a CHOP multi-agent protocol.

For much more of Dr. Sue’s insights into Lymphoma, get a copy of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide and read chapter 29, which starts on page 297.

Dogs with Lymphoma = CHOP Protocol

This protocol is a cyclic protocol usually lasting 5 to 6 months. In each cycle, the protocol includes vincristine, cyclophosphamide, and Adriamycin (doxorubicin). In the 1st cycle (usually the 1st treatment), the dog may also receive Elspar. Prednisone, a steroid, is also given orally daily for the 1st 4 weeks during the 1st 4-week cycle.

It’s typically a nineteen-week protocol, and it involves plenty of vet visits and some heavy-duty chemotherapy drugs. If it sounds like a lot, you’re right, it is.

So why do I universally recommend it?

For dogs with lymphoma, chemotherapy has a significant and positive effect on not only how long a dog lives but how well they live. Let’s look at some numbers.

Typically, a dog with lymphoma lives only one (1!) month without treatment.

The median survival time with a multi-agent chemotherapy protocol is 13 to 14 months.

So if your dog has lymphoma, and you don’t treat with chemo, you would expect to have one month more with your dog. But if you DO get the CHOP protocol, it would be reasonable to expect that your dog would live another 13 months.

Note: median survival time of 13 months means that of all dogs with lymphoma who undergo this protocol, half are still alive after 13 months. We don’t know, of course, which dogs will make be in the 50% who die earlier, and no one can guarantee your dog will be in the half that lives past 13 months. But it’s a REALLY long time compared to other cancers and other protocols!

Don’t Be Scared of Side Effects!

Dogs tolerate chemotherapy treatment so well that their life is considered good to great by most Guardians in my practice during the protocol and after the protocol (when they are in remission).


There is a LOT you can do at home to help with side effects. This webinar is a must-listen!

Dogs with lymphoma treated with chemotherapy live longer and live well.

So, yes I would treat my own dog for lymphoma with chemotherapy. No question for me.

Best,

Dr. Sue

Leave a Comment





  1. Sandra Oaks on March 27, 2022 at 12:36 pm

    My dog is 13 and was told she has lymphoma. I choose not to do anything because of her age

    • Molly Jacobson on March 28, 2022 at 9:12 am

      Hi Sandra, thanks for your comment. That’s a completely valid choice to make, for whatever reason you make it. Dr. Dressler wrote about the choice to “not treat” here: https://www.dogcancerblog.com/articles/your-role/dont-want-to-treat-dog-cancer/ … and regardless of whether you choose chemo or not, using the diet, supplements, and mind-body strategies can support your girl’s life quality and longevity, too. Strength and love to you and your girl.

  2. Scott Long on March 18, 2022 at 5:34 pm

    Hello Dr Sue..
    Our GSD Rika Engle Von Hofnung was diagnosed today with Lymphoma. It’s been one of the hardest days of our lives. She hadn’t been feeling well so we had a lot of tests done the past couple days hopping it was something simple but boy was I wrong. My wife & I didn’t hesitate about having her start chemotherapy instantly. Ive read a lot of articles on this disease & wanted to thank you for words of encouragement.
    Thanks Scott Long

    • Molly Jacobson on March 21, 2022 at 10:49 am

      Thanks for your comment, Scott, and we hope she tolerates it well and thrives, like so many lymphoma dogs do!

  3. Jon on February 28, 2022 at 11:28 am

    My dog has stage 4 mulicentric large cell high grade b cell lymphoma with insolvent of the spleen ,he got to week 7 on his chop protocol and his nodes had swollen again so they switched him to a rescue protocol along side prednisolone it is lomustine the chemo I’ve purchase the apocaps but my vet can’t tell me if is OK to give them to him can you help with any advice if it is safe to do so alongside the chemotherapy
    Kind regards Jon and diesel

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