When To Euthanize A Dog With Lymphoma

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
Lymphoma is a serious condition in dogs that can significantly shorten a dog's life. Read on to discover at what stage you are most likely to put your dog down.

It’s common for dogs to be diagnosed with lymphoma. When this happens, it’s something that seriously affects the dog’s health and owner’s life.

After all, it’s never easy to hear that something is wrong with your dog. Dogs have health issues and it is common and mandatory during a dog’s life.

No matter how healthy your puppy might be, it’s only normal to expect that certain health-related challenges will appear during a dog’s lifetime.

In those moments, it’s important to know how to react, and that a veterinarian visit is crucial when it comes to a dog’s health and prevention.

No matter how a great dog owner someone might be, accidents and sickness still happen. Also, no matter how long a dog might live, he will reach that point when his life will eventually end.

Dog’s death isn’t something that humans easily deal with, nor is something that can increase a desire for a new pet, but one is for sure – it’s part of life.

Deciding to put a dog down is a hard and heartbreaking decision that never comes lightly, but is something that has to be done, especially when the dog is affected by a such serious condition as lymphoma.

When to put a dog to sleep with lymphoma? This is something that you should always check first with your veterinarian.

However, if your dog is diagnosed with lymphoma, and he doesn’t seem to respond to any treatment, or he is in heavy pain each day, you might consider putting your dog down.

This is a hard decision, that never comes easy, but it’s often in the best interest of your dog.

Again, this is a decision that should be made only in consultation with your veterinarian.

Are you here because your dog already has lymphoma, or you are just collecting information for the right period in the future?

Either way, you will get the right information on what dog lymphoma is, how to recognize it, what are the most common treatment options, and when to put a dog with lymphoma to sleep.

What Is Lymphoma?

Have you ever heard about lymphoma in people?

If so don’t be confused, because this condition can appear both in humans and dogs. When this condition appears in dogs, it is called canine lymphoma.

In other words, canine lymphoma is cancer that affects the body’s lymphocytes (white blood cells), that is part of the immune system and are responsible for keeping both people and dogs healthy and safe from infection.

Is there only one type of canine lymphoma? No, there are in fact at least 30 different varieties of canine lymphoma.

As such they are categorized into four big groups, including:

  • Extanodal lymphoma. This lymphoma occurs when cancer attacks dog’s central nervous system, including lungs, eyes, skin, and kidneys.
  • Mediastinal lymphoma. This lymphoma type if extremely rare, and its most uncommon among all four types. It occurs when the presence of high-grade malignant T lymphocytes is too high.
  • Alimentary lymphoma. This lymphoma type can only be detected thanks to intestinal symptoms.
  • Multicentric lymphoma. This lymphoma type is the most common one. In fact, around 85% of lymphoma are multicentric lymphoma. When this type of cancer occurs, it means that lymph nodes are impacted.

Canine lymphoma is a bit tricky when it comes to diagnosis.

In some dogs, it may appear without any symptoms, while in some dogs it may appear in form of seizures.

Furthermore, some dogs may have difficulties breathing, others may have behavioral changes, while the rest may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Weakness
  • Excessive thirst
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting

Seizures may appear depending on the type of lymphoma your dog has. With extranodal lymphoma, the dog may have lesions on the mouth of skin.

Lymphoma In Dogs Causes

So far, it’s not known how exactly dogs get lymphoma. It could be due to several different factors, from magnetic fields to various acid exposure.

Also, a big role in cancer development is commonly linked to environmental factors.

So far, no expert managed to pinpoint a single lymphoma cause. The bright side of this (non) knowledge on lymphoma is that we know for sure that there are treatments available for dogs who suffer from lymphoma.

What Are The Final Stages Of Lymphoma In Dogs?

There are five different stages of lymphoma in dogs, with the fifth one being the final stage. This stage is also known as the ‘end stage’ of the disease.

When cancer spreads to the liver, it means that the lymphoma hit stage four. This stage is difficult to manage.

In this stage, body functions are heavily affected and symptoms are cleaning, if not impossible to manage. In this stage, not even the strongest medication can help treat this condition.

When stage five occurs, it means that the cancer is deeply in the blood, bone marrow, and other organs.

At this point, it’s clear that no treatment can help. This is also the stage in which a veterinarian would recommend euthanasia.

To many, this is the most human option to prevent further suffering in a dog.

Can Dogs Live With Lymphoma?

Simply said, yes. However, the logic behind this is far more complex. Dogs can live with lymphoma if the cancer is caught in the early stages.

If this happens, specific treatments such as surgery or chemotherapy could be enough to send the dog into remission.

For example, a dog diagnosed with stage three lymphoma would be expected to live around one year. However, this will depend on how aggressive the cancer is and how quickly it spreads.

Lymphoma In Dogs And Pain

Veterinarians are continually talking about how euthanasia is an act of kindness when dogs are in pain.

Pain linked with lymphoma isn’t something that should be ignored, nor it should be.

Dogs will commonly experience pain if the tumor is stomach-based, or has heavily affected intestines.

Any type of tumor in these areas will cause blockages during digestion. Plus, it will make vomiting and diarrhea an everyday occurrence.

As cancer spreads it affects organs. Then, the inflammation will cause localized pain which can be managed with pain medication.

Is There A Treatment For Dogs With Lymphoma?

There is no straightforward answer to this question because it depends.

The answer to this question will always vary based on various factors, such as the aggressiveness of cancer, how far it has spread, and which symptoms it has caused.

If the cancer is advanced, the veterinarian will commonly recommend euthanasia as the best option.

Palliative care can be one of the recommendations, as a way to control your dog’s symptoms.

Can it help? In many cases, this treatment showed that it can extend a dog’s life by several weeks. However, this doesn’t say anything about the quality of a dog’s life in those weeks.

If lymphoma is diagnosed early, chemotherapy is a common option.

Chemotherapy works pretty straightforwardly – it slows the rate of growth and reduces the size of the tumors.

No matter how straightforward the treatment may be, it is not guaranteed that your Fido will feel better, or reach that level of full recovery.

In fact, there are no guarantees that any treatment can extend your dog’s life. Why? Every dog is unique and reacts differently.

Just like humans – for some, a cucumber may be a true summer refreshment, while for others there is no difference between eating a carrot or a cucumber. That being said, one medicine doesn’t fit all.

Plus, there is no cure for lymphoma.

Every treatment available merely serves to slow its progress and make the dog live as long as possible.

During any treatment your dog may experience various side effects, including:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea

Side effects are an important factor to take into consideration when it comes to treating lymphoma in dogs.

When it comes to treatment options, you should always focus on how specific treatment will affect your dog’s life and whether prolonging his life is actually in his best interest.

If chemotherapy may allow him to live a little longer, will it be pain-free, will it make comfortable days for your dog, enabling happy life?

If the answer is ‘no’ or if you are ‘not sure’ this should be a clear indication that you don’t think that your dog will benefit from it much.

Always think about how it will treatment affect your dog and whether it will prolong his life or not. Your dog’s interest must always come first.

The best thing that you can do when it comes to your dog’s health is to follow your veterinarian’s instructions.

In the meantime, you can do your best to provide much-needed comfort to your dog with lymphoma.

How To Provide Comfort To a Dog With Lymphoma?

Caring for a dog with this kind of health issue is challenging, time-consuming, and even emotionally draining.

However, once you put this all on the side, you will be able to create a space that will enable your dog to live longer.

In some cases, it will enable a healthier and happier life. You don’t have to change things drastically, implement new routines, insist on games, or something similar.

In fact, all that you have to do to provide peace is to stick to your schedule. Dogs love routine because it’s familiar to them.

With routine, they know what will happen next, and nothing excites them more than consistency.

Stick to a daily exercise schedule that you have already implemented. If your dog is too tired, just adjust exercise time to his current need.

This means that it’s ok to shorten the walks if they are too much for your Fido, to make them less intense, or to focus more on an indoor walk than outdoor ones if the weather is too hot or too cold.

In fact, to avoid any additional issues, stick to your veterinarian’s recommendations.

One thing is important to know about exercise – a good activity will always release endorphins, otherwise known as happy hormones.

A regular walk will keep your dog fit, keep joints healthy, stable, and overall give a dog a better chance of getting through treatment.

Any disease will affect your dog’s diet, especially severe diseases such as cancer. As expected, cancer will alert your dog’s appetite.

It will also heavily affect what kind of food he will tolerate further on. Make sure that you avoid making any food adjustments without your veterinarian.

Always discuss diet and nutritional needs with your veterinarian first.

If a follow-up is mandatory to see how your dog’s body reacts to a new or altered diet, make sure that you discuss it with your veterinarian first.

Always ask your veterinarian about prescribed dog food and the best foods option.

Double-check if feeding Fido with any human foods is an option. If the answer is ‘no’ do not let any table scraps get into your dog’s mouth.

What If Cancer Isn’t Treatable?

If your dog’s cancer isn’t something that will be possible to manage or isn’t treatable you need to start planning.

This means that you need to think about moving your dog when his mobility decreases.

Place everything downstairs and on flat ground, for your dog easily to reach.

If your dog loves sitting next to you on the couch, provide a step so he can easily reach a desirable spot.

As cancer progresses, toilet trips will be more frequent.

All in all, try to keep your daily routine as consistent as possible.

The Bottom Line

Dogs get sick and it’s part of life. Once you get a dog you know that he won’t live forever. Moreover, you know that in most cases you will live much longer than your dog, or dogs.

Still, caring for a dog is a years-long commitment, that not everyone is ready to step into.

Now, that you have decided that you want a dog, or that you want to provide the best for your Fido, you should know that you will have both happy and sad moments as a dog owner.

Dealing with a dog’s death is one of those moments that will shape you and challenge you as a human. This is why understanding how lymphoma works is important.

Once this condition is diagnosed in your dog, do your best to keep things as normal as possible.

This means that you should keep the home environment as before -lymphoma period.

A common side effect of lymphoma is incontinence, which is something that dogs can feel, and feel like they did something wrong, which can only add to their well-being.