Brickyard Animal Hospital

1213 East 3300 South, Salt Lake City, Utah 801.486.0123

Chemotherapy Information


Dr. Drew AllenLymphoma is one of the most common malignant tumors to occur in dogs. The cause is genetic, but there also suspected environmental factors involved, including in one study an increased risk with the use of the herbicide 2,4-D. This risk was not confirmed in another study. Breeds that are commonly affected include Boxer, Scottish Terrier, Basset Hound, Airedale Terrier, Chow Chow, German Shepherd Dog, Poodle, St. Bernard, Bulldog, Beagle, Rottweiler and Golden Retriever. The Golden Retriever is especially susceptible to developing lymphoma, with a lifetime risk of 1:8. is found in the lymph nodes, with or without involvement in the liver, spleen, or bone marrow. Mediastinal lymphoma occurs in the lymph nodes in the thorax and possibly the thymus. Gastrointestinal lymphoma occurs as either a solitary tumor or diffuse invasion of the stomach or intestines, with or without involvement in the surrounding lymph nodes, liver or spleen. Classification is further based on involvement of B-lymphocytes or T-lymphocytes. Approximately 70 percent are B-cell lymphoma. Cutaneous lymphoma can be classified as epitheliotropic (closely conforming to the epidermis) or non-epitheliotropic. The epitheliotropic form is typically of T-cell origin and is also called mycosis fungoides. The non-epitheliotropic form is typically of B-cell origin.

Signs and symptoms

General signs and symptoms include depression, fever, weight loss, loss of appetite, loss of hair or fur and vomiting. Lymphoma is the most common cancerous cause of hypercalcemia (high blood calcium levels) in dogs. It can lead to the above signs and symptoms plus increased water drinking, increased urination, and cardiac arrhythmias. Hypercalcemia in these cases is caused by secretion of parathyroid hormone-related protein.

Multicentric lymphoma presents as painless enlargement of the peripheral lymph nodes. This is seen in areas such as under the jaw, the armpits, the groin, and behind the knees. Enlargement of the liver and spleen causes the abdomen to distend. Mediastinal lymphoma can cause fluid to collect around the lungs, leading to coughing and difficulty breathing. Hypercalcemia is most commonly associated with this type.

Gastrointestinal lymphoma causes vomiting, diarrhea, and melena (digested blood in the stool). Low serum albumin levels and hypercalcemia can also occur.

Lymphoma of the skin is an uncommon occurrence. The epitheliotropic form typically appears as itchy inflammation of the skin progressing to nodules and plaques. The non-epitheliotropic form can have a wide variety of appearances, from a single lump to large areas of bruised, ulcerated, hairless skin. The epitheliotropic form must be differentiated from similar appearing conditions such as pemphigus vulgaris, bullous pemphigoid, and lupus erythematosus.

Signs for lymphoma in other sites depend on the location. Central nervous system involvement can cause seizures or paralysis. Eye involvement, seen in 20 to 25 percent of cases, can lead to glaucoma, uveitis, bleeding within the eye, retinal detachment, and blindness. Lymphoma in the bone marrow causes anemia, low platelet count, and low white blood cell count.

Lymphoma in cats

Lymphoma is the most common malignancy diagnosed in cats. Lymphoma in young cats occurs most frequently following infection with feline leukemia virus (FeLV) or to a lesser degree feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). These cats tend to have involvement of lymph nodes, spine, or mediastinum. Cats with FeLV are 62 times more likely to develop lymphoma, and cats with both FeLV and FIV are 77 times more likely. Younger cats tend to have T-cell lymphoma and older cats tend to have B-cell lymphoma. Older cats tend to have gastrointestinal lymphoma without FeLV infection, although tests more sensitive to low level FeLV infections and replication-defective FeLV have found that many of these cats have been previously exposed. The same forms of lymphoma that are found in dogs also occur in cats, but gastrointestinal is the most common type. Lymphoma of the kidney is the most common kidney tumor in cats, and lymphoma is also the most common heart tumor.


Gastrointestinal lymphoma is classified into low grade, intermediate grade, and high grade. Low grade types include lymphocytic and small cell lymphoma. High grade types include lymphoblastic, immunoblastic, and large cell lymphoma. Low grade lymphoma is only found in the small intestine, while large grade can commonly be found in the stomach.


Cats that develop lymphoma are much more likely to develop more severe symptoms than dogs. Whereas dogs often appear healthy initially except for swollen lymph nodes, cats will often be physically ill. The symptoms correspond closely to the location of the lymphoma. The most common sites for alimentary (gastrointestinal) lymphoma are, in decreasing frequency, the small intestine, the stomach, the junction of the ileum, cecum, and colon. Cats with the alimentary form of lymphoma often present with weight loss, rough hair coat, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, although vomiting and diarrhea are commonly absent as symptoms. The tumor can also cause life-threatening blockage of the intestine. Cats with the mediastinal form often have respiratory distress and fluid in the lung cavity. If lymphoma develops in the kidney, the cat may have increased water consumption and increased urination. Lymphoma of the kidney presents as bilateral kidney enlargement and failure. If the lymphoma is located in the nose, the cat may have discharge from the nose and facial swelling. Lymphoma of the heart causes congestive heart failure, pericardial effusion, and cardiac arrhythmias. Ocular lymphoma in cats often presents as anterior uveitis (inflammation of the inside of the eye). Cats who are also infected with FeLV often present with pale mucous membranes due to anemia. Anemia is a common problem in all cats with lymphoma, but hypercalcemia is rare.

Diagnosis is similar to dogs, except cats should be tested for FeLV and FIV. It is important to differentiate the alimentary form of lymphoma from inflammatory bowel disease because the signs are so similar in cats. A biopsy is necessary to do this. One approach to differentiate inflammatory bowel disease from is to test the infiltrating lymphocytes for their monoclonal origin in lymphomas.


Cytology of lymphoma – Biopsy of affected lymph nodes or organs confirms the diagnosis, although a needle aspiration of an affected lymph node can increase suspicion of the disease. X-rays, ultrasound, blood analysis, and bone marrow biopsy reveal other locations of the cancer. The stage of the disease is important to treatment and prognosis.

  • Stage I – only one lymph node or lymphoid tissue in one organ involved.
  • Stage II – lymph nodes in only one area of the body involved.
  • Stage III – generalized lymph node involvement.
  • Stage IV – any of the above with liver or spleen involvement.
  • Stage V – any of the above with blood or bone marrow involvement.
  • Each stage is divided into those with systemic symptoms (loss of appetite, weight loss, etc.) and those without.