It’s undoubtedly overwhelming to take in all the information when your dog has been diagnosed with leukemia. It is a type of cancer, but it isn’t a disease that any dog owner would want their dog to ever have. Not to mention, you might need to decide quickly as to how to support your dog with their condition since some cases may require immediate treatment to manage the symptoms.
While the diagnosis is a shocker, it is important for you not to panic. Depending on the type of leukemia your dog has, there are several measures to support your canine companion and help them manage the symptoms of the disease for a good quality of life.
In this article, we’ll be talking all about leukemia in dogs as well as the options available for support and treatment.
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- What is Dog Leukemia
- Two Types Of Leukemia
- What Causes Leukemia in Dogs
- What Are the Signs of Canine Leukemia
- How is Canine Leukemia Treated
What is Dog Leukemia
Can dogs get leukemia? Like humans, dogs may also be susceptible to leukemia, which can be defined as cancer of the blood or bone marrow. Having a vital function, the bone marrow is responsible for creating white blood cells that aid the body in fighting diseases and infections.
Canine Leukemia is a disease that results when your dog’s bone marrow creates white blood cells that don’t function or develop the way that they’re supposed to. These abnormal cells surpass the number of healthy blood cells, invading the bloodstream, lymph nodes, spleen, and liver. In addition, they may also hinder the bone marrow from creating healthy blood cells at all.
Two Types Of Leukemia
Canine leukemia can be classified into two main types. These are:
This type of leukemia has a slow and steady progression. Abnormal white blood cells are nearly fully developed, and they can function normally, albeit not as properly.
On the other hand, according to NCBI study acute leukemia in dogs progresses much sooner than its chronic counterpart. Often manifesting severe symptoms, there is an increase in the production of blood cells that haven’t developed yet and thus aren’t able to perform well. See this for examples of case studies.
Both kinds of leukemia can be classified as either lymphocytic or myelogenous, depending on the type of affected white blood cell.
This kind of leukemia affects lymphoid cells and is more prevalent in dogs than in myelogenous leukemia.
This kind of leukemia originates from the myeloid cells found in the bone marrow.
What Causes Leukemia in Dogs
While there is no known cause for canine leukemia yet, the risk of a dog developing leukemia may be brought about by certain factors, such as
Blood cells are first formed from stem cells. These stem cells establish instructions as to how they should develop and function. In the process, however, damage sometimes occurs, resulting in abnormal blood cells that don’t function well.
Breeds that are most often diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia include German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers, likely due to genetics.
Exposure to Chemicals
In humans, toxic industrial chemicals like benzene have been associated with leukemia. This may also hold true for dogs.
A dog’s gender doesn’t seem to be a risk factor when it comes to developing leukemia. Both genders have an equal risk of being diagnosed with the disease.
Acute leukemia is more commonly diagnosed in young dogs as compared to middle-aged and senior dogs.
What Are the Signs of Canine Leukemia
Below are the common dog leukemia symptoms:
- Lack of appetite;
- Weight loss;
- Vomiting or diarrhea;
- Increase in water intake;
- Frequent urination;
- Recurring infections;
- Enlarged lymph nodes;
- Enlarged abdomen.
Spotting early signs of leukemia in dogs may go a long way toward being able to provide supportive treatment as soon as your dog needs it. To detect signs of sickness early on, a good pet camera like the Pet Camera is a worthy investment to better monitor your pet 24/7.
Note that when your dog has chronic leukemia, they may not exhibit any symptoms since the progress of the disease is slow.
How is Canine Leukemia Treated
Is there treatment for leukemia in dogs? Curing with treatment is rare in canine leukemia. Instead, treatment is given to extend a dog’s lifespan and improve their quality of life. Normally, dogs have a positive response when it comes to treating the symptoms of the disease.
This may consist of giving your dog antibiotics, bodily fluid replenishment, providing them with a healthy and well-balanced diet, and supplementing their body with vital components in the blood.
Chemotherapy / Immunotherapy
Chemotherapy is an option, along with immunotherapy. Sometimes, a combination of the two may help slow down the disease's progression. Note that those with acute leukemia have just a few options for treatment, and chemotherapy usually doesn’t do them any good.
The form of chemotherapy given is usually in pill form, administered through the mouth. In severe cases, delivering it through the bloodstream may be required. Depending on the specific case of the patient, certain chemotherapy drugs may be better received than others.
Your vet may prescribe medications that suppress your dog’s immune system. These medications may help reduce the negative side effects that your dog may experience due to cancer as well as cancer treatment. Because your dog may have a low quantity of healthy red blood cells, they may sometimes need blood transfusions.
Chronic leukemia, being a type of leukemia with a slow progression, may not require immediate treatment. Regular veterinary checkups and close monitoring will be needed to determine when to start treatment based on the progression of the disease.
Given that dog leukemia is a type of cancer, emergencies may occur. Such situations highlight the need for a reliable pet Emergency Fund that assures you without having to worry about the costs associated with immediate veterinary care.
How long can a dog live with leukemia without treatment?
Acute leukemia in dogs has a life expectancy of just weeks to a maximum of 5 months, even if they’re given supportive care and treatment. Meanwhile, dogs with chronic leukemia can live for months to several years with the disease with the proper treatment and supportive care.
How will a dog die of leukemia?
The final stages of leukemia in dogs are characterized by labored breathing, limited movement, lethargy, severe loss of weight, eating and drinking difficulties, and incontinence.
Is leukemia in dogs hereditary?
Animal cancer statistics support the idea that there may be hereditary risk factors for the emergence of cancer in pets. Golden Retrievers and Boxers, for example, have a higher rate of cancer occurrence, and specific types of cancer at that.
While more research is needed to gain a better understanding of the genetic factors involved, it suggests that genetics contributed to the higher rates of cancer in pets.
Canine leukemia can be scary, especially because there’s no cure for the disease yet. However, supportive care and treatment may help manage the symptoms and give your dog a good quality of life. Here are some canine leukemia survival stories that may inspire you.
As dog owners, we want to find ways to help our dogs live the best life possible. Whatever path you choose in taking care of your dog with leukemia, it is important to equip yourself with knowledge about the disease as well as the treatment options available to help you make informed choices. Most of the time, this involves lifestyle changes as well as financial planning.
Before making any alterations to your dog’s treatment plan, make sure to consult with your veterinarian first to help provide the best supportive care.
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