Just like in humans, dog lymphoma is treated with chemotherapy and steroid. The most effective type of chemotherapy is known as the CHOP protocol, which involves a combination of three chemotherapeutic agents that alternate weekly and then one steroid medication.
The CHOP protocol is one of the most effective means of treating lymphoma and has the longestmedian survival time, about 12 months. The median survival time (MST) refers to how long a patient survives after treatment is given. For an MST of 12 months, this means that the chance of surviving beyond that specific time is 50%.
There are other variations to chemotherapy protocols, and sometimes surgery and/or radiation therapy are implicated in lymphoma cases. Your veterinarian may be able to help with some of your dog’s chemotherapy treatment, but many dogs benefit from being referred to veterinary oncology specialists. This is because chemotherapy can be tricky, and it takes many months of treatment before dogs can go into remission. Dogs who have had lymphoma once may get it again in future.
Dogs may develop vomiting, diarrhea, or anorexia with chemotherapy, but not all dogs experience side effects. Unlike in humans, hair loss is not a side effect. Dogs who take prednisone as part of their treatment protocol may experience increased thirst and urination. Certain chemotherapeutic agents may be harmful if your dog has existing medical conditions. For example, doxorubicin hydrochloride (the “H” in CHOP), can be risky if your dog has heart disease.
Most chemotherapy protocols are spread out over the course of six months, and it can be very expensive for a lot of owners. If chemotherapy isn’t an option for your pup, your vet can prescribe prednisone by itself. It won’t treat your dog’s lymphoma, but it can help keep him comfortable and is very inexpensive. Treatment with prednisone alone has an MST of 4-6 weeks.
Lymphoma is often a systemic kind of cancer, especially since the most common form of lymphoma is the multicentric type. Early detection can be difficult because it can cause problems internally before you begin to notice enlarged peripheral lymph nodes.
If your dog is showing signs, make sure to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to get your dog tested. Early intervention can prevent it from spreading and will increase the chances of a good median survival time.