Lymphoma is one of the most common cancers veterinarians see in dogs. Certain breeds might be at an increased risk for lymphoma, but it can affect any breed. Lymphoma accounts for 10 to 20 per cent of the cancer found in dogs. The life expectancy of a dog with untreated lymphoma is four to five weeks.
Chemotherapy can extend the expected lifespan of a canine, just as it can with humans. Drugs are taken orally or injected into the dog on daily basis. They include Prednisone, a steroid used to treat many types of cancer and alleviate swelling; Doxorubicin, another common anti-cancer drug used to destroy cancer cells; Cytoxan, which stops the growth of tumour cells; and Elspar which blocks proteins needed for tumour growth .
The veterinarian administers these drugs in a controlled setting and might elect to treat the dog with one or more of drugs. Despite popular belief, dog chemotherapy does not have the same side effects as it does in humans. But it can be successful in extending the lifespan of the dog, depending upon its health status before the treatment protocol begins.
Dogs do not have a very long life expectancy--most live somewhere between 10 and 20 years (or less for bigger breeds). Extending a dog's life by even 12 months can account for 10 per cent of his lifespan, which is significant. That is why many Stage 5 lymphoma treatments tend toward making the dog comfortable in his last few months. Prednisone alone is often given to reduce swelling and pain.
According to an article published in the Vancouver Sun, Washington State University in 2008 was the first facility to offer bone marrow transplants to dogs, at a cost of more than £13,000. This procedure that has saved thousands of human lives is now possible for our canine friends--in the past, it had not been routinely offered for dogs.
Some owners have found that allogeneic stem cell transplanting is an effective treatment for stage 5 lymphoma, but the cost is prohibitive and the pretreatment--high doses of chemotherapy---can leave the dog in a miserable state.