Dog Disease- Possibly lymphoma, maybe related to dermatitis?

My beautiful old girl Maggie, who is 12 1/2, has a problem, but I’m not sure what it is.

3 months ago, acute and nasty outbreak of hard-to-control wet dermatitis on her face, spreading all over both cheeks and down her throat. She’s only just now finally free of all symptoms of it and it first surfaced in late June.

Some weeks ago, I’m not sure when it started because my other dog was finishing her food, her appetite began to decline. But there were no other declines: her interest in play and other pleasures seemed about the same, she was energetic about ball. (Which is impressive to start, given her age.) The appetite just about disappeared a week ago.

Tests: Blood, pancreas, X-ray of her innards.
Results: everything normal except pretty low protein.
only other symptom, swollen lymph nodes around her neck and upper legs.
She’d also lost about 12 pounds, down to 71 from 83.

She’s on Prednisone and antibiotics for the last of the dermatitis. Her appetite is much better, but still fragile. I have to feed her beef, liver and chicken from my hand.

The lymph nodes have reduced tremendously. Vet says this leans us towards lymphoma.

It seems odd that she would be so affected by lymph cancer that her appetite would vanish completely, without also making her lethargic and disinterested in everything else.

So what kinds of things come to mind, and or what has been your experience with lymphoma in your dog? I’m in no position to throw piles of money at it, especially given her age. But if I can buy some quality time… right now the prednisone seems to be helping tremendously, but I know it’s kinda harsh on the system.

I want to buy time, but even more so I want all that time to be good. I want her to be comfortable, I have no intention of torturing her or me.



Have they tested for Cushing’s or Addison’s disease? I know loss of appetite is a symptom of that. It seems to me one of them can cause skin problems, but I might be imaging that. They’re not the first things a vet will think to check for, so they might be worth asking about. I’ve know a couple of dogs with one or the other, and the disease can be managed though not cured, I believe.

I’m sorry that’s all I have to offer. I lost my most beloved dog just about a year ago, and I spent a while in that “live long or live well” place myself. Best of luck to you and your Maggie.

In Jan my 10 year old dog was diagnosed with lymphoma. Took her in for a different procedure, and when they drew blood they noticed abnormalities (I forget the specific term) that strongly pointed to lymphoma. At that point they noted her lymph glands were all enlarged. They were very apologetic for not having noticed it before. Said there were only 2 or so things that could explain the blood work and enlarged glands - lymphoma and something else more unusual.

Said with aggressive treatment, she would have maybe 6 months - plus the treatment would make her incontinent. We chose to put her on pain medication, and put her down after a month or so when she seemed to be declining precipitously. Had the last month to say goodbye to her.

Got a new pup in April.

i’m so sorry your baby’s sick. we lost four babies in an eighteen month period. they were all 10-12 years old. it still hurts.

Cushing’s disease often causes skin problems and an increased appetite. It is an overdose of steroids (similar to Prednisone) made by the body, so giving the dog Prednisone would make Cushing’s worse.

Addison’s is a deficiency of steroids. We call it “the great pretender” because it can look like almost anything. Prednisone would make Addison’s better. This could be worth looking into, but without knowing more I can’t tell you any more than that.

Prednisone is also used to treat lymphoma. Unfortunately, once you have given long-term prednisone alone (not in combination with other chemotherapy drugs) to a dog with lymphoma, it makes any other chemotherapy drugs you may want to try in the future have a shorter duration of efficacy. It doesn’t matter whether you were trying to treat lymphoma or skin disease, those lymphoma cells were still exposed to the drug.

The only way to tell for sure if it is lymphoma is to take some cells from an affected lymph node, either with a needle or a surgical biopsy. This may be more difficult or even impossible if the prednisone has made the nodes so small that they are hard to find. There is also a variety of lymphoma that lives in the walls of the intestines. This can’t be seen on an x-ray. Often an ultrasound can pick it up. Again, the only way to be really sure is a biopsy.

When I had my oncology rotation, there were lots of lymphoma dogs coming in weekly for chemotherapy that were living quality lives. Sadly, with chemotherapy, often you literally “buy time”. The most efficaceous protocols are usually the most pricey.

Good luck to you and your dog. I know how worrying this can be.

~ beegirl13, senior veterinary student

<hijack> beegirl13, what school are you at? I’m class of 2009 at UCDavis.</hijack>

There’s also an uncommon form of lymphoma known as mycosis fungoides where the cancerous lymphocytes are in the skin, resulting in dermatitis. Mycosis fungoides can eventually affect other organs such as the lymph nodes.

Check your PM, as I sent you information similar to what beegirl said.

There are different protocols, if it is lymphoma, and like beegirl mentioned, many dogs have good quality of life while on remission and treatment.

You could start with asking for an aspirate of the lymph nodes or any skin masses. That is probably not more expensive than the other procedures (X-rays, complete bloodwork, ultrasound) that you’ve done already.

And like Ponch said, there is a cutaneous type of lymphoma (hey, lymphoma can be everywhere).

:: Waves at Pullet:: I’m at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, graduating May 8, 2009.