Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia In Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment

Most of us are familiar with the word leukemia and are aware that it is some sort of a cancer that affects people. It is also a fairly well-known fact that leukemia is a serious condition that can be fatal. There are many different types of leukemia, which can affect not just humans, but also canines. One of the most dangerous conditions that can affect your dog is lymphocytic leukemia.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia in dogs is a serious medical condition, where their bodies produce an excessive amount of white blood cells, while there is a deficit of other important blood cells. This usually occurs because of mutations in the bone marrow. Unlike acute lymphocytic leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia in dogs is a slow progressing disease. For this reason, most dogs are diagnosed with the condition only during the later years of their lives. Typically this would be when they are around 10 years or so. Instances of chronic lymphocytic leukemia in puppies are quite rare.

Symptoms of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia In Dogs

Since this condition progresses at a slow rate, the symptoms are usually noticed only in the later stages. Some of the symptoms of chronic lymphocytic leukemia in dogs include –

• Anorexia, loss of appetite and severe weight loss
• Increased tendency to bruise and bleed
• Lethargy
• Lymphadenopathy or swollen lymph nodes
• Mild anemia, characterized by pale gums
• Polydipsia (increase in thirst)
• Polyuria (increase in the frequency of urination)
• Recurrent infections, which do not heal very easily
• Splenomegaly or an enlarged spleen

Many dogs have been diagnosed with this medical condition, without displaying any prior symptoms. In more than 50% of all cases, the condition is detected during a routine blood test. If, for any reason, you suspect that your dog may be suffering from chronic lymphocytic leukemia, rush him to a vet immediately. To confirm that your pet does indeed have this condition, your doctor may need a complete blood count, as well as –

• X-rays of the abdominal areas and the chest,
• Biochemical profiles,
• Bone marrow tests,
• Urine analysis, and
• Tissue aspiration from the lymph nodes and abdominal organs.

Once the vet confirms that your dog suffers from chronic lymphocytic leukemia, you may be asked to consult a veterinary oncologist, certified by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. Your vet should be able to recommend one, if required.

Depending upon the severity of the condition and the rate at which it is progressing, the oncologist may recommend chemotherapy for your pet. Some dogs can go on for up to 2 years without chemotherapy. Your dog will also need to be given medication that reduces the quantity of white cells in the body. These alternate treatment options may also be recommended, but do keep in mind that they cannot eliminate the disease:

• Natural diets and supplements
• Herbal remedies
• Homeopathy

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Treatment In Dogs

The main aims of chronic lymphocytic leukemia treatment in dogs are –

• To slow down the progress of the disease,
• To improve the quality of life,
• To relieve the severe symptoms of the condition, and
• To strengthen the immune system, so infections & other complications can be prevented.

You can keep chronic lymphocytic leukemia under control, by ensuring that your pet is monitored by a veterinarian continuously.

References

• Heather C Workman, William Vernau, Chronic lymphocytic leukemia in dogs and cats: the veterinary perspective, Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, Volume 33, Issue 6, November 2003, Pages 1379-1399, ISSN 0195-5616, 10.1016/S0195-5616(03)00120-7.

• http://loudoun.nvcc.edu/vetonline/vet131/leukemia.htm