Q: Should our dog who has been diagnosed with lymphoma see a veterinary oncologist for staging and treatment?

Original Question: "Our 12-year old English Setter has been diagnosed with lymphoma. Should we be taking her to an oncologist for staging and further treatment?" - Terry

Vet Certified Answer | Answered: April 9, 2018

Hi Terry,

Thanks for your question.

I'm so sorry that you've received this news. I really wish you the best going forward. Hopefully this advice can help with the next stage of decision-making.

Lymphoma is a common cancer of dogs. This means that there has been a significant amount of research trials performed on the effectiveness and success of numerous treatment plans. There are 3 basic ways to treat cancer, namely, chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Lymphoma is a disease of blood cells so even when it is first diagnosed, it is often in multiple locations rather than one defined area. This reduces the effectiveness of radiation and surgery because these treatment modalities are designed to treat a cancer in a local and limited area. Therefore, chemotherapy is the treatment of choice for Lymphoma. There are many different types of chemotherapeutic drugs that work to destroy cancer cells in different ways. They each have their advantages and disadvantages. This has led to the theory of treating cancer with a combination of multiple chemotherapeutic medications given on a rotating schedule. Research has been performed using various combinations and schedules of chemotherapeutic drugs and the results have been recorded and then refined. This has been done extensively for canine lymphoma due to its common occurrence in our pets. This has also resulted in the development of treatment regimes that have a high success rate.

After a diagnosis of cancer has been made, the next diagnostic step is to 'stage' the disease. This is a process of using diagnostic testing to determine the extent, location, type and aggressiveness of the cancer. The results of this testing will be the basis for the selection of the most appropriate treatment plan.

To answer your question specifically, I would recommend, at the very least to have a consultation with a veterinary oncologist if it is a consideration. I have personally treated many canine lymphoma cases and I have experienced a high level of success, however, I am modest enough to say that a veterinary oncologist would have more experience, knowledge and access to the most advanced treatments currently available. You will receive the best care if you go for the referral. After an initial consultation, outline and sense of current prognosis you receive in the appointment, you can then move forward in the direction that best serves your pet's unique circumstances and your own.

I hope this helps and I truly wish you the best. Clearly, your dog has very loving parents.

Dr. Clayton Greenway

 Disclaimer: and its team of veterinarians does not endorse any products or services mentioned. Advice presented by our veterinarians is not meant to replace a regular physical exam and consultation with your primary veterinarian. We always encourage you to seek medical advice from your regular veterinarian.

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