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A couple of days ago, we received a crash coarse in lymphoma in dogs.

A couple of weeks ago, I found a lump on Scout's throat. It wasn't soft and squishy like a lipoma and his lymph nodes were slightly swollen, so I made an appointment to have it checked out. The vet found the same lump and felt that it was just his lymph nodes, but agreed that a complete blood panel and a fine needle aspirate were needed to make sure.

Although Scout's blood panel was perfect, the lab found cancer cells in the sample they received. My dog has lymphoma. What the hell?

After going through hemangiosarcoma with Sydney, I thought I'd have a few years before I had to confront cancer again and I hoped that I paid my dues and our dogs would be cancer free. I was wrong.

What is Lymphoma in Dogs?

Canine lymphoma is a common cancer in dogs that is caused by the excessive growth of lymphocytes and are commonly seen in bone marrow, thymus, lymph nodes, spleen, skin, eye, the nervous system, and bone.

In Scout's case, his lymphoma presented in swollen lymph nodes (mandibular lymph nodes), which can grow to be 3-10 times their normal size. The normal size of the mandibular lymph nodes is about 10 mm in length that move freely beneath the skin and they're not painful. Right now, Scout's lymph nodes feel like two marbles in a sock.

At this time, the cause of canine lymphoma is unknown, however, people have blamed bacteria, toxins, viruses, and magnetic fields.

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How is Lymphoma in Dogs Detected?

Scout's cancer was found through a fine needle aspirate and others that I have spoken to have had similar experiences. Additional tests can be done to determine which type of lymphoma a dog has – Type B is most common; Type T is more serious. At this time, I'm not going to push for further testing until we see the oncologist.

What are the Symptoms of Lymphoma in Dogs?

Scout has zero symptoms other than the lump that I found and swollen lymph nodes. In my reading, I learned that other symptoms, which can present as the cancer progresses, include…

  • lack of appetite
  • low energy
  • weight loss
  • increased thirst/urination
  • fever
  • difficulty breathing

The vet tech asked me if Scout's bark changed. With a tumor sitting in front of his throat (it moves around a bit), it may press on his vocal cords, but this hasn't been our experience.

Choosing a Veterinarian Oncologist

Thanks to the pandemic, many of the oncology veterinarians are booked up until March/April. Because canine lymphoma can be aggressive, I want to get Scout into a clinic as soon as possible and proceeded to contact every veterinarian oncologist in the area and one got back to me. I had to call several clinics until I found one that had an immediate opening.

Scout will be seeing Dr. Brittany Evans, who is an oncologist who specializes in lymphoma.

“We've been here a few times for our handsome man and all of that was fantastic, but in September he was diagnosed with B cell lymphoma. Everyone told us to go to BARC, which I'm sure is fantastic but, we got an appointment with Dr. Evans here at Animal Medical and she has been a gem. Even through Covid. If I'm being honest, our initial plan was to start here and move to BARC when we could, but Dr. Evans has been so warm, thoughtful, and thorough with Pierre's chemo plan that we couldn't leave. Not only her but also Jeni. I'm not sure if you have ever taken your dog to the vet for an extended period of time, for treatment that is less than ideal, but usually they don't want to go. Pierre runs to Jeni whenever he sees her, even going through chemo! She is also so warm and kind. We couldn't have asked for a better experience than we have had with this team. Thank you Dr. Evans, Jeni and team!”

Review left on Yelp.

How Much Does Cancer Treatment Cost?

In my research, I learned that this can cost us around $5,000. So far, I've spent a little more than $300 – wellness check, complete blood panel (which was normal), and the fine needle aspirate. I know that we'll have to decide on additional tests to confirm the cancer, to see how far the cancer has spread, and to better determine the treatment. There are two types of lymphoma – b-cell lymphoma (which has the better prognosis) and t-cell lymphoma.

The additional tests include (but not all are required in every case):

  • more blood tests
  • a urinalysis
  • x-rays
  • ultra sound
  • bone marrow aspiration

Treating Canine Lymphoma Chemotherapy or Natural?

Another thing we'll have to decide is how to treat Scout. I've read a lot about the CHOP method, which is a chemotherapy protocol most effective with multicentric lymphoma (not sure if this is Scout's cancer). I've also read that dogs and cats handle chemotherapy a lot better than humans, many with fewer to no side effects. However, chemotherapy can last up to 6 months and it's quit expensive.

There are natural treatments that include diet, herbs, and other alternative cares such as acupuncture. These treatments can be equally as expensive and because alternative options aren't widely excepted, it's difficult to trust that this path will work so I would only do this under the guidance of an experienced veterinarian who has a solid track record of successfully treating all kinds of lymphoma and other cancers.

We're waiting until our appointment with the oncologist before determining the direction we plan to take with Scout. Our goal is to get him into remission and, God willing, cured.

Thankfully, we have pet insurance though Embrace. I switched the dogs from Trupanion to save money. My only concern is that Embrace has a $10,000 annual cap – so I pray that we don't go near this amount. I'll only be responsible for the $200 deductible.

I will return to update this post with the final cost when we're on the other end of this diagnosis.

Choosing a Cancer Diet for My Dog

All of my dogs are raw fed. Scout and his sister were transitioned to raw when they arrived in our home at six weeks of age. With this diagnosis, I plan to feed Scout a keto diet, however, at the moment, I'm testing out their current diet to see if it puts them into ketosis. Until I'm ready to feed him a keto diet, I'm adding the following to his meals:

  • Golden paste – starting small and building up to 2 tsp daily (1/4 tsp for every 10 lbs of weight) split into two meals. I'm adding golden paste because it's said to kill cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone.
  • Canine System Saver – a supplement that decreased inflammation and boosts the immune system. I usually add 2 capsules a day to his meals (1 capsule twice daily); while we worked to get him into remission, I will be giving 6 capsules daily (3 capsules twice daily).
  • Mushroom Matrix – I add two scoops to his bowl, twice daily. Mushroom Matrix contains several mushrooms: Reishi, Cordyceps, King Trumpet, Shiitake, Turkey Tail, Himematsutake, Maitake, Lions Mane. This blend boosts the immune system, doubles as a prebiotic (food for gut bacteria), and it is great for cancer dogs.
    • Studies have shown that Maitake mushrooms have a powerful effect on lymphoma cancer cells.
    • Studies have shown that Reishi mushrooms can kill certain types of cancer cells (including lymphoma).
    • Studies have shown that Shiitake mushrooms boost the immune system while making chemotherapy more effective while reducing inflammation.
    • Studies show that Turkey Tail boosts the immune system while preventing/slowing the growth of cancer.

POLY MVA for Pets – this is a liquid supplement I learned about last year and it also boosts the immune system. Scout and Rodrigo are on this daily, with Scout receiving a higher dose while he goes through treatment.

My goal is to keep Scout's immune system strong while adding food and supplements that are known for their cancer fighting properties. I have looked into Chinese herbs, however, I'm holding off until we speak to our oncologist. I learned from Sydney that some herbs cause tummy upset and interferes with appetite and Scout needs his strength. I want to make sure I'm doing the right thing (adding the right things) to his diet; I don't feel comfortable guessing.

What About Essential Oils?

Of course, one of the first things I did was head over to animalEO to find out which essential oils would be best for Scout. And thanks to my obsession with essential oils, I had many of the recommended oils on hand.

  • Every Monday, Scout will enjoy an Aroma Boost massage. The Aroma Boost collection is a series of five essential oils that I apply along my dog's spine from tail to neck and massage in – one oil at a time.
  • Twice during the week, Scout will enjoy Boost in a Bottle, which I will apply along his spine and on the lymph nodes.
  • Daily (24/7), I'll diffuse oils in the house that will promote calming and emotional support: Strength, Sunshine in a Bottle, and Calm-a-Mile Neat.

Next Steps on our Cancer Journey

Scout has a veterinarian appointment next weekend and that's when we'll learn what to do next. I'm keeping an open mind. After this appointment, I'd like to schedule acupuncture appointments and I'm crossing my fingers that I can find someone who makes house calls.

I've had people recommend so many things and I chose to ignore the masses because this has the potential to be a very stressful time for us and I can't take on mountains of unvetted advice while also listening to our veterinarian.

So, instead, I've been speaking to pet parents who have dogs that have survived a lymphoma diagnosis. If this is you, please feel free to share the details of your success in the comments.

I'm feeling confident this time around because we caught the cancer early, Scout has been raw fed since he was six weeks of age, he's a healthy and strong dog, and my dogs aren't exposed to loads of toxins. And, I'll be honest, I'm still hoping that this is a misdiagnosis and we'll learn that a mistake was made at the lab. #fingerscrossed

I will continue publishing updates as I share everything that we experience to help others who are facing the same cancer diagnosis.

If you are going through a lymphoma diagnosis, I found this post on the blog Three Dogs, One Bar very helpful. The author is a vet tech and she shares a detailed account of her dog's diagnosis and treatment.

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