Josie is a 7 year old Border Collie who came to see us just after Christmas with a swelling under her jaw. We diagnosed this as an enlarged lymph node, and found that several of her other lymph nodes (in her armpits and on her hind legs) were also enlarged. Some enlarged nodes can be a sign of infection or other illness, but unfortunately very large nodes are also a sign of a cancer of the white blood cells called lymphoma. We took samples of the lymph node to determine the underlying cause.
Unfortunately a few days later the results confirmed that Josie did have lymphoma. There are two possible types of lymphoma, originating from either B or T cells. We asked the lab to perform further testing to determine which Josie had. The relatively good news was that Josie had B cell lymphoma, which tends to respond better to the available treatments than T cell. If left untreated, lymphoma can be fatal within 1-3 months. With chemotherapy, dogs can go into remission (where the cancer is not clinically detectable) for 12-18 months.
As well as the externally palpable lymph nodes, lymphoma can be present in the internal organs, so Josie was admitted for blood tests, chest x-rays and abdominal ultrasound. These tests showed no evidence of lymphoma in her other organs.
After discussion with her owners, it was decided to start Josie on chemotherapy, to maintain her quality of life for as long as possible. Vet Anna started the chemotherapy protocol, which involves Josie coming in to the practice weekly for blood tests to check her red and white blood cell levels, chemotherapy to reduce the size of the tumours, and supportive medication to reduce the side effects of the chemotherapy. Because unlike humans, dogs are not able to give consent for their treatment, the doses used in canine chemotherapy are a lot lower than in human medicine, and the side effects are also less.
Josie has had a few doses of chemo delayed because she has either been slightly off colour, or her blood results were abnormal, but generally she has been coping very well with the protocol. It is now 3 months from her initial diagnosis and she is doing well, her lymph nodes have all returned to normal size. Her doses of chemotherapy will now be every 3 to 4 weeks, rather than weekly. She is a beautiful dog and a perfect patient.