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When Should You Put Down a Dog With Lymphoma?

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When should you put down a dog with lymphoma?

It is never easy to have to decide when it is the right time to have your dog put down, but this could unfortunately be the kind thing to do if your dog is suffering.

With a serious illness like lymphoma, eventually, the time might come where you may need to have your dog put down to stop them from suffering necessarily. 

We understand how difficult of a time that this can be, so if you are wondering when this time will come, we are here to help you decide this for yourself.

Ultimately, all you will want is what is best for your dog, and sometimes, these difficult decisions are the only options that are left.

In this article, we are going to give you all the information that you might need to make such a difficult decision and know how to decide when the time is right to put down a dog that is suffering.

We will also provide you with some helpful information about lymphoma in dogs, so you can be prepared for what you might expect after a diagnosis.

What is Lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a disease that can affect both people and animals. When it comes to dogs, it is referred to as canine lymphoma.

This is a type of cancer that will affect the body’s lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that are part of the immune system and work to keep your dog healthy. 

Types of Lymphoma That Can Affect Dogs

There are more than 30 different types of canine lymphomas that we know about, and all of them will vary in aggressiveness, survival rates, and clinical signs. The four most common types of canine lymphoma that you might want to be aware of are:

  • Multicentric lymphoma
  • Alimentary lymphoma
  • Mediastinal lymphoma
  • Extranodal lymphoma

Multicentric Lymphoma

Multicentric lymphoma is one of the most common types that affects dogs, and around 80 to 85 percent of lymphomas in dogs are multicentric.

This is a type of cancer that will affect lymph nodes, and in most cases, one of the most obvious signs of this disease is the rapid enlargement of the lymph nodes.

Alimentary Lymphoma

The second most common type of lymphoma is alimentary lymphoma, which equates to around 10 percent of dogs that have canine lymphoma.

This type of lymphoma will target the intestines, and this is where the majority of symptoms will occur.

Mediastinal Lymphoma

Mediastinal lymphoma is quite a rare type of lymphoma, and this is when either or both of the thymus and the mediastinal lymph nodes in the chest area will become enlarged. This is caused by high-grade malignant T lymphocytes.

Extranodal Lymphoma

Extranodal lymphoma in dogs is a type of lymphoma that will target a certain organ, like the skin, eyes, kidneys, lungs, or even the central nervous system.

The most common extranodal lymphoma will affect the skin, and this is called cutaneous lymphoma.

What Are the Symptoms of Lymphoma?

Unfortunately, due to all of the different types of lymphoma, there are lots of different symptoms to look out for. Different types of lymphoma can present different symptoms. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Behavioral changes
  • Weakness
  • Excessive thirst
  • A lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting

Some dogs with canine lymphoma might be asymptomatic, or without any symptoms, for a while before they start to present symptoms.

There may be additional symptoms that are not on this list, but the type of symptoms can vary depending on the type of canine lymphoma that they have.

Some types of canine lymphoma can cause seizures, and others, like cutaneous lymphoma, the dog may develop lesions on the mouth or skin that have a scaly texture.

What Causes Lymphoma in Dogs?

A dog with lymphoma

There is no clear cause for lymphoma in dogs, and there are a variety of things that could have caused it. It could be due to being exposed to magnetic fields or phenoxyacetic acid herbicides.

It is also a type of cancer that can develop due to environmental factors, but it is difficult to name any one cause.

There is hope that there will be more information on this in the future, but for now, it is unknown. If your dog has been diagnosed with canine lymphoma, try not to focus too much on the cause.

Diagnosing Lymphoma in Dogs

If it is suspected that your dog has this type of cancer, a veterinarian will be able to get a definitive diagnosis by taking a sample of the affected organ.

One of the most common ways to test for this kind of cancer is through what is called fine-needle aspiration. This is when a sample of your dog’s lymph nodes or organs is extracted to be used for evaluation.

Once it has been evaluated, you will be able to find out if the dog does definitely have cancer.

There are some vets that will recommend staging tests after a lymphoma diagnosis.

This will help to determine how far the cancer has managed to progress throughout the dog’s body. This will help the vet to understand your dog’s overall condition, as well as the cancer.

The tests involve blood tests, urinalysis, x-rays, abdominal sonograms, and bone marrow aspiration.

Is There Any Treatment for Dogs With Lymphoma?

Due to the fact that a dog can develop lymphoma in many different areas of the body, chemotherapy is usually the answer when it comes to treatment, rather than surgery.

The majority of dogs that go through chemotherapy treatment for canine lymphoma will enter remission, and the statistic for this is around 90%.

This remission could be either complete or partial, and through remission, your dog might stop having symptoms. However, this does not mean that the lymphoma is gone completely, and it could come back one day.

Only when the lymphoma is completely gone can it be considered to be cured.

However, only 15% of canines will be completely cured of lymphoma. A dog may still be able to enjoy the rest of its life if they are in remission, but the cancer will not be completely gone.

Unless it has been completely cured, then the cancer could come back at any point.

It is completely normal to worry about your dog having to go through chemotherapy, but know that if you are worried, dogs do not usually have the same side effects through chemo that people do.

People can get really ill and start to lose their hair, but this is generally not the case for dogs.

There are certain breeds, like a bichon frisé, an old English sheepdog, or a poodle, where hair loss can occur, but it is much more unlikely than with people. For the majority of dog breeds, hair loss will not occur.

If you are really concerned, you should talk to your vet about what is going to happen to your dog before they start chemo.

Something that you might not have known is that some of the same chemotherapy treatments that are used on people are suitable for use with dogs that are suffering from lymphoma.

An example of this is the UW-25 chemotherapy protocol, which is used for the treatment of multicentric lymphoma. This procedure involves many different chemotherapeutic agents, which are given over the span of several months.

When your dog is going through chemotherapy, they might not have as much energy as they usually do. It can also lead to a decrease in appetite, and also diarrhea and vomiting.

When Should You Put Down a Dog With Lymphoma?

If you have gotten to the stage where you have done everything that you can for your dog since they have been diagnosed with lymphoma, and you have exhausted all of the possible treatment options with no great results, you might be wondering when it is time to let them go.

This is a difficult decision for anyone to have to make, but it might become in the best interests of your dog. If nothing is working, then it is time to consider your other options.

There are some things that you should be aware of when it comes to canine lymphoma. The first of these things is that not all dogs with canine lymphoma will present symptoms.

Secondly, if your dog is in remission, they can still go on to have an amazing life, even if they still have the cancer. So, in these situations, it is still possible for your dog to have a good quality of life for the time that they have left.

If the lymphoma has not seriously affected their health, then you might not have to consider putting them down at all. In some circumstances, your dog will be able to lead a normal life. Although, you should still see your vet often to be certain of this.

In other circumstances, the most appropriate option could be to put your dog down to prevent them from suffering.

If your dog has symptoms that are uncomfortable and painful, and it is preventing them from having a good quality of life, then you might want to start considering euthanasia.

If your dog’s quality of life has deteriorated past the point of recovery, then it is likely that you are approaching the time where it is kinder to put them down.

Another reason that you might be considering putting your dog down is that you do not want them to be put through the stress and misery of treatments if they are not working.

Sometimes, you can try chemotherapy multiple times with no successful results if the cancer just keeps coming back. If your dog only spends short amounts of time in remission before the cancer comes back again, then you might want to rid them of their suffering.

If you are thinking about having your dog put down, then we recommend that you talk to your vet about it to start putting plans in place.

They might be able to recommend a treatment that you have not yet tried, or they can help to direct you to helpful resources and information. They will also let you know how to go about the process of humane euthanasia. 

How Do I Cope With the Loss of My Dog?

Coping with the loss of a dog is really difficult. If you have had to make the difficult decision to put your dog down, know that you have made the right decision to save your dog from any suffering.

Your vet may be able to provide you with some resources on how to deal with the loss of your beloved pet, but there are also some other things that you can keep in mind too.

It is important to let yourself grieve. Of course, there is nothing wrong with doing this in public or in private, but it is important to let your emotions out.

You could also choose to have a memorial for your pet with your family to allow you all to have the chance to say goodbye in your own way. You can even gather and talk about your favorite memories of your dog, and reminisce on the good times you had together.

Making the decision to put your dog down is never easy, but know that you did what was best for them, and allowed them to be at peace.

Try to make use of your support system if you have friends or family to rely on in this time of need. Talking to someone about it can often help you to work through your feelings. 


Canine lymphoma is a type of cancer that can affect any breed of dog, and there are many different types of this cancer.

There are some treatment methods that you can try, and chemotherapy is the one that is used the most often. If chemo doesn’t work, you might decide to have your dog put down to save them from suffering, and this is a very difficult decision to have to make.

We hope that this article can help you to decide what is best for your much-loved furry friend.

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About the author


Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners.Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.