The lymphoid system helps in the body’s defenses against viruses and bacteria. The lymphatic tissue is spread out in the body and is concentrated in the lymph nodes, GI tract, skin, liver and spleen. Lymphoma or cancer of the lymphoid system is one of the common types of cancers that can affect dogs.
Lymphoma is a malignant tumor of the cells and can occur practically anywhere in the body. It usually occurs in multiple sites in the body. The chest cavity, nose, kidney, gastrointestinal tract, central nervous system and lymph nodes that are spread all across the body are the locations that are attacked in most cases where lymphoma occurs in a dog.
The diagnosis and treatment that is decided depends upon the site of the lymphoma. Blood tests, aspirates of the tumor, biopsy, X-Rays and ultrasound examinations confirm the diagnosis. Treatment options include surgery, radiation and drug therapy.
Life expectancy for dogs with lymphomas is limited to four to six weeks. With treatment there is a possibility that this period can be extended. Although any veterinarian can prescribe the treatment for lymphomas, it is advisable to consult a veterinary oncologist to ensure that you evaluate the latest treatment options.
Prednisone, a synthetic corticosteroid, is one of the five drug combinations used to administer chemotherapy treatment to dogs that develop lymphomas. Prednisone can potentially reduce swellings and ease the discomfort in dogs.
But oral prednisone alone cannot extend the life of the dog. Dogs that have already been treated with prednisone for more than seven days tend to become immune to chemotherapy. It is also imperative that chemotherapy be started only after the affects of any earlier administration have dropped off.
It is important to note that prednisone should be used in conjunction with other drugs.
A veterinarian oncologist will prepare a treatment protocol over a recommended period of twelve weeks. This will involve visits to the oncologist for injections that have to be given under supervision, and blood tests which will usually have to be completed weekly. Typically the following chemotherapy drugs are administered:
- Vincristine - injected intravenously
- Elspar - injected under the skin
- Cytoxan - given orally
- Adriamycin - injected intravenously on a slow drip
- Prednisone - given orally
Once this cycle is complete, follow up involves drugs like Prednisone, Chlorambucil (on alternate days) and Vincristine (injected once every three weeks). Constant monitoring of the progress and side effects is essential during the entire process.
Chemotherapy can have moderate side effects. In all likelihood the side effects will be self limiting. However, in rare cases they may be severe enough to require hospitalization.
Prednisone is a highly potent drug and can cure a number of conditions. At the same time, prolonged use can cause serious conditions including hyperadrenocorticism in a dog, commonly known as Cushing’s disease . Cushing’s disease in dogs is a life threatening condition by itself, therefore it is advisable that the drugs be administered adequately. Adhering to the prescribed dosage can go a long way in making life easy for you pet.