Leukemia in Dogs: Causes and Treatments

Our dogs are like children and some of us parent them as though they were. We worry about their health and wonder if they’re getting the right nutrition. Dogs, like humans, are susceptible to certain cancers. Leukemia is a type of cancer that can be treated if it is caught in the early stages. Canine Leukemia may be difficult to catch if you’re not aware of the symptoms. They start as mild symptoms and get worse over time. Here is everything that you need to know about leukemia in dogs, the causes, and treatments.

What is canine leukemia?

According to Dog Time, Leukemia in dogs is a type of cancer that causes white blood cells to increase in the bone marrow and bloodstream. The two types are Lymphocycic and Myelogenous. Chronic leukemia describes a condition that has been in process for longer. Acute types are less malignant and are in the earliest stages.

What are the causes of canine leukemia?

Lymphocytic leukemia is the result of cancerous cells developing in the lymph nodes of your dog. Myelogenous leukemia is the result of cancerous cell development in his bone marrow. Although more research is needed to fully understand the precise causes, it is believed that exposure to benzene or radiation could be a potential cause. There are also some Leukemia viruses is other animal species but it is not known if this is a factor, according to the Veterinary Partner website.

What are the symptoms of leukemia in dogs?

Chronic leukemia is a condition that progresses slowly. It may be difficult to notice the symptoms before a diagnosis has been made through routine blood tests. In some cases, a dog may show no symptoms at all. Not all dogs are asymptomatic. If your dog does have symptoms they might include lethargy, mild anemia, swelling in the lymph nodes, loss of appetite, bruising or bleeding, or an enlarged spleen. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is more aggressive and spreads quickly. The symptoms include increased water intake and urination, anemia, lethargy, anorexia, and weight loss.

How is leukemia diagnosed?

Your dog’s veterinarian performs an examination of your dog that includes a blood test. If there is an increased count of white blood cells in the bloodstream, the vet has cause to research further with more tests. Your vet may opt to perform a urinalysis, a chest radiograph, a bone marrow aspirate, an abdominal ultrasound, or a chemistry panel. These tests help to rule out other possible health conditions that could account for a higher level of white blood cells. In most cases, aspiration of the bone marrow is the most efficient way to diagnose canine leukemia according to Wag Walking.com.

Are certain breeds more prone to canine leukemia?

According to AH Vets, canine leukemia is more commonly seen in Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds British Bulldogs, and Jack Russel Terriers. The onset usually occurs in the middle age to elderly years in dogs. German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers are more prone to acute Leukemia. It is also seen more commonly in Labrador Retrievers, Boxers, and English Setters.

What are the treatments for canine leukemia?

Healthy Paws gives us an overview of the most common treatments for canine leukemia. Their experts warn that the best chance for successful treatment of the dangerous blood cancer depends on early detection. The type of treatment depends upon the precise diagnosis.

If tumors have developed on the dog’s blood vessels the condition is referred to as Hemangiosarcoma. The recommended treatments include surgery for any dermal tumors with a good chance for a full recovery. These are tumors that are located on the skin. If the tumor is internal, the results are usually fatal in time. Sometimes surgery is useful but it’s difficult to predict the outcomes as a wide margin of tissue is removed with the tumor. Chemotherapy is the treatment used when the tumors have metastasized when the diagnosis is made. It is usually the recommended post-surgery treatment used. The schedule is generally every three weeks through intravenous delivery. Chemo is also the most common treatment when surgery is not an option. Radiation is also used in some cases.

Natural treatments

According to Homeo Animal, there are supplemental treatments of a homeopathic nature that can be used to enhance the medical treatment regimens administered by your veterinarian. Natural ingredients that help to boost your dog’s immune system can be used in conjunction with traditional treatments to help the medications more effectively battle cancer. Medicinal mushrooms have shown antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anti-tumor properties. The compounds found in these fungi attack unhealthy cells but have no impact on healthy cells. These natural remedies help to fight cancer cells and prevent recurrences. Also, they strengthen the immune system and optimize other treatments’ efficacy.


If your pet shows any of the symptoms of canine leukemia it’s important to take him in for a medical screening. Regular checkups can detect an abnormal level of white cells in the blood early. Treatments are more successful when the disease is caught in its early stages. Because some dogs are asymptomatic until the blood cancer has progressed to a late stage, regular testing is vital. If your pet is diagnosed with leukemia, there are medical treatments that can help to prolong his life and preserve the quality. While many dogs die from leukemia, if it’s caught early, it may be treatable. Natural remedies that work hand in hand with traditional treatments can help to give your pet a better chance for longer survival. The causes of canine leukemia are not fully understood so it’s important not to blame yourself if your pet develops the condition, but you can increase his odds of beating it by seeking help early.

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