Early in October, I was contacted by a concerned pet parent worried about her beloved dog’s lack of energy, stiffness, and swollen area behind his right knee. That patient’s name is Gunner. Gunner was seen by another veterinarian and was started on an antibiotic for treatment of Lyme Disease, after which he improved for a short period of time. When I first examined Gunner the swelling behind his right knee was in fact an enlarged lymph node.
One of the common diagnostic tests performed when a patient has an enlarged lymph node includes an aspiration, also known as a fine needle aspirate (FNA). Many times the FNA will give the veterinarian an idea of the kind of growth your pet has. Other tests performed may include chest and abdominal X-rays, sonograms, complete blood counts, tick disease testing, urine sample analysis, and blood chemistry analysis. All of those tests had been performed in Gunner’s case. The aspirate of his lymph node was very concerning for a cancer called lymphoma. Lymphoma is the most common blood borne cancer in dogs and often affects dogs that are middle-aged to older. However, it has been documented in dogs less than six months of age.
The FNA performed in Gunner’s case was found to be strongly suggestive of lymphoma and given some abnormalities on his other blood tests there is concern that the cancer was affecting his bone marrow. After discussing all of the options with Gunner’s family they collectively decided to proceed with chemotherapy treatment. Fortunately enough this service is offered locally however some folks may elect to seek a consultation with a veterinary cancer specialist. We are hopeful that in Gunner’s case he responds well to the chemotherapy medication and his quality of life improves. Prior to starting his treatment Gunner was not eating very well, suffered a 10-pound weight loss, and had nearly no energy. Within days following his initial treatment his family noted a drastic improvement in Gunner’s appetite as well as attitude. They noted he was nearly back to his old self. Gunner has total of 23 weeks of chemotherapy treatments ahead.
Cancer does not discriminate to a person’s age, race, creed, or financial background and it does not discriminate in the animal world either. In respect of Pet Cancer Awareness Month, I hope that Gunner continues to do well during his treatments and has as much quality of time with his family.