Leukemia in Dogs
Definition Leukemia in Dogs
Leukemia is a progressive, malignant disease that involves out-of-control growth of white blood cells (leukocytes) in a dog’s blood and bone marrow. White blood cells are critical components of a dog’s immune system and help protect its body against infection by bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microorganisms. The causes of leukemia are not well-understood. Leukemia cells multiply in the bone marrow and ultimately end up circulating in blood. They rapidly become space-occupying and start to crowd out normal bone marrow cells that otherwise would develop into healthy, mature red and white blood cells. This alteration of the microenvironment in the bone marrow causes a complicated cascade of consequences which includes a reduction in the normal numbers of healthy circulating red and white blood cells. Dogs with leukemia become weak, nauseous and are not able to fend off infections.
As with most other types of cancer, the causes of leukemia are not well-understood. Most leukemias in domestic dogs are thought to develop spontaneously after the dog is born. Exposure to radiation, infection by viruses and exposure to certain toxic chemical substances have all been suggested by various experts as being possible causes of or contributors to canine leukemia. However, there currently are no reliable, repeatable scientific studies that establish the contribution of these or
The symptoms of leukemia in dogs tend to be vague and non-specific. They often mimic the symptoms of many other systemic diseases - those that affect multiple organs or body systems – and usually involve general symptoms of weakness, fatigue and nausea, none of which can be pleasant for the affected animals.Owners of dogs with leukemia may notice one or more of the following clinical signs:Acute leukemia is more common in middle-aged dogs, averaging about
Many times, an abnormally high number of leukemic cells will be found in circulating blood on routine blood work, including a complete blood count and peripheral blood smears. The results of these tests can raise a high degree of suspicion that leukemia is responsible for the dog’s symptoms of unwellness. A serum biochemistry profile on a blood sample, and a urinalysis on a urine sample, can provide additional valuable information about the dog’s overall health.The
In most cases leukemia can be treated or managed, but rarely can it be cured. Treatment goals are to eradicate the cancerous leukocytes if possible, restore normal bone marrow production of red and white blood cells and their precursors, provide good supportive care to the dog and relieve the patient’s discomfort. Remission, which is the reduction or temporary cessation of the observable signs of an illness, is the ultimate therapeutic goal of treating leukemia. Veterinary