Canine leukemia is a very serious disease. It is characterized by cancer of the white blood cells produced by bone marrow. The white blood cells are responsible for protecting your dog’s body against disease. If they aren’t able to function properly, your dog will be susceptible to a wide range of conditions.
It isn’t exactly known why leukemia in dogs occurs. Some suggest that exposure to certain chemicals may be to blame. Another possible reason that dogs develop leukemia is because they’ve been exposed to radiation.
Leukemia can be either acute or chronic. In acute cases, the cancerous blood cells grow very rapidly. The cancerous cells will be produced over a more long-term basis in chronic cases of the disease.
Canine leukemia causes the liver, spleen, or lymph nodes to become larger. Other noticeable symptoms include chronic diarrhea, lack of appetite, behavioral changes, and pale gums. As the disease progresses, there will be less mature blood cells, so your dog may experience bleeding. Any bruises that he suffers will also take much longer to heal. The weakened immune system will also leave him with a higher risk of various infections.
In order to diagnose dog leukemia, the veterinarian will have to perform a few tests. A blood test will reveal a decreased number of red blood cells and an increase in the white blood cell count.
Since the spleen, liver, or lymph nodes may become enlarged, the vet may also perform x-rays or an ultrasound. A urinalysis may also be useful. If canine leukemia is suspected, a bone marrow biopsy can provide a definitive diagnosis as well as determine the particular type of leukemia it is.
Leukemia in canines usually proves to be fatal within weeks or months if not diagnosed and treated in time. The main method of treatment involves chemotherapy. This will help slow the growth of cancerous white blood cells.
Secondary diseases can easily become a problem since dog leukemia leaves your dog with a very weakened immune system. These diseases will need to be treated accordingly, especially if they can be fatal. Canine leukemia may also require blood transfusions if the dog develops severe anemia.