Leukemia in Dogs

Leukemia is a cancer involving the blood elements in the bone marrow, including the lymphocytes, monocytes, platelets, eosinophils, basophils, and erythrocytes. All of these cells can give rise to cell-specific leukemias. For example, lymphoid leukemia is a malignant transformation of the lymphocytes, or white blood cells. Leukemia is further subdivided into acute and chronic stages. Both stages are relatively rare in dogs.

Leukemia generally occurs in middle-aged dogs. Signs are nonspecific and include fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, and sometimes anemia with pale mucous membranes. Usually the disease is discovered when blood tests are drawn to diagnose these symptoms. Leukemic cells may or may not be found circulating in the blood. A bone marrow biopsy confirms the diagnosis.

Treatment: Leukemia is treated with anti-cancer drugs. Chemotherapy does not cure leukemia, but may put the disease into remission for several months or longer. Dogs with chronic leukemia have a better prognosis than those with acute leukemia.

This article is excerpted from “Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook” with permission from Wiley Publishing, Inc.