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Originally published December 12, 2011 at 12:21 PM | Page modified December 17, 2011 at 12:33 AM

Dog's lumps may be swollen lymph nodes

Bailey needs to visit her veterinarian.

McClatchy Newspapers

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Bailey is not sick and, according to Martha, has never been sick.

But about a year ago, the 9-year-old chow chow developed multiple lumps in various areas on her body. She had some under her neck and in front of her shoulders, and Martha recalls some on the dog's back legs as well. About two weeks after Martha noticed the lumps, they had disappeared. Now Bailey's lumps have returned.

Bailey needs to visit her veterinarian, especially if they are lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are part of the lymph system, which in turn is part of the immune system. Lymph nodes contain cells called lymphocytes and are interconnected to one another and to the blood vessel system via lymphatic vessels. These nodes occur in specific areas of the body both externally and internally. Externally, the more easily found nodes occur bilaterally in the neck just below the angle of the lower jaw, in front of the shoulders, in the armpit or axillary area of the front limbs, in the inguinal area and behind the knee joints in the rear limbs. I suspect Martha had seen and/or felt these nodes on Bailey as they were enlarged, a condition we term peripheral lymphadenopathy. These enlarged lymph nodes may be indicative of a type of cancer called lymphoma.

I believe Bailey had lymphoma a year ago and it spontaneously went into remission, only to return a year later. Lymphoma is the most common type of cancer that we see in dogs. It involves the lymph system, most commonly throughout the body, and can invade anywhere. Diagnosing lymphoma when the dog has peripherally palpable lymph nodes is relatively straightforward. It involves placing a needle attached to an empty syringe into individual lymph nodes and aspirating back some cells from the nodes into the needle. The aspirated material is then put onto microscope slides, which are then stained and microscopically examined. Lymphoma is diagnosed if the cells on the slides are predominantly immature lymphocytes. Bailey needs to have this diagnostic procedure performed.

In the vast majority of cases of canine lymphoma, treatment is successful at putting the lymphoma into remission. Remission does not mean cure, but I have had cases of lymphoma that have been cured. With today's treatment protocols, a cure is far more common than in the past.

Certainly, Bailey may not have lymphoma. There are other causes of peripheral lymphadenopathy, including bacterial and fungal infections, though these dogs usually have other signs relating to the infections. Maybe Bailey's lumps aren't even lymph nodes. There is only one way to find out. All together now ...

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Jeff Kahler is a veterinarian in Modesto, Calif. Questions can be submitted to Your Pet in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto CA 95352.

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