Canine lymphoma (or canine lymphosarcoma) is a malignant cancer of the lymphocytes, and since it involves the lymphatic system, surgery is not a treatment option.
Up until now, chemotherapy has been the treatment of choice. Unfortunately, chemo treatment has not had a great deal of success in curing lymphoma in dogs. Only about 2% (or less) of cases of canine lymphoma have reported curative success.
It is therefore great news that bone marrow transplant (BMT) treatment is available for dogs with lymphoma, although at this moment, BMT can only be performed in very limited facilities (see below).
(Access this page if you want more information on the symptoms, causes, and other treatment options of lymphosarcoma in dogs.)
Unfortunately, not all dogs with lymphoma are suitable for bone marrow transplants.
Dogs need to be first treated with chemotherapy so that they are in, or close to, complete remission. Only until they have reached this stage can they receive BMT treatment.
In addition, dogs who are too small (under 8 kg or 18 lbs) may have difficulties undergoing transplants.
Finally, dogs with existing health issues such as kidney or heart problems, or conditions that make infections more likely (e.g. diabetes, Cushing's disease) are not suitable candidates for bone marrow transplants.
Bone marrow transplant treatment follows several steps:
The dog also has to be put on an extremely low-fat diet because lipids (fats) in the blood can make steam cell extraction difficult.
The entire process (stem cell extraction, radiation, and bone marrow transplant) is done under anesthesia or sedation; therefore, the dog does not feel any pain.
After the transplant, the dog has to be kept in an isolation ward in the facility for about 2 weeks.
Immediately following the bone marrow transplant procedures, the dog patient may show the following side effect symptoms:
Upon returning home after 2 weeks' isolation stay at the facility, the dog patient may show temporary signs of fatigue, tiredness, and may suffer from hair loss.
The average cost is about US$14,500, which includes everything except intensive ICU care, blood transfusions, and other extra costs that may arise depending on the case.
As BMT is still a very new treatment for canine lymphosarcoma, there are no statistical numbers showing success and recovery rates.
However, like all treatments, not every dog treated with bone marrow transplants will be completely cured.
So far, most cases of relapses seem to have occurred in the first 4 months after the transplant. Those who do not have a relapse after 4 months have a higher chance of success. They are either completely cured or remain cancer-free for at least 2 years.
Currently in the USA, bone marrow transplants for dogs can be performed at these facilities: