What is Acute Leukemia?
The cells (lymphocytes and myelocytes) proliferate abundantly to render your pet quite ill. Canines can be any age when the disease hits (dependant on the type of leukemia) and show signs of lethargy, weight loss, and anorexia. Prognosis is often not favorable but will depend on factors such as the present health status of your dog, concurrent illnesses, stage of cancer at discovery, and the individual response to treatment.
With a diagnosis of acute leukemia, the required therapy is chemotherapy. With this form of treatment, bone marrow suppression can occur which means supportive care will be initiated as well. Hospitalization is often required.
As with human cancers, researchers are constantly studying and seeking ways to battle the disease.
An excess of white blood cells form in the bone marrow causing acute leukemia. Treatment is available, though for many pets, palliative care is the outcome.
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Symptoms of Acute Leukemia in Dogs
There are several clinical signs of acute leukemia that you should be aware of. Any time that your canine is exhibiting signs of illness, a veterinarian visit is warranted. Many illnesses can present in similar ways; evaluation and testing will be necessary in order to pinpoint the cause of your pet’s discomfort:
- Loss of weight
- Appetite loss
- Lethargy and weakness
- Bruising (may not be easily seen)
- Pale gums
- Change in activity level
- Frequent urination
- Lymph nodes may be swollen
Acute leukemia can be classified as myelogenous and lymphoid. Leukemia is also found to be acute or chronic. Acute leukemia is generally a more aggressive form than the chronic type, which can have a slower progression, though must be treated promptly as well.
Causes of Acute Leukemia in Dogs
- Uncontrollable cell growth takes place
- Accumulation of neoplastic cells can take over
- Decrease in normal cell presence
- Can be aggressive in growth
- Can affect organs including spleen, liver, kidney, and heart
- Can metastasize to blood stream and gastrointestinal tract
- Non-regenerative anemia is often present in acute leukemia
Diagnosis of Acute Leukemia in Dogs
Your veterinarian can begin to diagnose acute leukemia in your dog by first observing the clinical signs and discussing the symptom history. However, since this disease may present in a similar way to others, your veterinary specialist will have laboratory tests and imaging assessments done to confirm the disease.
With a physical examination, your veterinarian may discover a fever, enlarged lymph nodes and enlarged organs in the abdominal area with palpation, as well as pale gums and mucous membranes upon viewing of the mouth, nose and eyes.
The initial blood assessment will be carefully examined and may reveal abnormalities in the number of red and white blood cells, a low platelet count, and the presence of non-regenerative anemia. A urinalysis can give indication as to how the illness is affecting your pet’s kidneys and liver.
An abdominal ultrasound will be included in the diagnostic process for a more detailed view of the organs. A bone marrow aspiration (which will likely show an overabundance of lymphoblasts in the case of lymphoid leukemia, for example) will be done. In some cases, a bone marrow biopsy is needed. In addition, thoracic x-rays may be ordered.
Treatment of Acute Leukemia in Dogs
The veterinarian has to cautiously prescribe treatment, especially if there is a risk of infection and if the dog is severely anemic. The fundamental supportive care is given after antibiotic therapy has been initiated to treat the infection.
If cancer has developed, a chemotherapy protocol involving a combination of drugs is the recommended treatment. For animals with chronic bleeding or anemia, a blood or plasma transfusion may be administered for stabilizing your pet. Your dog will have to be hospitalized for this and will be monitored carefully throughout, as well as given supportive therapy such as nutrition supplementation and antibiotic administration.
Recovery of Acute Leukemia in Dogs
Remission has been obtained in many canines; studies show that some canines have survived an additional 2 years beyond treatment. Discussion with your veterinarian throughout the process will be essential all the while keeping your dog’s best interests at the forefront.
Acute Leukemia Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My 6 year old Golden retriever was diagnosed following a blood test to investigate the cause for a severe gastroenteritis episode. I was told his white cell count was more than 60 when it should be below 17.
He was not recommended chemotherapy as retrievers do not respond well to this harsh regime especially the first 2 weeks.
He is currently being managed by antibiotic tablets and we are now in the third week following diagnosis. Although he has lost some weight he is now eating very well - always keen for food, he is walking and sleeping well.
What changes should I watch out for and can the A/biotic therapy continue as routine treatment? I contact my vet weekly and she repeats the prescription.
We are enjoying every day we have left
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Barkley had a splenectomy for what turned out to be a benign tumor in January that was found during a back X-ray to monitor arthritis. His wbc count prior to surgery for preop was 10,000. Healing well. Appetite tripled. 2 months have passed and suddenly appetite decreased, urination and thirst increased. Gained almost 10 pounds. Tires easily. Restless at night. Not interested in his food although he will eat dehydrated rabbit. Checked blood last week and wbc now 80,000. Vet suspects acute leukemia. Blood recheck today and waiting results. He has a history of knee issues (3 surgeries), arthritis, and sudden aggression towards me for the past 6 years. At a loss for our next steps and what to expect. I am hesitant to draw bone marrow. I don’t want more anesthesia or pain. Confused at sudden onset with nothing indicating trouble 2 months ago with spleen. Are they connected?
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Hi,my name is Minal. I m from india.My dog name Alf has acute lukemia can you please suggest any medicine for him? Please i want medicine for him. I don't that same answer to go doctor. I am feeling helpless. Please help me to save him.
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