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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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Acute Leukemia Average Cost

From 370 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $10,000

Average Cost

$8,000

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)
  • Bleeding
  • Pale gums
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Malaise
  • Change in activity level
  • Frequent urination
  • Thirst
  • Lameness
  • Fever
  • Lymph nodes may be swollen

Types

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.

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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
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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.

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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.

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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.

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Acute Leukemia Average Cost

From 370 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $10,000

Average Cost

$8,000

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Acute Leukemia Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Ollie

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Goldendoodle

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2 Years

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Our 2.5 year old goldendoddle was just diagnosed with Acute Leukemia. He is going downhill very fast. My question is this. We spent over $8000 at MedVet over the last month and they could not figure out what was wrong. Our local vet did a simple $42 blood test last week and diagnosed him right away with Acute Leukemia. Is there a reason why this would not have shown up in the blood work 2-4 weeks ago? I’m not sure why the professionals at the hospital charged us what they did and still did not find this. Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

Aug. 2, 2018

Ollie's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Honestly I cannot answer this question, I’m not sure as I haven’t reviewed the medical records or test results; however I would recommend requesting the medical records from MedVet and your local Veterinarian and send them for a second opinion by a board certified Specialist (company like PetRays) for them to compare the blood test results and notes to see if the diagnosis should have been made earlier. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 2, 2018

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Barkley

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Basset Hound

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10 Years

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

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?

March 30, 2018

Barkley's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

It seems unlikely that the leukemia is related to a benign tumor, or the surgery, but may be something that was going to happen regardless. Since your veterinarian seems to be covering all the bases for Barkley, and since I don't know what the rest of his lab work showed, it would be best to trust your veterinarian - if you aren't sure about any testing, make sure that you ask to discuss the risks and benefits before proceeding.

March 30, 2018

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Acute Leukemia Average Cost

From 370 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $10,000

Average Cost

$8,000

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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