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What is Chronic Leukemia?

Chronic leukemia is a cancer of the blood and occurs when an abundance of white blood cells are produced rapidly. It typically affects middle-aged to older dogs and develops slowly, with no visible symptoms specific to the condition. When chronic leukemia is diagnosed, you can maintain your dog’s condition through a combination of consistent monitoring and chemotherapy, which can prolong your dog’s life and improve his or her quality of life.

Chronic leukemia progresses slowly and is typically asymptomatic in the beginning stages. Though the cancer is not curable, it can be maintained through a combination of close observation and chemotherapy, allowing your dog to keep up a high quality of life for months to years following diagnosis.

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Chronic Leukemia Average Cost

From 84 quotes ranging from $4,000 - $11,000

Average Cost

$8,000

Symptoms of Chronic Leukemia in Dogs

Because chronic leukemia progresses slowly, symptoms may not develop until after the diagnosis has already been made. Many patients are asymptomatic, but if your dog does exhibit signs, they may include:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mild anemia
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
Types

There are two types of chronic leukemia: chronic lymphocytic leukemia and chronic myeloid leukemia, otherwise known as chronic myelogenous leukemia. Lymphocytic leukemia originates in lymphocytes, while myeloid leukemia starts in myeloid cells, or non-lymphocytic white blood cells. Lymphocytic leukemia occurs more frequently than myeloid leukemia.

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Causes of Chronic Leukemia in Dogs

Chronic leukemia occurs when an abundance of white blood cells gather in the body, typically due to a mutation in the bone marrow. Much as with other cancers, there is no known cause for chronic leukemia of either type. The condition mostly occurs in older dogs, with no strong connection to gender or breed.

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Diagnosis of Chronic Leukemia in Dogs

Due to the condition’s slow progress and the initial lack of symptoms, most cases of leukemia are discovered when blood work is conducted for other reasons. If your dog’s blood test shows elevated levels of white blood cells, the veterinarian will perform an initial examination in order to establish your dog’s medical profile. The results from previous blood work will be useful if available, as this ascertains your dog’s normal blood cell counts and provides a basis for comparison.

The veterinarian will perform further tests in order to diagnose leukemia, as there are several other conditions which may result in an increased number of lymphocytes in your dog’s blood. Possible tests include:

  • Chemistry panel
  • Urinalysis
  • Chest radiograph
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Bone marrow aspirate

Leukemia is typically confirmed with an examination of the bone marrow. In cases where insufficient bone marrow is obtained by aspiration, a biopsy may be required.

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Treatment of Chronic Leukemia in Dogs

Chronic leukemia is typically maintained through careful monitoring. Because the condition progresses slowly, no treatment may be necessary in the beginning stages. You will need to observe your dog and keep note of any new symptoms, as well as bring your dog in to the veterinarian’s office for regular physical examinations and blood work to monitor blood cell counts.

As the leukemia develops, your veterinarian will treat your dog with oral chemotherapy to help control the condition. Chemotherapy cannot cure chronic leukemia, but it can provide supportive care that relieves discomfort and maintains a higher quality of life for your dog. Depending on the extent of the leukemia at the time of diagnosis, maintenance medication may slow its progress by several months.

Alternative treatments, such as nutritional supplements or a change in diet, will not address the leukemia itself but may improve your dog’s overall function. These methods can strengthen your dog’s immune system against any complications arising from leukemia or chemotherapy. If the condition spreads to other areas of the body, including the spleen or lymph nodes, your dog may require stronger treatment, such intravenous chemotherapy. The goal of chemotherapy in all cases is to achieve remission and allow your dog to remain comfortable for as long as possible.

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Recovery of Chronic Leukemia in Dogs

Chronic leukemia cannot be cured, though chemotherapy may help push it into remission and reduce exhibited symptoms. Depending on your dog’s symptoms and response to treatment, you may need to change your daily routine to accommodate loss of appetite or reduced energy levels. You will need to bring your dog in to your veterinarian’s office for regular examinations and blood work, both to monitor the progress of the condition and to gauge your dog’s response to chemotherapy. If the condition responds well to the medication, or if your dog achieves remission, your dog can still maintain a high quality of life for several years following the initial diagnosis.

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Cost of Chronic Leukemia in Dogs

If the veterinarian has caught leukemia early enough, then they may not need to start any major treatment right away. The veterinarian will usually recommend coming in for a physical exam ($40-$56) and blood work ($20-$34) a few times a month to properly track the cancer’s progression. The veterinarian may suggest giving your dog vitamins ($10-$32) and a healthier diet ($15-$42) to improve your dog’s overall health. Once the cancer starts progressing, the veterinarian will begin oral chemotherapy, such as Lomustine or Leukeran. Lomustine can cost around $116 per treatment, whereas Leukeran can cost around $340 per treatment. Unfortunately, there is no cure for cancer yet. Having stated the obvious, the chronic leukemia can spread, and if it does, the chemotherapy treatments will need to be more aggressive. This chemotherapy is given intravenously and can cost $1,000 per treatment. The combined cost of everything mentioned can range from $1,185 to $1,440 and, many of these costs are continuous. Having chronic leukemia cannot be cured, but these treatments have the ability to prolong your dog’s quality of life for as long as possible.

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Chronic Leukemia Average Cost

From 84 quotes ranging from $4,000 - $11,000

Average Cost

$8,000

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Chronic 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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Pit Bull

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10 Years

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

My dogs neutrophils result is 14923. Can I explain this to me

Jan. 30, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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2 Recommendations

Assuming the units are in microliters anything over 12,000 is high. Without knowing more about your dog and their remaining blood results, it is impossible to know the significance of this. There are many reasons for high white cells including an infection, inflammation, stress, steroid medicine, hormonal disorders etc. You need to discuss these results with your dog's vet.

Jan. 30, 2021

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Ashke

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Rottweiler

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7 Years

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Critical severity

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3 found helpful

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Has Symptoms

Anorexia
Anorexia, Anemia

My dog ​​is diagnosed with chronic leukemia. the symptoms developed in a month so that even the veterinarian was convinced he was acute but the lab says he is chronic. he is currently on leukeran tablets and corticosteroids. he lost 8 kg and his dental meat was completely white. the blood picture is repaired since the therapy but the pounds are not climbing and the dental flesh is still completely white. The question is whether the kilograms should come back and the color of the dental flesh to repair if the therapy work

May 17, 2018

Ashke's Owner

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3 Recommendations

The white gums (dental flesh) would be an indicator of anaemia and would (should) return pink once the red blood cell count has increased towards normal levels; the weight may not return although. However, you should continue with the therapy and follow up visits with the Veterinarian to monitor the progress and management of this condition. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 18, 2018

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Chronic Leukemia Average Cost

From 84 quotes ranging from $4,000 - $11,000

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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