Cutaneous Lymphoma in Dogs

Cutaneous Lymphoma in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Cutaneous Lymphoma?

The most common tumors in dogs are malignant lymphomas, which is a condition also defined as a lymphosarcoma. These types of malignancy generate within the lymphoid tissues of the dog, such as the spleen, bone marrow, or lymph nodes. They can occur in any of the bodily tissues. 

Lymphoma is a term that is used to describe a variety of cancer. Cutaneous lymphoma is a type of skin cancer that occurs within abnormal T-cells of the dog. Lymphoma is cancer that stems from the lymphocytes, which are the white blood cells that aids the immune system of the dog to attack any infection. The lymphocytes are very important to the immune system, and when cancer occurs within the lymph nodes, such as in the spleen or bone marrow, the actual organs begin to show signs of abnormality.

Cutaneous lymphoma, in the advanced stages, begins to affect the peripheral blood and the internal organs. Fortunately, this type of cancer is treatable, though there is no cure. It responds very well to treatments, as this rare form of cancer has been researched over the years. A skin biopsy is the only way to determine if any dog has this rare disease.

Cutaneous lymphoma in dogs is a type of lymphoma, or skin cancer, that originates through the lymph nodes of specific organs.

Symptoms of Cutaneous Lymphoma in Dogs

  • Peeling skin
  • Lesions and ulceration
  • The skin may be itchy
  • Plaques
  • Hair loss
  • Thickened skin
  • Oozing of fluid
  • No response to antibiotics
  • Possible presence of oral lesions (gum and lips)


There are specific types of dog breeds that may be more susceptible to this type of skin cancer. These dog breeds include:

  • Boxers
  • Basset Hounds
  • Scottish Terriers
  • Airedales
  • Bull Dogs

Causes of Cutaneous Lymphoma in Dogs

As with many cancers, the actual cause is unknown. However, research has shown that the following may play a role in the cause of skin cancer. Causes may include:

  • Environmental factors
  • Dietary factors
  • Lifestyle
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Predisposition in certain breeds

Diagnosis of Cutaneous Lymphoma in Dogs

If you suspect your dog may have this type of skin cancer, make an appointment with your veterinarian.  Your veterinarian may ask questions pertaining to his symptoms, such as when you first noticed them and if he is having any other symptoms in addition to irritated skin. Your medical professional will begin by conducting a few laboratory tests. He may perform blood work, urinalysis, and biochemistry profile. He will then examine your dog’s skin and he may decide to perform a biopsy of the skin that is affected. This may be done by a fine-needle aspiration or by doing a skin test. 

Your veterinarian may check for a fungal infection or a bacterial infection. He may choose to do a biopsy and remove a patch of the skin to send off to a laboratory. An x-ray or ultrasound could be done to check for underlying disorders. Other tests may be performed as well, depending on what your veterinarian needs to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment of Cutaneous Lymphoma in Dogs

Treatment will depend on the prognosis of your dog and the severity of the disease. Treatment methods may include:

Radiation Therapy

If your dog has been diagnosed with cutaneous lymphoma, he will discuss with you the types of therapy that are best suited for his disease. Your veterinarian may consider radiation therapy for your dog. 


Surgery to remove the skin cancer may be the best option for your dog. Surgery may be performed and may be used in conjunction with radiation or chemotherapy.


Your veterinarian may recommend chemotherapy to treat your dog’s cutaneous lymphoma. Your dog will be scheduled to attend several appointments to receive his chemotherapy treatments, depending on how the therapy is administered.

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Recovery of Cutaneous Lymphoma in Dogs

Although chemotherapy is the main treatment for cutaneous lymphoma, your dog’s prognosis depends on the severity of his disease. It is very important to listen to your veterinarian and follow his instructions on any specific care you need to give to your companion. 

If your dog had surgery or is receiving treatments for his cutaneous lymphoma, it is crucial to stay abreast of any information you can find out about the disease. Educating yourself is very important so you can know how the disease presents itself and what the possible outcomes can be. Remaining proactive is essential, and being there for your pet is even more important.

Cutaneous Lymphoma Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals


Golden Retriever




9 Years


0 found this helpful


0 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Skin Lesion
My 9 year old Golden had Chemotherapy for Multicentric Lymphoma. He has been in remission. Now he has two lesions on his neck just behind his head near his collar. My vet did a biopsy which came back positive for Lymphoma. He went thru chemo the first time just fine. I just got the diagnosis today. She is looking into options as I write this. What do you recommend. Chemo...Surgery or a more Holistic approach. Thank You

July 27, 2018

0 Recommendations

The decision to go through with chemotherapy would be down to your Veterinarian as Ares is under their duty of care and I haven’t examined her or seen any medical records; cutaneous lymphoma is uncommon in dogs and any decision on the course of treatment would vary depending on multiple factors but I would try to stay with more allopathic treatments rather than a holistic approach. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 27, 2018

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11 Years


6 found this helpful


6 found this helpful

...Beau, continued... cutaneous lymphoma/Cushing's/lymphosarcoma: To wrap this up, the doctor told us to also discontinue the RX Apoquel. We have purchased and thrown out so many prescriptions from this doctor. I feel like I'm putting my dog through treatments and chemicals that are hurting, not helping him. He feels bad enough without being improperly diagnosed on top of everything else. Thank you in advance to any VETERINARIAN's that will provide me feedback, ASAP if possible. Should we hang in there with Dr. DUCLOS, Lynnwood, Washington, or should we find a different specialist? Thank you in advance for your prompt response, Mrs. Alison B. To:Canine cutaneous lymphoma expert, My Havanese /Shih Tzu mix, Beau, has all the symptoms of cutaneous lymphoma. Red patches of itchy flaky skin, crusty bumps scattered all over his body, and loss of the brown color pigment around his eyes, lips and the cushions of his paws. I took him to an animal dermatologist specialist. We have been seeing this doctor for over one month. First, he did blood and urine tests and diagnosed him with Cushing's syndrome. The doctor prescribed a daily medication (pill)to treat the high cortisol levels. He told us our dog was producing too much cortisol, and this medication would lower the cortisol which would stop the his immune system from overreacting and causing all these rashes and itchy skin. The doctor also started my dog on an antifungal and antibiotic treatment plan. My dog did not tolerate this well and threw up every day. The Dr. advised us to stop the antifungal, and continue the antibiotic. The Dr. sold us prescription shampoo and we have been bathing him twice a week as advised. The doctor also prescribed a bottle of RX mousse and a tube of RX ointment to rub into his skin daily. He also prescribed an anti-itch medication, Apoquel. None of these products & prescription medications worked. Feeling very frustrated, last week I called the office and insisted my dog be seen the next day. He was feeling miserable and none of this doctor's ideas were working. When I told the doctor that I am deeply concerned and that nothing we've tried is working, the doctor said "maybe we should've done a biopsy the first time I saw him". Then the doctor took a biopsy to check for lymphosarcoma. I waited four days for the Laboratory results. The vet tech called yesterday and said that since Beau's skin was so inflamed when they took the biopsy, the lab couldn't get an accurate diagnosis on the skin sample biopsy. Now they want him to come back next week for another biopsy. This makes no sense to me. Our poor little dog is feeling miserable, we have spent hundreds of dollars, and I'm quickly losing faith in this doctor. Why would skin inflammation make it impossible to detect cancer cells? They took a large biopsy, approximately 3/4 of an inch long and half an inch deep. My poor dog was so sedated he was knocked out for four hours at home after that biopsy. Please, if there is a vETERINARIAN on this website that can direct me to the proper type of specialist: should I find another animal skin specialist, should I try to find a dog oncologist? Help! I would appreciate a professional veterinarians detailed explanation of why my dog should have to have a second biopsy. Now the doctor is saying our dog has Cushing's syndrome AND lymphosarcoma. He is now on the four tablets of Medrol daily. The Dr. took him off the Cushing's medication, because those two medications would cancel each other out/fight each other. He also told us to stop the Apoquel. To whom it may concern: please read the paragraph at the top of this page. For some reason your website separated the end of my comment letter, so the ending paragraphs are at the top of this page. Read more at:

Oct. 21, 2017

6 Recommendations

Firstly request some digital images of the first biopsy along with case notes to send to a telemedicine company like PetRays (first link below) who will be able to give a second opinion on the first biopsy for a reasonable price by board certified Oncologists; inflamed tissue samples sent for histopathology will be infiltrated with white blood cells making a diagnosis difficult. In Washington State, there is a board certified Oncologist in Renton, WA (second link below) but the other option to visit the Veterinary School is in Pullman, WA which is probably not practical given the distance from Lynwood, WA. With a case as complex as Beau’s, I would recommend getting as much Specialist help as needed since this seems to be a complex case and I wouldn’t want to recommend anything since I haven’t examined Beau or seen any results. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Oct. 21, 2017

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