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What are Histiocytosis?

Histiocytosis refers to an abnormally large amount of histiocytes, which are the white blood cells in the immune system that come from the bone marrow. There are two kinds of histiocytes, which are macrophages, which remove debris and other foreign materials from the blood, and dendritic cells that tell the lymphocytes what molecules are good and which are bad. Both CCH and CH produce benign tumors that are restricted to the skin and may come and go at will. SH is a more serious form that involves the organs as well as the skin and lymph nodes although it is not malignant. HS and MH are both malignant tumors that are life threatening. Removing the tumor before it spreads is the best form of treatment because once it spreads into the vital organs, it is almost always fatal.

There are several different types of histiocytosis, which are reactive histiocytosis (includes cutaneous and systemic), canine cutaneous histiocytoma, and histiocytic sarcoma complex (includes histiocytic sarcoma and malignant histiocytosis). Cutaneous reactive histiocytosis (CH) and canine cutaneous histiocytoma (CCH) are benign skin tumors that come and go but do not cause any internal damage. Systemic reactive histiocytosis (SH) causes skin tumors that progress to the vital organs and bone marrow and can be unresponsive to treatment. Histiocytic sarcoma (HS) is a malignant tumor that can spread quickly without treatment. Malignant histiocytosis (MH) is an aggressive disease with several tumors that progresses quickly and is usually fatal.

Histiocytosis Average Cost

From 254 quotes ranging from $300 - $2,000

Average Cost

$800

Symptoms of Histiocytosis in Dogs

There are several types of histiocytosis and each have their own set of side effects. Some of these are:

Canine cutaneous histiocytoma (CCH) and cutaneous histiocytosis (CH)

  • Nodular lesions of various sizes that can be up to 4 centimeters, smooth, hairless, ulcerous, or crusted.
  • Lesions are distributed anywhere on the body, most common in extremities, scrotum, mucous membranes, nose, and eyelids.
  • In CCH, the lesions usually clear up on their own.
  • CH tumors come and go randomly.

Systemic histiocytosis (SH)

  • Skin lesions identical to CH
  • Appetite loss
  • Swelling of the inner eye
  • Inflammation or edema
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Muscle spasms
  • Depression

Histiocytic sarcoma (HS)

  • Single skin lesion
  • Fast growing tumor
  • May spread to internal tumors that can cause symptoms related to the location

Malignant histiocytosis (MH)

  • Fever
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Appetite loss
  • Weight loss
  • Cough
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Trouble breathing

Types

  • Canine cutaneous histiocytoma (CCH) is just one benign lesion that affects mostly younger dogs that clears up on its own
  • Cutaneous histiocytosis (CH) one to five lesions that seem to come and go at will
  • Systemic histiocytosis (SH) causes lesions in the skin as well as internal organs, bone marrow, and lymph nodes, but it is not malignant
  • Histiocytic sarcoma (HS) is a malignant tumor localized to one area at first. It has to be removed quickly before it spreads or it is fatal
  • Malignant histiocytosis (MH) is an aggressive form that causes multiple cancerous tumors on the skin and in the vital organs. This disease is almost always fatal
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Causes of Histiocytosis in Dogs

The cause of most histiocytoses are unknown, but they are most often seen in:

  • Dogs over 5-7 years
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs
  • Briards
  • Chinese Shar Peis
  • Collies
  • German Shepherds
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Rottweilers
  • Shetland Sheepdogs
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Diagnosis of Histiocytosis in Dogs

The veterinarian will perform a physical examination to check vitals and examine your dog from head to tail for signs of lesions. Bring your dog’s medical records if possible, and let the veterinarian know if your pet is on any medications. Fine needle aspiration of the tumors or lesions is usually taken for microscopic examination. Some diagnostic tests may reveal low hemoglobin and iron reserves (anemia), low number of platelets, and increased liver enzymes. Radiography (x-rays), CT scans, MRI, and ultrasound can give the veterinarian an idea of how far the disease has spread.

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Treatment of Histiocytosis in Dogs

Your dog’s treatment plan is dependent on which type of histiocytosis is found. No treatment is usually needed for CCH, but the veterinarian will want you to keep checking it and schedule follow up appointments for 3-6 months. The treatment for CH and SH are medications and observation. The treatment for HS is surgery, medications, and hospitalization. MH is fatal within days and euthanasia is usually recommended.

Cutaneous Histiocytosis and Systemic Histiocytosis

Medication may include aggressive steroid therapy, azathioprine, tetracycline, or cyclosporine. The veterinarian will want you to continue to observe the tumor growth and watch for side effects from the medication.

Histiocytic Sarcoma (HS)

Surgery to remove the tumor (amputation, if necessary) is necessary right away to stop the cancer from spreading. Chemotherapy and radiation are sometimes used but once the cancer reaches the vital organs it is usually too late, since it has then progressed into MH, which is untreatable and fatal.

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Recovery of Histiocytosis in Dogs

Prognosis for CCH is excellent since it usually resolves on its own. CH and SH are good, but since steroids affect the immune system, you must continue to watch for infections. Even a mild infection can be fatal with a weakened immune system. HS prognosis is fair as long as you have caught it before it spread to the internal organs. However, infections need to be watched for with this type of histiocytosis as well,  because steroids are used. The fate of MH is grave and your veterinarian may suggest euthanasia.

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Histiocytosis Average Cost

From 254 quotes ranging from $300 - $2,000

Average Cost

$800

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Histiocytosis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Teche

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Golden Retriever

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8 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Breathing Difficulty

My poor Golden Retriever has suffered with Cutaneous Histiocytosis for 5 years now. Her lesions are severe- I would venture to say a 50 plus on her body-almost everywhere you pet her there is a quarter sized raised pink sore, even one next to her eye. She also is struggling to breathe. The treatment recommended is Niacinamide 1500mg/ Doxycycline Hyclate Flex Tabs 1200mg per day- She is not improving. We are desperate. Thank you for your advice.

June 10, 2018

Teche's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

I'm sorry that Teche is having that problem. Depending on the type of CH that she has, typical therapy often includes aggressive steroid therapy, azathioprine, tetracycline, or cyclosporine, and she may need a different treatment plan. That would be something to discuss with your veterinarian, as I cannot examine her and don't know the details of her condition. She may need a referral to a specialist, which your veterinarian would be able to help you with.

June 11, 2018

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Esther

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Boxer Chow

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1 Year

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Pink Lump

Recently I noticed a raised lump on my one year old Boxer’s back. At first I thought maybe she scraped herself on some brush or was bitten by something though I never saw and blood or oozing. It’s now week two and I don’t notice that it’s larger but it’s certainly not smaller either. It’s pink, about the size of the top of a small pinkie finger, and doesn’t appear to cause any pain or itching. It is hard to the touch. We haven’t been to the vet yet, but was wondering if we should be concerned or just watch it for a few more weeks?

May 8, 2018

Esther's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Any new lumps or bumps should be seen by your Veterinarian since tumours and skin disorders may occur at anytime in a dog’s life; without examining the lump I cannot say what it is but you should certainly visit your Veterinarian for an examination. Whilst not an emergency, you shouldn’t leave it too long before visiting. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 8, 2018

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Frasier

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Lurcher

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4 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Raised Circular Red Lump

My lurcher is nearly 4 years old and has been diagnosed with a cutaneous histiocytosis on the lower part of his front paw. I've been told that is should disappear on it's own. It's not bothering him much but I have to put a sock on it to stop him licking it. I also wash it after walks with salt water. Is there anything that can be done to manage the condition and speed recovery?

April 16, 2018

Frasier's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

There unfortunately are not a lot of treatments for histiocytomas other than surgical removal, if they don't resolve on their own. You may be able to use a bitter spray to keep him from licking at it while waiting to see if it will resolve, there are many forms available from pet stores and your veterinarian. I hope that everything goes well for him!

April 16, 2018

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Bear

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Boxer

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4 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

None

We have a 4 yrs old male Boxer with a Histiocytoma on the edge of his ear, it has been examined and a scrape test has shown malignant cells, his surgery has been scheduled. My question is will we have to wait for biopsy results before his Histiocytosis can be typed?

Dec. 28, 2017

Bear's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. You do have to have the biopsy results to find out what type of tumor he has, yes. I hope that he does well.

Dec. 28, 2017

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Shadow

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Shetland Sheepdog

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5 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Red Bumps On Back And Chest

My Sheltie is 5 years old and was diagnosed with Cutaneous Reactive Histiocytosis. He had slight bumps on his chest and back. He has been on on tetracycline/niacinamide for a year and his lesions have disappeared but I noticed his fur is thinner and is getting dry skin. Can the medicine cause this or is it the disease. I would like to take him off the medicine for awhile but afraid his disease will come back. The dermatologist did a thyroid check but that was fine. Any suggestions? I don't want a bald Sheltie.

Aug. 30, 2017

Shadow's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Hair loss isn’t a typical symptom of cutaneous reactive histiocytosis or a side effect of tetracycline niacinamide administration; but each dog is different and some dogs may be affected by a condition or treatment differently than another. I cannot tell you specifically why Shadow is losing his hair but it may be due to a secondary condition. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 30, 2017

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Domino

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Boarder collie

dog-age-icon

6 Years

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Mild severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Bumps Under The Skin

My sweet pup has been diagnosed with Reactive Histiocyposis. He has several bumps/lesions on his back. I do not want to put him on steriods. Is there alternate medications. I was wondering if CBD oil would help??

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Cali

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Maltese

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12 Years

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Fair severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Open Skin Sores

My Female 12 yr. old Maltese was diagnosed with reactive histiocytosis in October 2017 while living in Florida. Was diagnosed by dermatologist & biopsy. After clearing all the sores with different meds, was placed on Atopica (for cats). Doing well. No outbreaks in 18 months. Moved to New York State so have new vet. She also has 6 of 6 murmur. He suggested to stop the Atopica “if it comes back we’ll restart”. I certainly don’t want her to suffer through that outbreak again. What do you think?

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Maple

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Labrador Retriever

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11 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Lameness Difficulty Getting Up

Maple was recently diagnosed with Histiocytic Sarcoma and this was May 30. The tumor is too large for surgery as it is 26 x 26 x4 cm now. 2 weeks ago we saw the surgeon who stated that bc of the size Palliative care is all they can do and gave her 2 weeks to a month...I'm devastated. She's still eating, taking 200 mg Tramadol,antibiotic,RIMADYL, aspirin daily. She is beginning to have a hard time getting up and I have to use gauze and she wears a robe in order to keep the tumor covered as it is several large red raised ulcer like bloody masses that keep growing. She is still swimming daily n eating but it's only a matter of time before I have to make the decision to provide her w the peace she deserves.

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Zeke

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Chesapeake Bay Retriever

dog-age-icon

6 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Hacking Cough
Sores
Lack Of Appetite

Our Chesapeake Bay Retriever was diagnosed with cutaneous histiocytosis in October. He could not handle doxycycline, he vomited immediately. We put him on Vitamins from NuVet labs, which our Vet had not heard of and was very impressed with their contents, we also put him on hemp oil. We believe he came down with it after seeing another rescue we had go into a seizure that ended with her needing to be put down. He had really bonded with her. He had cleared up, the my daughters dog went into heat, and naturally we needed to keep them separated and he broke out worse than before. He began choking, so our Veterinarian took an ex-ray and found his lymph nodes are slightly enlarged, but otherwise his esophagus is clear. He is now breathing hard, has lost his appetite - but he does really well when we take him out in the field for walks! Then he doesn't choke, or lay down, he's happy and act's normal. He has lost approximately 10 pounds. This morning I gave him some turmeric and with CBD oil with peppermint to help with the swollen lymph nodes, I've also used local honey from my cousin to help with his cough. He isn't interested in eating, except for occasional treats. I'm looking at purchasing some Essiac Tea in capsule form to help with his immune system as well. Is there anything else we can do? Our Vet said Tetracycline is no longer made, at least it's not available in Michigan.

Histiocytosis Average Cost

From 254 quotes ranging from $300 - $2,000

Average Cost

$800