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DanaDVM, Dog Answer Team
Category: Dog
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Experience:  Dog Expert
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boxer: enlarged spleen and swelling..vomiting..lethargic..My vet

Customer Question

My 5 year old boxer recently had an ultra sound done and the results were an enlarged spleen and swelling of a lymph node found in the abdomend. His symptoms were vomiting (2-3 a day), very loose bowl movements, sometimes lethargic, and rapid loss of weight. My vet advised me that for a true diagnosis a biopsey of the lymph node would need to be done, but unfortunately these tests are too costly for me. However an extraction of fluid from the spleen area showed benign. Prednisone 20mg was prescribed and the vomiting pretty much stopped but the bowl movements didn't so Metronidazole 250mg was just given. My question is are we missing something, could there be something else that my dog could be suffering from that these symptoms could be tied to? I dont think he has cancer because he doesn't seem to be suffering, he's still very playful and active. He has lost all of his body mass, his spine and ribs are showing but he's definitely eating well and I think he's getting a little belly but he's very bony elsewhere. Please help!
Submitted: 11 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  ElenaMarie replied 11 years ago.

Cancer can be such a vague and insidious disease. Unfortunately, the tests are very expensive, and if the vet pretty much is sure that is what your dog may have, I would just try to keep him as happy and comfortable for the time he has left with you. If he is playing and still active, I would just try to get him to eat what you can, and until he really starts lying around, and seems to suffer from extreme pain, I would cherish each day you have.

There is not anything I can think of at this time, that he may have, and since the meds like prednisone and metronidazole seem to be helping when using them, I would just continue with the advice of your vet. 

If he is getting a little belly, that could always be a possibility of ascites, or fluid buildup, if he has cancer, and you should keep an eye on that, that it doesn't become too enlarged.

He is quite young, but even young animals, can develop fatal diseases, and I would only question the vet on what else you might be able to supplement his diet with that could help him live a good quality of life, for as long as he has. Perhaps he will receive a miracle, if you believe in prayer and pull through this, if it is not cancer, and give you many more years of loving friendship.

God bless you and good luck! 

Customer: replied 11 years ago.
Reply to Elena Marie's Post: Well actually my vet isn't sure that my dog has cancer or not. The only way to know for sure is if a biopsey is done. Thats what im trying to find out, if there is something else I can have my vet test my dog for or maybe there might be something that she's missing. Would another vet take the same route that my vet took or would they test for other things espically since the fluid from around the spleen was benign. Is there a more agressive way to approach my dog's health problem?
Expert:  ElenaMarie replied 11 years ago.

The following information in blue comes from the following website:

Lymphosarcoma (lymphoma) is the third most common cancer diagnosed in dogs. It is a cancer of lymphocytes (a type of blood cell) and lymphoid tissues. Lymphoid tissue is normally present in many places in the body including lymph nodes, spleen, liver, gastrointestinal tract and bone marrow.

The average dog with lymphosarcoma is between 6-9 years although dogs of any age can be affected. Certain breeds (Boxer, German Shepherd, Golden Retrievers, Scotties, Westies and Pointers) may be more likely to develop this type of cancer. Males and females are equally at risk. In most cases, we cannot tell what causes lymphosarcoma.

Also, you may want to read the information on the following website. I am not a vet, so, you may want to ask another vet about your dog, but with what I am reading and what your present vet has done, and has suggested doing, such as the lymph node biopsy, that would probably be the most definite way to find out if your dog has cancer.

The following website might lead you to more information also, that is interesting about boxers:

I believe the only really aggressive way to approach your dog's health, is what you have already done so far, and also, if you are able, to do the biopsy that the vet suggested. But, if this were my dog, and I did not have the money to put the dog through a lot of tests, that may end up being benign, or cause more pain in the dog, I would opt to treat the symptoms and let the dog live out its life without a lot of painful visits to the vet's for further testings.

God bless and good luck!



Customer: replied 11 years ago.
I appreciate you forwarding that web site to me about the cancer information. That was very helpful in answering alot of my questions. But I was wondering if you can tell me your best guess on what the average life span for my dog in this situation, how long will he have living with this cancer if thats what it is?
Expert:  ElenaMarie replied 11 years ago.

Surely, I hope your dog does not have cancer, but if he does, it is hard to say what his amount of time left might be. The vet might be able to give you an idea, but it depends, again, on whether or not he does have cancer and what clinical stage it is in.

No one really can ever give a definite answer on any animal's life span with a disease such as cancer. Perhaps your dog will be fine, and he may just be suffering from some disease that is viral that has affected his organs so severely.

I found another website that is very good about splenic masses and cancer and you might want to look at that. Hopefully your dog does not have this, but it might give you some good information. It always helps us to learn as much as we can, and then we may not feel so helpless when we have to deal with diseases with our pets. The site is:

If he is still eating well, and acting pretty normal now, with normal bowel movements and urinating okay, then I would just be thankful for each day you have with him. Just like any pet we have, we just never know when that day might arrive when we have to make the decision to let them go, if their quality of life becomes unbearable and painful for them.

If you have thought about asking another vet for an opinion, and if there is something else that might be done, you will probably end up paying as much all over again, compared to the chance you might take in having your dog have the biopsy done of his lymph node that your present vet recommended. I still try to not put my animals through too many tests or surgeries, if it is not going to do anything but give a definitive answer that the pet has a fatal condition or disease anyway.

Right now, I have a cat that has had  two mammary tumors for going on four years (very small like a pea, but still worrisome), that my vet wanted to take out. I chose not to, as I feel that if they are benign, then she will be okay for as long as they do not grow, but if they are cancerous, it puts the cat through so much trauma, pain and stress and the cancer seems to grow faster, and the cat dies more quickly. I have a friend who has lost two cats to mammary cancer and she said she will never put another cat through what they went through ever again.

Each person must make their own personal decision, and if you feel comfortable just having your dog live the way he is right now, and you cannot afford much more, in tests, and treatments, etc. then I would not feel guilty about that choice. He may surprise you, and make a great comeback, and live many more years with you!

God bless you and good luck!

Expert:  DanaDVM replied 11 years ago.


I am hesitant to respond since my last conversation with you, you never accepted an answer...

Was the spleen just showing a generalized enlargement? And, was it just one lymphnode or many? How large?


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