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Dog Leukemia: Types, Symptoms, Treatments

According to PetWave, canine leukemia is a “progressive, malignant disease that involves out-of-control growth of white blood cells (leukocytes) in a dog’s blood and bone marrow”. The body produces too many cancerous cells and not enough healthy blood cells which causes a genetic change, often referred to as a mutation, in the bone marrow.

Four main types of Canine Leukemia

  • Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia
  • Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
  • Acute Myelogenous Leukemia
  • Chronic Myelogenous

“The word “acute” in acute myelogenous leukemia denotes the disease’s rapid progression. It’s called myelogenous (my-uh-LOHJ-uh-nus) leukemia because it affects a group of white blood cells called the myeloid cells, which normally develop into the various types of mature blood cells, such as red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.”*

Symptoms of Dog Leukemia

• Pale Gums
• Weight Loss
• Lethargy
• Vomiting
• Diarrhea
• Seizures
• Change in Behavior
• Loss of Appetite
• Increased thirst
• Urination

Both forms of canine Lymphocytic  and canine Myelogenous Leukemia may be classified as either Acute (sudden onset) or Chronic (long term illness). Whether they are classified as acute or chronic depends on how mature the cancer cells are. Acute Leukemia is the result of a rapid and sudden increase in the number of immature blood cells which stops the production of healthy blood cells and is immediately life threatening. Chronic Leukemia is the result of an abnormal increase in the number of more developed, mature blood cells which build up over a period of time, often years. This form of the disease is more common in older dogs.


  • Generalized Illness, no specific symptoms
  • Tiny, non-raised purple spots on the skin, from hemorrhages beneath the skin (petechia) or dark red or purple spots on the gums from ruptured blood vessels under the skin.
  • Inconstant symptoms, dependent upon which organs have been affected by neoplastic (abnormal) cells.


Patients can normally be treated on an outpatient basis. If your dog has low levels of red blood cells, platelets (the cells responsible for clotting), or other blood clotting factors, it should be hospitalized and given blood transfusions to prevent excessive bleeding. If your dog has been diagnosed with leukemia, your veterinarian will also prescribe a chemotherapeutic medicine to halt the growth of malignant cells.

Caring for you dog if he is diagnosed with Leukemia

If your dog is diagnosed with leukemia, you will need to keep it isolated from other animals. Your dog’s system will lack an immune response as a result of both the cancer and the therapy. In the process of destroying fast growing cancerous cells, chemotherapy will also destroy white blood cells responsible for fighting invasion, making your pet prone to infection. Even a simple cold can quickly become a fatal case of pneumonia. Red blood cells can also be affected; one possible side effect of a low red blood cell count is anemia. Blood platelets, the cells responsible for coagulation (clotting), can be affected as well. A low platelet count can result in bruising and excessive bleeding. Dogs suffering from this disorder are prone to hemorrhage from lack of platelets. Your veterinarian will schedule follow-up appointments to monitor your dog’s blood count and bone marrow status. Unfortunately, the prognosis for acute lymphoblastic leukemia is not good.

The purpose of this information is for reference use only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat sick dogs. If you feel your dog may be sick, please consult a licensed veterinarian who can diagnose the problem and prescribe appropriate medication and treatment.

If you don’t have regular veterinarian, TAILored Pet Services recommends Bothell Pet Hospital because our staff members have personally worked with this company for many years.

*Information obtained from http://www.k9-wellbeing.net