Canine Lymphoma (Lymphosarcoma)

Canine lymphoma basically means cancer of the lymph glands. I discovered it is a very common form of canine cancer , particularly for young to middle aged dogs and on the increase. Our own dog, Maia, was just five when she contracted the disease.
Although it is not certain what causes it, one theory is that chemicals, including ant-parasite medication and household products may be one cause.

Signs to look for
The first sign is usually enlarged lymph nodes. Lymph nodes come in pairs and are located under the jaw, above the shoulder, in the arm pit and the groin. There are also internal nodes that you can’t see.

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Maia’s first symptoms were enlarged nodes in the neck. They weren’t that big, but when I compared them to my other dogs, they were very obvious. Usually a dog’s lymph nodes are not obvious to the touch at all, you may have to dig around to find them, so if you can feel them easily then there is an infection or disease.

Now before you start panicking, there are many reasons why these nodes on either side of the neck may get enlarged, from a local infection – for example of the salivary glands or teeth – to things like tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease.

However with lymphoma, these nodes stay enlarged and then others get enlarged too. However there may be no other sign at all that the dog is ill. Maia was absolutely 100% normal, playful and eating and drinking normally when I noticed the enlarged nodes.

What to do

The first thing to do is go to your vet. They may then do a blood test and take a needle aspiration of one or more nodes. This involves putting a needle into the lymph node and taking some sample cells which are then sent off for analysis. It appeared from Maia’s reaction, to be almost painless.

You will understandably be extremely anxious during the wait for the results, as it may take several days. All kinds of scenarios will play through your mind. I had prepared myself and done my crying by the time I got the results. They are looking for either B or T cells. Unfortunately, Maia had the most aggressive form of T cell lymphoma.

The vet will discuss treatment options with you. These are either chemotherapy, which dogs apparently tolerate much better than people do, or palliative treatment to relieve discomfort through steroids – usually prednisone (cortisone) – which can give a remarkable boost for two or three weeks. The dose is a tapered one and it is important to follow the instructions as stopping cortisone suddenly can have dire consequences on the adrenal system.

I put off the cortisone for as long as possible until Maia was starting to be very tired, refusing to eat and not at all herself, and then gave her a tapering dose as prescribed by the vet for almost four weeks. The initial effect was amazing, despite my fears of side effects. She was so much better, her old self really and started eating like a horse.

Although side effects of cortisone include thirst and peeing more, I can’t say I really noticed those. Loss of muscle tone is another side effect and I did start to notice that. All in all, I am glad we decided to give her the cortisone, although I was almost sick with apprehension beforehand. I think part of the problem also is that once you opt for cortisone you are really accepting that “this is it”. It took me a long time to accept it, but two consecutive days of Maia being ill put paid to all of that.

Lymph node staging

The vet will probably tell you what stage your dog is at. Mine didn’t so I just looked it up online. There are five stages:

Stage 1 – one lymph node/pair of nodes enlarged.

Stage 2 – lymph nodes enlarged on front or back half of body

Stage 3 – lymph nodes enlarged all over body

Stage 4 – internal involvement of liver/spleen

Stage 5 – other organs involved and/or bone marrow

I think Maia was probably at Stage 2/3 when I had her diagnosed and I didn’t really know when she had got to stage 4/5. All I knew was that she started having more difficulty breathing and that I could feel a hard longish mass in her abdomen. I also noticed one of her eyelids started showing and that she had a small reddish protrusion from under her tail which she licked a lot.

Life expectancy

This is shockingly short depending on whether or not you choose to give your dog chemotherapy, but with or without chemo, the prognosis is very sadly terminal. The average statistics are that with chemo the dog can go into remission and may live from six to 18 months more. A tiny percentage will achieve complete remission.
If the dog is not given chemo (we chose not to go that route with Maia) the life expectancy averages two months after diagnosis. Maia was diagnosed on July 2 and died on October 21, so she did very well.

Alternative treatments

As I am not a big fan of conventional medicine I immediately launched an internet search for alternative treatments for lymphoma.
One of the most interesting I came across was the Budwig Protocol, which involves a change in diet and giving a mix of cottage cheese and linseed oil. I did try this for a few weeks, but I was worried about Maia getting pancreatitis, which can be a side effect and needs to be carefully monitored. She loved the cottage cheese and oil mixture but I didn’t continue with it as it coincided with a day or so when she got quite sick and I wasn’t sure if the protocol could be the cause, so I stopped it.

Another interesting alternative treatment is Essiac tea which I ordered from Clouds Trust in the UK, getting the tea within a few days. It is a charity and they ask you to make a donation in exchange for a month’s supply. I bought the tea and all the equipment to make it but in the end I didn’t give it to Maia.

I found great help an comfort for her and me in doing simple massage and also healing. I imagined white healing light pouring into her body as I touched her gently. Rather than imagining negative things (eg “ go away cancer”) I thought positive thoughts like “your body is totally healthy, your immune system is strong” and so on. You can read more about pet healing in this interview I did with pet healer Margrit Coates.

When the time comes

You know your dog and you will know when it is time. I had several false alarms with Maia, but that last Saturday I took her to the vet and to my surprise he said she was OK but to bring her in again on Monday. I asked him what I should do if there was an emergency at 3 o’clock in the morning. As he was away at a conference for the weekend, he gave me the number of an emergency 24 hour vet in Arezzo.

Maia died in my arms at home at 3.30 am on Sunday morning.

I wish I had insisted he put her to sleep when I knew it was time. There is a saying “better a day too early than an hour too late.” I would agree with that. It is the last loving act you can do for your faithful friend and you must stay strong and calm even if you totally lose it afterwards. This is their time and you have to steel yourself to be as relaxed and soothing as possible. You can do it.

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I comfort myself with the fact that Maia had a wonderful life for all but a couple of days. I grew even closer to her through her illness and I feel she is still here with me now. I learned a lot and have a lot to thank her for. Her life was too short but she was to me, as I wrote on her gravestone, “the best dog in the world.”

Interview With Pet Healer Margrit Coates

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We know that keeping pets benefits our health so wouldn’t it be great to return the compliment? Well, it is possible to make a positive energy connection with your animal using a hands on healing technique. You are probably familiar with ‘spiritual healing,’ as it sometimes referred to, being used on people but it can be immensely beneficial for animals too.

 Margrit Coates is the UKs leading pet healer and has written four books on the subject, the first one being the acclaimed Healing for Horses. She’s appeared on tv and radio on numerous occasions and has written the Pet’s Corner column in the Daily Mail.

I first found out about her when I read the amazing Hands On Healing for Pets recently which explains in detail how to do that very thing –  apply hands on healing to your own animals. Having a long standing interest in healing and having done it reasonably successfully on my own animals I wanted to interview Margrit for this site. We
had a great conversation.

Margrit defines pet healing as ‘a human making contact with an animal’s electro-magnetic field to help on whatever level possible, mental, emotional or physical.’ She explains that no-one is quite sure of how this healing energy works or where it comes from, but her own feeling is that it is non denominational and emanates from a supreme being or force to which all life is connected.

The beauty of talking to Margrit and reading her books is that she gives you confidence to try healing for yourself. She believes everyone has the ability to heal on some level and that the animal benefits enormously. It deepens the connection between you and your pet and helps both of you relax. She makes it clear that it does not take the place of a visit to the vet and that healing can’t mend broken bones or cure terminal illnesses, but it can alleviate stress and pain, helping release endorphins which are the body’s own pain killers, and it gives the pet a feeling of well-being. It can help medicine be more effective. It is totally safe, non-invasive and free. There are no down sides with this at all!

 Margrit tells me that hands on healing has been the subject of hundreds of documented scientific studies. ‘More than a hundred volts of energy has been measured coming from a healer’s hands,’ she says. ‘When healers make a connection, it has been demonstrated that  blood flow increases in certain areas in the brain – the frontal lobe and the limbic system.’

OK, I’m convinced! But let’s get down to the nitty gritty. How do you actually do it? What should you feel? How do you know you’re doing it right?

 Margrit recommends that before you try healing with your pet you set aside some time when you will not be disturbed (turn off the phone and tv). Remove any magnetic jewellery on your and your pet. You need to get into a positive and relaxed state of mind by meditating first or listening to soothing music. Although you may usually get relaxed with a glass of the local red alcohol is best avoided when healing as it weakens the energy flow. For the same reason you should not try healing if you are feeling under the weather or are emotionally upset. You basically have to be in a calm, relaxed state where you are ‘thinking healing’ and not about what to make for dinner, whether you have left the iron on or whether you should file for divorce! Your pet too should be relaxed rather than excited and wanting to play.

 ‘Energy follows thought,’ explains Margrit. ‘So just let your mind drift. If you are having difficulty with this then just keep repeating “I love you and I want to help you,” in your mind.’ She says  you then place your hands gently and lightly on the animal ‘like a butterfly landing’ or hold them just above. (I confess to getting better results when my hands are held an inch or two above the animal.) ‘Watch the animal, observe and stay focussed. Direct your energy outwards. Have confidence and keep going even if you can’t feel anything happening. You don’t have to hold your hands over a  articular place, although you may be drawn to do so,’ she continues. ‘Because the body will take the healing it needs, which may not necessarily be where you expect it.’  

Some people feel their hands get hot during healing, some (like me) feel cold spots or tingling. ‘But don’t worry,’ says Margrit. ‘We are all different and some of the most powerful healers feel nothing at all. The animal always benefits though.’

What if you are trying to help a wild animal or something you can’t get close enough to touch? Margrit says you can still heal. ‘I have done it numerous times,’ she says. ‘If I am outside I imagine a light beam between my eyes and turn my palms upwards with the fingers pointed close to my body. Then I imagine shooting beams of light at the animal, which focuses my healing thoughts. It doesn’t have to take very long as the healing is very fast.’

 Does the animal display any signs that the healing is working? ‘Yes, there is an immediate peaceful effect, the eyelids may droop, the animal may become sleepy or even fall asleep,’ says Margrit. ‘It may twitch or stretch out or even look at your hands. Some may move to direct your hands to a particular spot on the

body.’ Again on a personal note I have seen this happen and when trying healing on one of my own dogs, she actually took her paw and pushed my hand onto her stomach – can’t say it clearer than that, can you?  

Margrit points out that an animal does not have to be sick in order to benefit from healing. ‘You can do it to any animal to build up a better bond and to help it on so many levels, ‘she says.

 I talk to her about the many thousands of animals that need help, that have been maltreated and are in cages or suffering as we speak. I have written about some of these on the site. Can healing help them in any way? ‘We can send healing thoughts,’ she replies. ‘Wherever there is an animal in need then healing thoughts will reach it on some level. Of course it is easy to feel despondent and think is it enough, but I would like to tell you about a scientific experiment mentioned on Lynn McTaggart’s Intention Experiment site. In this experiment, a group of people in London were asked to make a geranium leaf in Arizona that had been cut from a plant and punctured with holes “glow and glow”. The results were astounding. Ten minutes of intention had a measurable result in the light emissions of the leaf and these were visible in the digital images created by the CCD cameras. The control leaf remained unchanged.’

It makes you think doesn’t it? Of what we are capable of and what the power of thought can do, especially if a group of like minded people with open minds and the intention to do good get together. ‘Imagine if the whole world did that.’ says Margrit. ‘If everyone decided to use their inner gifts for healing. Imagine what good we could do.’

 It’s a tall order. You may feel daunted at the enormity of the task of trying to help heal thousands if not millions of animals. But start small like the geranium leaf experiment. Start on your own pets and watch the results. You don’t have to be psychic or gifted or New Agey or anything. Just have an open mind and an open heart and see what little miracles you can achieve.

Margrit’s website is www.theanimalhealer.com