Chronic Leukemia In Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

A blood malignancy known as chronic leukemia in dogs develops when the bone marrow and bloodstream produce an excessive number of white blood cells quickly. The acute form is more cancerous than the chronic form, which can be either.

This slow-growing cancer typically affects middle-aged to elderly canines and has no distinguishable symptoms at the time of diagnosis.

Following diagnosis, canine chronic leukemia can be kept under control with a combination of regular testing and chemotherapy, which can increase your dog’s lifespan and quality of life.

Asymptomatic in the early stages, chronic leukemia advances gradually. Although cancer cannot be cured, it can be managed with a combination of close monitoring and chemotherapy, allowing your dog to maintain a high quality of life for months to years after diagnosis.

Types of Chronic Leukemia in Dogs

Two different kinds of chronic leukemia exist: chronic lymphocytic leukemia and chronic myeloid leukemia, also referred to as chronic myelogenous leukemia.

Myeloid leukemia begins in myeloid cells, or non-lymphocytic white blood cells, as opposed to lymphocytic leukemia, which develops in lymphocytes. More cases of lymphocytic leukemia than myeloid leukemia are reported.

Symptoms of Chronic Leukemia

Because chronic leukemia develops slowly, symptoms do not appear right away. In most cases, the symptoms appear after a diagnosis. Although many canines are asymptomatic, the following are some possible symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mild anemia
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Easy bruising or bleeding

Causes of Chronic Leukemia in Dogs

The root causes of canine leukemia are not fully known. Most of the time, according to vets, it arises spontaneously from a bone marrow mutation.

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However, some elements may enhance the likelihood that the illness will worsen. These comprise exposure to harmful chemicals, some viral diseases, and radiation exposure.

There are no effective ways to stop the illness from arising in dogs because the causes are unknown.

Diagnosis of Chronic Leukemia in Dogs

The majority of leukemia cases are identified during routine blood testing for other purposes because of the disease’s gradual progression and early absence of symptoms.

The veterinarian will conduct an initial examination to determine your dog’s medical profile if the results of your dog’s blood test revealed elevated levels of white blood cells.

In order to determine your dog’s typical blood cell counts and establish a baseline for comparison, the findings from earlier blood testing will be helpful, if they are still available.

Since a number of different diseases can cause an increase in lymphocytes in your dog’s blood, the doctor will carry out additional tests to narrow down the possibility of leukemia. The following tests might be performed:

  • Chemistry panel
  • Urinalysis
  • Chest radiograph
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Bone marrow aspirate

A bone marrow test is often used to confirm leukemia. A biopsy can be necessary if aspiration of the bone marrow is insufficient.

Treatment of Chronic Leukemia in Dogs

Careful monitoring can help keep chronic leukemia under control. No treatment may be required in the initial stages due to the condition’s gradual progression.

However, you must keep an eye on your dog and note any new symptoms. You must also regularly bring your dog to the vet for physical exams and blood work to check blood cell counts.

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The dog’s veterinarian will provide oral chemotherapy when leukemia worsens to help manage the disease. Chemotherapy can offer supportive treatment that eases suffering and preserves the dog’s higher quality of life, but it cannot treat chronic leukemia.

Alternative treatments, such as dietary changes or nutritional supplements, won’t treat leukemia itself but may enhance your dog’s overall performance. These techniques can help your dog’s immune system become more resilient to side effects from chemotherapy or leukemia.

Your dog might need more aggressive medication, including intravenous chemotherapy if the illness extends to other organs like the spleen or lymph nodes. Chemotherapy’s overall objective is to bring about remission while letting your dog live as comfortably as possible.


The only treatment for chronic leukemia is management. Chemotherapy only works to lessen cancer’s symptoms and force it into remission.

To track cancer’s progression and determine the dog’s response to chemotherapy, frequent trips to the vet’s office would be required for routine physicals and blood tests.

Chemotherapy-responsive dogs can continue to have long, healthy lives for a number of years.

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