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Cancer: Leukemia

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Types and Causes:

Canine leukemia is an abnormality related to the immune system of the body. It can occur in any breed, at any age or sex. It is primarily considered to be a genetic problem, but some viruses such as retroviruses are also considered to be a possible cause. Leukemia in dogs can be acute (sudden) or chronic (severe) in nature. If more then 30% of the WBC (white blood cells) are reported present in the dog bone marrow, it is a cancerous and acute form of leukemia. This form of leukemia is also called canine acute lymphoid leukemia (ALL). Several sub categories have also have been identified in an acute form. This is the most dangerous form of cancer and the patient may not survive for more then few weeks.

The chronic form of canine leukemia on other hand involves the growth of cancerous tissues in the lymph nodes or bone marrow over time. Either type of cancerous lymphoid tissue replicates and ends up as “Canine Chronic Lymphoid Leukemia (CLL)”. The myeloid tissues or the red bone marrow becomes cancerous or it circulates in the blood. This form of leukemia in dogs is termed “Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML)”. Either of the chronic forms grows in the presence of healthy tissues, thus the life span of the patient improves to several months or years.

Symptoms:

Specifically dog leukemia is characterized by features such as neutropenia (low levels of neutrophis, which are white blood cells (WBCs) produced in the bone marrow that ingest bacteria), non regenerative anemia (low volume of packed red blood cells), thrombocytopenia (drop in blood cells that help clotting) and circulation of immature WBC (white blood cells).

Clinically, dogs with leukemia appear lethargic and experience a recurring fever. Loss of appetite is accompanied by a loss of interest in activities. A dog may not eat or drink properly. Due to a progressive loss of red blood cells in circulation and the inability of the bone marrow to produce healthy RBC’s, a dog will surely experience anemia and signs of paleness. Anemia is non regenerative in nature, which means that a dog cannot recover from the disease on their own.

Weight loss and the progressive loss of body condition are some other features of leukemia in dogs. Similarly, when injured, profuse bleeding is noted. Unfortunately, symptoms are highly non specific which means that they don't necessarily indicate that a dog has leukemia. The use of laboratory tests are mandatory to diagnose and differentiate canine leukemia from other illnesses.

Diagnosis:

Specifically, some initial tests such as a CBC (complete blood count), urinalysis and biochemical profiling are required. Once evidence of leukemia or dog blood problems are confirmed, advanced tests that involve sampling from the bone marrow are needed along with detailed studies of different components. Differentiation of leukemia from other conditions such as lymphoma and leukocytosis might be required to decide the possible outcome of the disease.

Treatment:

Though several options such as chemotherapy and supportive techniques are available, unfortunately these options have not been proven to be curative. Chemotherapy can help to increase the life span of the patient several months to several years. In the acute form of dog leukemia, chemotherapy cannot help in increasing the quality of life for a dog.

The immune system of dog with leukemia is badly affected, thus repeated secondary bacterial infections are more frequent. Broad spectrum antibiotics can help in this regard.

Supportive supplements and some natural or herbal preparations such as C-Caps Formula can help to improve the physiology (body condition) and the quality of life of the patient. They should be considered as an important method for supporting a patient’s degrading health.


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