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Lymph node cancer responds well to treatment

Q: Overnight, my 8-year-old golden retriever, Maize, developed lumps under her jaws and behind her knees. Otherwise, she’s completely normal. What are these lumps, and what causes them? Will they go away on their own, or should I make an appointment with her veterinarian?

A: Those lumps are probably enlarged lymph nodes. If you look, you also may find enlarged lymph nodes in front of Maize’s shoulders and in her groin.

Lymph node enlargement occurs with infection and cancer. An infection serious enough to induce generalized lymph node enlargement is likely to also cause loss of energy and appetite. So it’s possible that Maize may have cancer of her lymph nodes, called lymphoma or lymphosarcoma.

Golden retrievers are 3.5 times more likely to develop lymphoma than other breeds. Without intervention, the disease is fatal within months. However, lymphoma does respond well to treatment, especially when the dog still feels good, like Maize does.

The exact cause is unknown, although risk factors include the dog’s breed, living in an industrial area, exposure to electromagnetic radiation, presence of paints and solvents, and exposure to herbicides, particularly 2,4-D.

Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian, who can make a diagnosis. If Maize does have lymphoma, your regular veterinarian or a veterinary oncologist can talk with you about each treatment option and how much good quality time it will give Maize.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at

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