Canine Cutaneous Lymphoma

Cutaneous lymphoma is another round cell tumor of dogs.


Jacob, clowning around in healthier, happier times.

While lymphoma is a common cancer in dogs, the cutaneous form is actually quite rare, accounting for only about five percent of all canine lymphoma cases.

Two forms of canine cutaneous lymphoma exist: epitheliotropic and nonepitheliotropic. In humans the epitheliotropic form is also called mycosis fungoides because of the mushroom appearance of the lesions in people.

In dogs, however, the cancer is more likely to appear as one or more areas of widespread inflammation. Typically, multiple areas of skin are involved. Because the common age of onset of cutaneous lymphoma in dogs is five to eleven years, these patients may have had a history of chronic skin lesions in the past.

Common locations include the junction of mucus membranes and skin, so the mouth, eyes, rectum, vulva and prepuce may be affected.

Metastasis to nearby lymph nodes frequently occurs, so lumps in those areas are often associated with this disease. Systemic disease signs may be present if other organs, such as the liver, kidneys or spleen have been seeded by tumor cells

In cats, the nonepitheliotropic form of cutaneous lymphoma is the more common, but this form is even more rare in dogs. One or more lesions may appear, and patients find them to be very itchy.

Treatment is mainly palliative due to the extremely poor prognosis of this disease. Single lesions may respond to radiation, and chemotherapy may buy time for the patient, although resistance to multiple chemotherapeutic agents is common.


Cutaneous Lymphoma has ravaged Jacob's once-beautiful coat.

See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.


Another view of Jacob's skin affected by Canine Cutaneous Lymphoma.

25 Comments to “Canine Cutaneous Lymphoma”

  1. Lucky lady 8 March 2017 at 9:22 am #

    We just found out last night that our Lucky Lady
    a Red Setter has Epitheliotropic T cell Lymphoma
    It is on her nose and gums. she is 12 years old
    and only recently has slowed done a bit. She has been a bundle of energy all her life. We are
    planning on see an oncologist. Is there any specific question we should ask? We want to do the right thing for her and not prolong her life if she would be in pain or not her loving happy self Thanks Lucky lady’s Mom

    • Dr. James W. Randolph 8 March 2017 at 10:28 am #

      You have made the right first step: seeing an oncologist. He or she will be well-versed in giving you all of the information you need. Please do write back and give us an update. Thanks for reading, Dr. Randolph.

      • Polymers 9 March 2017 at 10:51 pm #

        Our 12 year old dog, Mr. Sage, was diagnosed yesterday with cutaneous epitheliotropic T-Cell Lymphoma. Diagnosis made by biopsy of 1 of his 3 nodules on his belly and back. He also has dermal hemangio sarcoma. We start chemo in a few days. I know that everyone wants to know, “how much time do we have?” And I do know that any answer is fact specific, dependent on too many variables, etc. Still, I am seeing numbers like 2 months, then I see up to 2 years. My question is this: is the prognosis really that variable or is there a median number that I should be thinking about? Thanks a lot.

        • Dr. James W. Randolph 14 March 2017 at 11:46 am #

          “Variable” is the key word. Mr. Sage’s oncologist is the person who can best evaluate his prognosis. The rest of us simply don’t have access to Mr. Sage’s specifics. Thanks for readying

  2. Mom of 16 furry legs 27 February 2017 at 8:17 pm #

    Dear Dr Randolph,
    My 5 yr old bichon/yorkie mix has the energy and spunk of a thousand dogs. She had a tiny pink mark on her nose that grew quickly and it is cutaneous lymphoma. The vet said because of the location it can’t be removed because it can’t be stitched up and will be open for infection since it can’t be bandaged or kept from her ever licking tongue. Also he is worried about the functionality of her nose in addition. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you.

  3. Lynn 3 August 2016 at 5:44 pm #

    what do you know about cutaneous lymphoma which revealed itself only under my 12 year old golden’s armpits in the way of what appeared to be hot spots. Biopsies were taken at UTVET Med Ctr. 7/15. They say the cells are smaller than what they expect with diagnosis – so sent it to an outside lab who still does not have the final diagnosis;prognosis for us yet. As far as we now Mick has no other involvement at this time and is a healthy happy guy. Is there any hope for us?

    • Dr. James W. Randolph 3 August 2016 at 9:26 pm #

      The advances board-certified veterinary oncologists have made in this and other neoplasias of dogs means that there is always hope. A lot will hinge on what the final cell-type shows from the advanced testing that is being done. We’d love to hear an update when all of the information is in. Thank you so much for reading our blog, Dr. Randolph.

  4. Jazzy 18 May 2016 at 11:54 pm #

    Hi Dr. Randolph
    I tried contacting via the contact page but the “I’m not a robot” thingy never accepted my answers. How can I go about asking a specific dermatologic question with maybe being able to show pictures? Thank you so much in advance.
    God bless

    • Dr. James W. Randolph 19 May 2016 at 11:30 am #

      Easy, Jazzy, just post your question here in the Comments. Sorry, photos aren’t allowed. Dr. Randolph.

  5. Todd 5 April 2016 at 3:50 am #

    My 14 lb mixed dog has round cell cancers all over her body, in all places, tail, head, mouth, belly, spine, and around her eyes. I didn’t have the money for the further test to determine if it is cutaneous lymphoma but after I saw the photos on the web site here I’m sure that’s what it is.
    What I don’t understand is that I took her to three vets and none of them wanted to make even a guess what it was, seems obvious now thanks to your photos. Is there any speculation on what might cause it? I know cancer is mysterious but then I also know that some cancers are caused by viruses and others by environmental toxins. Thank you for your website.

    • Dr. James W. Randolph 5 April 2016 at 10:14 am #

      Actually, there is a VERY good reason the doctors didn’t speculate on what the masses might be based on visual appearance alone. You will understand better when you click here to read this post. It makes the subject of diagnosing from photographs really clear. I’m sorry your pet is experiencing masses. I will say a prayer for her. Thanks for reading, Dr. Randolph.

  6. Mrinal 4 December 2015 at 12:25 pm #

    Hello Dr Randolph,

    My puppy Barfi has just had a lymph surgically removed (it occurred rather suddenly and grew quite fast). The histopathology report says the mass is consistent with cutaneous lymphoma.
    Barfi is a rescue pup, just 11 months old. How could he possibly have developed this condition so early in life? Is it possible that what seems like CL right now is just some form of deviant inflammation ? He is such a happy pup and shows no signs of being ill except for perhaps slightly higher degree of shedding.
    FYI we live in India and are in the process of sending the slides and paraffin blocks for further determination, post which his therapy will be decided.
    Am also considering ayurvedic medication for him.
    Thank you.

    • Dr. James W. Randolph 7 December 2015 at 3:11 pm #

      I don’t have immediate access to an oncologist to answer your question, but I would be looking for a second opinion. There are cancers that occur in young pets, just as some occur in young people, but I’d be hesitant to make that call in a puppy so young.

  7. Amanda 26 November 2015 at 12:52 am #

    I just found out the my husky, Brenna, has epithelial lymphoma. I know the prognosis is poor, and I am contemplating whether chemo is the right choice. I just want her to have a good quality of life no matter how long or short that may be. I rescued her from a puppy mill when she was four months old, and she’s been my furball of happiness since then. I’ll always remember the way she went crazy out of sheer happiness when I came home from Iraq after being gone for a year. She never forgot me, and I’ll never forget her. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

    • Dr. James W. Randolph 26 November 2015 at 11:33 am #

      Bless your heart, Amanda. I am so sorry. I just diagnosed lymphoma in a patient late last night. Ask your veterinarian about a referral to a board-certified oncologist. You don’t have to commit to anything. You owe it to yourself to go and hear what your options are. That, of course assumes that your local veterinarian isn’t an expert in oncology. Some of us general practitioners have special interests and special capabilities in certain areas, but I am fortunate to have two wonderful oncologists I can call on. Click here to read about general principles of oncology in pets. I have said a prayer for you and your Brenna. Please stay in touch. Dr. Randolph.

  8. Estelle Nelson 5 November 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    Dear Dr. Randolph, Thank you for your reply to my email and for your caring. Jacob’s oncologist is Steven J. Susaneck in Houston, Texas. I hope that these pictures will help someone who goes to your Web site looking for information on eptheliotropic cutaneous lymphoma. I fear that Jacob has almost come to the end of his battle with lymphoma and with Cushings disease before that. He has been a brave little man and continues to be now. I pray that I will know what to do that is right for Jacob, as I always told him every time we would get in the car to go to the Dr. he would start shaking and I have always told him “Don’t worry, Jacob, I’m not going to let anything happen to you.” I only hope that I can keep my promise to him. Thank you and your wife for your prayers for Jacob. Estelle Nelson and Jacob diagnosed with cutaneous lymphoma July 25 2012 and Cushings disease May 2011

    • dockelkin 10 August 2015 at 10:43 pm #

      My beautiful Rottweiler girl is now suffering from this disease. These comments give me relief that I am not alone in my grief.

  9. Estelle Nelson 4 November 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    Dear Dr. Randolph, I last received a message from you at the end of August after I had written to you for information about cutaneous lymphoma as my dog Jacob was diagnosed in July. Jacob has been receiving chemo since August and some of them did cause his skin tumors to dry up but at Jacob’s last appointment this past week his oncologist told me he did not think there was anything else to try. However, he did suggest Masitinib used for mast cell tumors. We are trying that for 3 weeks. Your last email to me was very touching when you mentioned Jacob’s namesake in the Bible and that is why I named Jacob, after Jacob in the Bible. He is still hanging on and continues to eat well but it is obvious that the disease is progressing and he has lost almost all of his beautiful golden hair and now has some lesions on his face and head. I just wanted to let you know how Jacob was doing and ask you to continue to pray for him. Estelle Nelson and Jacob diagnosed with epitheliotropic cutaneous lymphoma, July 25 2012.

    • Dr. James W. Randolph 4 November 2012 at 6:44 pm #

      Estelle, my wife and I would be honored to continue to pray for Jacob. Please continue to send updates, as we and many readers will also want to know about the progression of his condition. Thank you for loving Jacob enough to do everything possible for him.

  10. 20 August 2012 at 10:07 pm #

    I did start my dog Jacob on chemo on August 2 with an oncologist here in Houston. He was started on Prednisone 20 mg. a day. At first the tumors started drying up quickly, but by the second week they were starting to come back. I continued with the chemo, he has just finished a 4 day regimen of oral Cytoxan. The skin lesions have come back and are now covering most of his body except his head and face. We go back tomorrow so I don’t know what will come next. He continues to have a good appetite and seems still to have energy. I would appreciate if you would include Jacob in your prayers. Thank you Estelle and Jacob

    • Dr. James W. Randolph 20 August 2012 at 10:38 pm #

      Your comment has touched and broken my heart. My wife and I lost two pets (Pearl and Martha) in 2011 and it still hurts. To think of what must ultimately happen when a dog has cutaneous lymphoma (the most difficult form to treat) means that sweet Jacob will not be with us much longer. Fortunately, in cases where one chemotherapy drug doesn’t work, another one might. So, your Houston oncologist may be able to buy you some additional time with Jacob. When I got your message I stopped what I was doing and my wife and I prayed right then for Jacob and for you. Please keep us posted on Jacob’s progress. His namesake, Jacob of Biblical fame, so greatly loved his Rachel and I know that your Jacob has given you all of the love he has. What a great blessing our pets are, a gift from God.

  11. Estelle Nelson 28 July 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    I came across your site while trying to find information on lymphosarcoma after my 13 year old Cocker-mix was diagnosed this week. He has the cutaneous form with involvement in the lymph nodes. Within 3-4 weeks he went from having diffuse rashes and a few open areas to losing all hair except on the head and face and enlarged lymph nodes behind the knees and large plaques that are now beginning to involve the sheath of the penis. I am unable to afford conventional chemotherapy, radiation or other treatments as he also has Cushing’s for about a year and a half which was being treated with Trilostane which has now been discontinued. I am desperate for information as to how I might be able to not cure but maybe slow down the progression or at least alleviate some of his skin discomfort. I am in Houston TX and he has been receiving treatment for his Cushings at Tanglewilde Veterinary Clinic. Are any of the holistic treatments such as the Budwig diet, Essiac tea, turmeric, etc. effective at all for palliation? I would appreciate any information you could give me. Thank you, Estelle Nelson.

    • Dr. James W. Randolph 28 July 2012 at 12:19 pm #

      I’m sorry I’m not familiar with any of the holistic treatments you mention. Perhaps your local doctor could help, but I’m only assuming that you’ve asked. Unfortunately, the cutaneous form of lymphoma frequently has the poorest prognosis, and that is made even poorer when treatment isn’t in the picture. I’m also assuming here, but is he on oral and/or injectable forms of corticosteroids, or is the level already high from his now-untreated Cushing’s Disease? I’d be happy to help if there are any questions I can answer for you. I’m sorry you’re having to face such a bleak picture. Send me your dog’s name and we will keep him and you in our prayers.

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