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.

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

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

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

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.

See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.


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  1. My english bull dog Olivia was diagnosed with CTCL almost three years ago. Now her lesions are coming at a rapid pace. I would like to know what the terminal event will be so I can prepare myself for this eventuality. I looked at many websites but no one addresses this.

    • That would be a question best answered by your pet’s oncologist. The reason you’re not seeing the answer to your question on web sites is that every pet’s terminal event will be different. Our sympathies that you and she are having to go through this.

    • Our 10 year old King Charles Cavalier was diagnosed with Cutaneous Lymphoma by a Dermatologist immediately after seeing the numerous lesions. He lived 3 weeks. We went to two vets over a two month period prior to finding our answer.
      So to answer your question, give him/her lots of love, Your time is limited.

  2. My adorable 13 y/o Beagle – Dusty was diagnosed with the cutaneous lymphoma after multiple incorrect diagnoses and treatments. The final dx was not even mentioned when I asked for a biopsy of multiple crusty, oozing skin lesions cropping up daily. Unfortunately, my vet had no heart when she left a phone message of the malignancy dx and no offer of follow up or where to turn. After I called, she said she would check into treatment. She called back a week later with an appt. with a canine oncologist for Nov. 15th. This all began in July and we got the diagnosis early Sept. Luckily I saw another vet who put him on prednisone, gabepentin (for pain and itching) and an antibiotic. He’s still going downhill, but comfortable. Since he had advanced disease at diagnosis, he probably won’t make it until the Nov 15th appointment. Hopefully others won’t experience the lack of concern this original vet displayed.

  3. My 12 yo lab was diagnosed with ECL recently after a mass on his lip was removed, any chance that just by removing that he might be ok? I don’t see any more or any lesions and his lymphnodes seem ok and so does he,we got him on prednisone and limoustine as part of the process but he seems to be just fine so I was wondering can there be an instance where removal of the only mass or lesion takes care of it os the disease ALWAYS systemic?

    • Our 12 year old pug has had lymphomas removed twice from her lips, she now has 3 more large lumps and multiple small ones. We elected not to pursue surgery this time, in consultation with her vet, as it’s only 5 months since her last operation. She is on prednisolone and the tumours have reduced in size dramatically, I know it’s not a cure but she is more comfortable. She also has multiple lumps on her little body and legs, some cysts, some lymphomas and we suspect a possible mast cell tumour on her leg. She has had a large mast cell tumour removed 18 months ago from her foot. We just want to enjoy however long we have with her now and keep her happy and comfortable.

  4. My 16 year old Schnauzer, Magnum was diagnosed with cutaneous lymphoma 2 months ago. That was after a misdiagnosis of a skin infection that resulted in surgical removal of a large portion of his skin. He now has multiple weeping lesions all over his body. Due to his age and a heart condition, no chemo will be tried, plus the lesions are rapdidly presenting and growing. Is there any recommended topical treatment for these weeping raw wounds? Should I allow the blood and fluid to coagulate on the wound (as it has a foul odor)or keep it debrided? I give hime a gentle medicated bath twice weekly to remove dead skin. I am a registered nurse and woud do anythig in my power for Magnum that allows him to keep his dignity. He still is eating well, is continent. Goes for his daily walks.

    • My dog had large lesions on him . I cleaned them daily with a antibacterial soap. He was on prednisone and I give him canned pumpkin with safflower oil in it . Well his tumours got smaller and went away. There are studies on safflower oil and this cancer that look promising. My vet told me about them. Yesterday my dog got his first Chemo treatment far ok. I wish I knew exactly what caused the large lesions to heal . I am really grateful that they did. Good luck with your dog.

  5. My 13-year old English Beagle has been battling skin issues the past nine months. Our vet has ruled out mites, ringworms and food allergies. So far, the vet has injected antibiotics to curb secondary infections caused the trauma to the skin and has injected an allergy shot to help with the itching. I have been bathing my dog twice a week with medicated shampoo. Today, during a following up visit, the vet said that lymphoma to the skin might be a possibility since all else has failed. A biopsy would confirm this but it would cost roughly $600. At the same time, the vet discouraged me from spending that money because if my dog truly had this illness, he won’t have long to live. My dog looks like the 2 pictures toward the end of this article.
    Well, I am not giving up hope yet. I am going to try Dinovite to see if the skin issue may be attributed to nutritional imbalance. It’s worth a try.

    • Ask your veterinarian if he can refer you to a board-certified veterinary dermatologist. An examination and consultation will be less than $200, and you can state up front that you have budget limitations, and tell him/her what those limits are. With their special training, boarded dermatologists often have insights we general practitioners don’t have. If you can see a dermatologist without having to drive too far, it might well be worth it. I’d save my money and not try Dinovite. Please let us know what you find out. Thanks for reading

  6. My 5 year old minature Schnauzer had 2 masses removed December 4 th 2017. They came back with the diagnoses of Cutaneous Lymphoma. From what I see and read it sounds like they are lesions but Bella has no lesions they are lumps under her skin.Im a little confused about the lesions every one is speaking of?

  7. Hi, I came across this sight trying to be more knowledgeable about non- epitheliotropic form of cutaneous lymphoma. I hardly know anything about it. I was told Pitt Bull Storm has lymphoma about 2 weeks ago and she’s been on prednisone since. Today I find out it’s non- epitheliotropic form of cutaneous lymphoma. I was informed by my Vet that it is so rare and she’s never had a patient with it. She obviously advised to go to an oncologist. I wanted
    to know if you have patients with this rare cancer and what’s the chances Storm will go into remission? She had no systems of anything other that a mast on her leg that was a size of a gum drop. I got it removed right away and that’s when it came back as lymphoma and now we are at non- epitheliotropic form of cutaneous lymphoma. She is eating and active and she’s only 3 1/2 years old. Please keep her in your prayers. I’m lost about this all.

    • Our hearts go out to you and Storm, Miranda. We have, indeed, said a prayer for you. A board-certified veterinary oncologist is your best path to appropriate treatment and the longest lifespan you can expect. Please do write back and let us know how you and Storm are doing.

  8. Hello Dr. Randolph.

    My family is saddened by the news that my 12 year old dog Nikko, a German Shepherd/Husky mix was diagnosed today with Canine Cutaneous Lymphoma. A biopsy was taken by my vet and sent to a lab who made the diagnosis.

    It seemed to be a fluke a first when we were petting Nikko about two months ago and felt a mass under his skin in the Left shoulder area. It was, no kidding, the size of a hockey puck, about as thick and the same diameter. My vet did a biopsy and it came back with a high Lymphocyte count I believe. We treated him with anti biotics and some meds for diarreah. That mass simply disappeared in less than a week. Then it was thought it must be something else. Possibly a spider bite, or allergic reaction, no one knew.

    Now Nikko has a new lump, it is red and looks horrible, doesn’t seem to be shrinking or growing either. Then a new smaller lump next to the old “hockey puck” site. Possibly another flatter mass towards his back also. My vet took another biopsy and spoke with the lab today and gave me the bad news. Although Nikko is strong and happy, at 12 years old, his days are numbered as these larger breeds don’t live much past 13-14 years.

    My vet gave me two options. Oncology or a short term solution of a steroid that will give Nikko some quality of life for some months. I feel that at 12 years old, chemo or radiation may kill the cancer, but what will Nikko’s quality of life be?

    My vet said, it is solely my decision and he cannot guide me, but as a side note he said if it was his dog, steroids would be his choice.

    Nikko needs a prayer because he knows something is up but doesn’t know how bad he really has it.

    • And a prayer Nikko has.
      Please don’t rule out chemotherapy until you click here and read this article. It will give you an overview of chemotherapy principles in pets and how they are different from the principles in human cancer treatment, and why.
      Like your doctor at home, I can’t (and wouldn’t want to) make decisions for you, but I would like to encourage you to make an appointment with an oncologist and simply find out what your options are and how the prognosis differs according to various choices.
      Please stay in touch and let us know how Nikko does. Thanks for reading

      • I will try to update you as Nikko’s treatment progresses. I simply don’t know what to do at this point except maybe try the steroids. The poor old guy still seems healthy though, but the diarreah is making me worry that his bowels are no longer effective. My vet prescibed Tylan powder for that and he is on Prescription Diet Digestive Care I/d dry and canned.

        I did go to your article and may still consider the chemo. He has started the prednisone tablets today. Thanks for your prayers!

        • Our 10 1/2 year old Bernese Mtn Dog/Great Pyrenees mix was recently diagnosed with Cutaneous Lymphoma, epitheliotropic type. We too went thru a couple of months of trying to figure out what we were dealing with – a type of lupus (DLE = Discoid Lupus) was what they treated him for initially, but after not much progress a biospy was done and we got the sad diagnosis. We went to oncologist to see our options. Prednisone has helped immensely and we have started chemo, he has had one treatment (Lomustine or CCNU) so far & handled it just great – no side affects. We will continue with this treatment as long as he handles it well – they will only do 4-5 treatments, 3 weeks apart and then we will see what happens. We know this cancer waxes and wanes so hopefully the chemo will keep it at bay for a while and he can be comfortable for as long as possible. Make the most of the time you have with your beloved dog after this diagnosis!

  9. Hello. My 10 year old dog, Dee Dee, was diagnosed with cutaneous lymphoma in Sept 2015. We gave her prednisone and the lesions completely disappeared for about a year. My vet advised us to take her off the prednisone so we did. Suddenly, about a month ago the lesions began reappearing so she was put back on prednisone but it didn’t help. We then put her on clindomycin which also didn’t help. After a second opinion on April 3 we put her on doxy and niacin-amide. Not sure how long to try these two meds. They’re supposed to make the ulcerations heal a bit. I know it’s only been less than 4 days. I’m wondering what to do. Dee Dee is still very active, has a great appetite, etc but I know the wounds are uncomfortable. Should I put her back on prednisone? What’s the likelihood that it would help at this point? Thanks so much.

      • Thank you for responding. I ended up taking Dee Dee in for another biopsy two days ago per her veterinary oncologists request. I think she was a bit perplexed that Dee Dee’s first area of hair loss was two years ago. Her prognosis at that time was 4-7 months max. When she showed no lesions during prednisone treatment they looked at her original biopsy again and said that maybe it was a slow growing cutaneous lymphoma but they weren’t sure. So now we wait and see. My dog totally perplexes me. If she had no lesions you’d never know she was sick. I ran her for 1.5 hours the other day and she loved it. Thanks for praying for her.

          • Hello again!
            Well I decided to go the chemo route after getting a difinative diagnosis a few weeks ago. Dee Dee has cutaneous lymphoma sarcoma (epithelial trophic type) and is now on Lomustine every 3 weeks. She responded well to her first treatment (no side effects) and has since lost a bunch off dead skin and hair (we were told to expect this) and her hair is growing back. She still plays hard twice a day and behaves normally. She’ll get a total of 5 treatments which we’re told may put her in remission for a time. She’ll be 11 in August but it’ll be good to have her around a little while longer. Do you have much experience using this medication? Prayers appreciated.

  10. 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

      • 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.