Leukemia is essentially a cancer of the blood cells. It begins in the bone marrow, where blood cells are created, and results in an abnormal number of white blood cells in the bloodstream. 

These cancerous cells can then spread to other parts of the body, such as the kidneys or liver, and cause other issues.

Most people know leukemia as a very serious illness in humans, but it can also affect cats and dogs. Just like most cancers, an early diagnosis can be one of the best tools we have to protect our furry friends against leukemia. 

Read on to discover everything you need to know about diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of leukemia in pets. 

Acute vs Chronic

Leukemia is categorized into two stages: acute and chronic. 

Acute leukemia progresses very quickly and spreads very fast. Because of this, it is more malignant and has a higher mortality rate. It is most common in middle-aged dogs, at least 6 years old. 

Chronic leukemia, on the other hand, is most common in senior dogs. It takes much longer to progress, sometimes lingering for months or even years without presenting any serious symptoms. 

Symptoms of Leukemia in Pets

Symptoms of leukemia are similar to most generalized illnesses, and will vary depending on the organs being most affected. 

This might include lethargy, loss of appetite, restlessness, and digestive issues. You may also see purple or red spots on the skin or gums. If you notice these or any other worrying symptoms, bring your pet to the vet as soon as possible. 

The best way to prevent leukemia in your pets is to keep them up to date with vaccines and wellness visits. This is especially important for pets entering their senior years. Leukemia in cats is often the result of infectious diseases, so it is best to keep your cats completely indoors and safe from unvaccinated cats. 

Diagnosis & Treatment

Leukemia can typically be discovered by vets through routine check-ups and routine blood tests. A biopsy may need to be performed for a formal diagnosis. 

Unfortunately, there is no cure for leukemia in pets, but there are treatments available to keep your pet living healthier for longer. 

Acute leukemia treatment typically involves IV fluids, antibiotics, and sometimes blood transfusions. Chemotherapy will also likely be used for both cases. 

Pets with leukemia have a weakened immune system and will likely need to be isolated from other pets that could potentially get them sick. 

As mentioned above, acute leukemia has a lower survival rate, while a pet with chronic leukemia might live up to 6 years after diagnosis.

Veterinary Hospital in Frederick, MD

If you suspect something is wrong with your cat or dog, don’t wait any longer. Bring them in for a visit at Old Farm Veterinary Hospital, conveniently located in Frederick, Maryland. We offer high-quality diagnostic testing and affordable, effective treatment plans for anything bothering your furry friend. Call now to schedule an appointment!