Updated November 28, 2020
Lymphoma in dogs is unfortunately quite a common cancer. It happens when the white blood cells called lymphocytes start growing and multiplying uncontrollably. They then spread to the lymph nodes, blood or internal organs.
A rare form that targets the skin is epitheliotropic lymphoma (EL), also called mycosis fungoides or cutaneous lymphoma. It has a very different appearance and outlook.
Signs Of Epitheliotropic Lymphoma
Epitheliotropic lymphoma is very difficult to diagnose and is often overlooked for some time. The lesions are not specific and look like any other severe skin disease. Signs may include:
- Widespread red and scaly skin
- Areas of raised red nodules and scaling
- Ulcerated and depigmented patches
- Severe itch
There is usually a very poor response to the first attempts to treat based on more common conditions. At this point, the diagnosis is usually made via a surgical biopsy.
Treatment of Epitheliotropic Lymphoma
Treatment options include:
- Surgical removal of solitary lesions (not recommended for multiple sites)
- Radiotherapy (not available in Adelaide, not always useful)
- Chemotherapy (see below)
- Retinoids (isotretinoin, acitretin) daily
- Safflower oil (3mL/kg daily)
- Soothing creams (we find Aloveen conditioner works the best)
Chemotherapy for EL has traditionally been the use of lomustine (also called CCNU) every 3 weeks. Recent evidence suggests that combination chemotherapy (called ‘VELCAP-EL’) may produce longer survival times, however side effects are also likely to be more common.
Prognosis Of Epitheliotropic Lymphoma
Current treatment does not provide a very good prognosis. Chemotherapy provides a much lower benefit than we see with other forms of lymphoma, but it does help to reduce signs of illness. Survival times with treatment are only around 6 months.
Chan, C. M., Frimberger, A. E., & Moore, A. S. (2018). Clinical outcome and prognosis of dogs with histopathological features consistent with epitheliotropic lymphoma: a retrospective study of 148 cases (2003–2015). Veterinary dermatology, 29(2), 154-e59.
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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These help topics are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story! The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.