All About Dog Lymph Nodes: A Comprehensive Guide

Looking to learn more about dog lymph nodes? Wondering where they are located and why they might become swollen? Look no further! In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about dog lymph nodes, including their functions, locations, and what to do if you notice any issues. By the end of this read, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to confidently locate your dog’s lymph nodes and understand what steps to take if you have any concerns.

Understanding Dog Lymph Nodes

Lymph nodes are like the training grounds for your dog’s immune system. These small, bean-shaped organs house white blood cells called lymphocytes, which act as “soldiers” defending the body against infections and foreign substances. The lymph nodes are a crucial part of the lymphatic system, which helps fight infections and removes waste from the bloodstream.

The lymphatic system also includes other organs like the spleen and thymus, lymphatic vessels that act as highways for immune cells, and the lymph fluid itself, which carries lymphocytes and waste products. Together, these components form a powerful defense network in your dog’s body.

Locating Dog Lymph Nodes

While some lymph nodes are deep within your dog’s body and cannot be felt or seen, there are five sets of peripheral lymph nodes that you can easily locate. These include the submandibular lymph nodes near the lower jaw, the prescapular lymph nodes in front of the shoulder blade, the axillary lymph nodes in the armpit, the inguinal lymph nodes in the groin region, and the popliteal lymph nodes at the back of the knee.

Of these sets, the submandibular and popliteal lymph nodes are typically the easiest to detect. However, locating the axillary and inguinal lymph nodes may be a bit more challenging, especially if a dog is overweight or the lymph nodes are only slightly swollen.

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To help you visualize the locations of these lymph nodes, refer to the dog lymph node location chart provided in this article.

Checking Your Dog’s Lymph Nodes

Palpating, or gently feeling, your dog’s lymph nodes is an essential part of their regular health routine. By running your hands over specific areas where lymph nodes are located, you can detect any swelling or abnormality. This can be done while petting your dog, just like you would check for skin lesions or irritations.

Ideally, the lymph nodes should be small enough that you can barely feel them. They should be about the size of a pea in small dogs and up to the size of a grape in larger dogs. If the lymph nodes are swollen, they will be more prominent and easier to feel.

It’s important to familiarize yourself with what your dog’s lymph nodes normally feel like, so you can detect any changes. If you’re unsure or suspect a swollen lymph node, it’s always best to consult your veterinarian for a proper examination and diagnosis.

Potential Causes of Swollen Lymph Nodes

Swollen lymph nodes in dogs can be caused by various factors, with the two main reasons being infection and cancer.

Infections, such as bacterial or fungal infections, can cause lymph nodes to enlarge in localized or widespread areas, depending on the extent of the infection. Conditions like ear infections, dental disease, and upper respiratory infections can specifically lead to swelling of the submandibular lymph nodes.

On the other hand, certain types of cancer, including lymphoma, mast cell tumors, melanomas, and adenocarcinomas, may cause lymph node enlargement as well.

Other Symptoms and Veterinary Care

Depending on the cause of swollen lymph nodes, your dog may experience additional symptoms. These can range from coughing and sneezing in the case of respiratory infections, to pain while eating or foul breath in dental disease. Tick-borne diseases can result in lameness or mobility issues, and lymphoma may initially present itself solely through swollen lymph nodes.

If you suspect your dog has swollen lymph nodes, it is crucial to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. They will consider your dog’s symptoms, medical history, and perform a physical examination. Additional diagnostic tests such as blood work, urine testing, or imaging may be recommended. In some cases, fine needle aspirate or biopsy of the lymph nodes may be necessary to obtain a definitive diagnosis.

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Treatment for swollen lymph nodes depends on the underlying cause. Infections are typically addressed by treating the source of infection, whether through dental procedures, antibiotics, or antifungals. Cancer treatments can include medication, chemotherapy, or may require the expertise of a veterinary oncologist.

Caring for Your Dog’s Lymph Nodes

While there are no home remedies for swollen lymph nodes, there are steps you can take to reduce the chances of your dog developing an infection. Keeping your dog up-to-date on vaccinations, using flea, tick, and heartworm prevention, maintaining good dental hygiene, and choosing safe chew toys can all contribute to overall health.

Regularly palpating your dog’s lymph nodes can be a valuable tool for early detection of any swelling. However, it’s important to remember that routine physical exams with your veterinarian are still essential. A veterinarian’s trained hands may notice things that you might miss, and regular check-ups can help screen for other health issues.

Incorporating lymph node palpation into your dog’s health routine can be beneficial. Practice and familiarize yourself with the locations of the peripheral lymph nodes, using the dog lymph node location chart provided in this article. However, always remember that even the most skilled hand can occasionally miss something so small.


Dog lymph nodes play a vital role in their immune system, defending against infections and foreign substances. Understanding their locations and being able to detect any swelling or abnormalities can help you keep your furry friend healthy. If you have any concerns about your dog’s lymph nodes, it’s best to consult your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and care.

Remember, when it comes to your dog’s health, your veterinarian is your greatest ally. They have the knowledge and experience to guide you through any concerns and provide the best care for your beloved companion.

For more information on dog lymph nodes and other pet care topics, visit Katten TrimSalon.

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