Swollen Lymph Nodes in Dogs: What You Need to Know

Have you ever noticed unusual bumps or lumps on your furry friend? It could be swollen lymph nodes. Just like in humans, dogs have a lymphatic system that plays a crucial role in their immune system. Understanding what swollen lymph nodes mean and how to identify them can help you take better care of your dog’s health. Let’s dive in!

What Are Swollen Lymph Nodes in Dogs?

The lymphatic system consists of lymph nodes and lymph vessels that work alongside the blood vessels. These nodes contain immune cells and help transport white blood cells, remove waste products, and produce antibodies to fight off diseases. When your dog’s body encounters viruses, bacteria, or diseases, the lymph nodes become enlarged as they work tirelessly to defend against these invaders. This condition is known as lymphadenopathy or lymphadenomegaly.

During a physical examination, your veterinarian will feel these lymph nodes, especially those closer to the skin. They are usually located under the jaw, at the front of the shoulders, in the armpits, in the groin area, and behind the rear legs. However, in a healthy dog, only the submandibular and popliteal lymph nodes are typically palpable.

Symptoms of Swollen Lymph Nodes in Dogs

Sometimes, you may discover swollen lymph nodes while petting your dog. If you notice a new or unusual bump in any of the aforementioned areas, it could be a swollen lymph node. Most of the time, there are no other noticeable symptoms when the lymph nodes are mildly enlarged. However, significant enlargement, including the nodes inside the thorax and abdomen, may be accompanied by vomiting, coughing, lethargy, fever, poor appetite, or an enlarged abdomen.

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Causes of Swollen Lymph Nodes in Dogs

Swollen lymph nodes indicate that the immune system is actively fighting against an infection or disease. In localized diseases, only one or two lymph nodes may be enlarged, often due to an infection in a specific area. However, systemic infections can affect numerous lymph nodes throughout the body. Potential causes of swollen lymph nodes in dogs include demodectic mange, puppy “strangles,” tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease, bacterial infections, fungal infections, immune-mediated diseases, and even cancer such as lymphosarcoma.

While no specific breeds are prone to swollen lymph nodes, certain breeds may be more susceptible to diseases that can cause this condition. For example, Golden Retrievers, Boxers, Dobermans, Rottweilers, and others are more prone to developing lymphosarcoma. Toy breeds, like Yorkies, Poodles, and Dachshunds, are susceptible to dental disease, often resulting in enlarged submandibular lymph nodes.

How Vets Diagnose Swollen Lymph Nodes

During a physical examination, your veterinarian will be able to identify swollen lymph nodes. If necessary, they may collect a sample from the nodes for further analysis. Fine needle aspiration (FNA) involves using a syringe and needle to collect cells for microscopic examination. Alternatively, a biopsy may be performed under general anesthesia, where a larger piece of lymph tissue is removed for analysis by a histopathologist. The diagnosis usually takes 7-10 days.

Treatment and Management of Swollen Lymph Nodes

The treatment for swollen lymph nodes depends on the underlying cause. In some cases, your veterinarian may start treatment before receiving a confirmed diagnosis. This is usually done when the diagnosis is highly certain. Treatment options may include antibiotics, antifungals, anti-inflammatories, steroids, or even surgery. In cases where cancer is confirmed, chemotherapy may be recommended.

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The recovery and management of swollen lymph nodes will vary based on the cause. For lymphosarcoma, steroids and chemotherapy may be necessary, although the disease often recurs after remission. Tick-borne illnesses can generally be controlled with one round of antibiotics, but it’s crucial to monitor your dog for any signs of recurring illness or swelling. If you notice new swelling in your dog’s lymph nodes, contact your vet immediately.

Remember, your furry friend’s health is a top priority. Regular check-ups, early detection, and prompt treatment can go a long way in ensuring a happy and healthy life for your beloved companion.

To learn more about taking care of your dog’s health, visit Katten TrimSalon.