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Lymphoma in English Setters
January 2018

Many of you who know me are aware that I spent most of 2017 caring for my dog Blue (Cobblestone Tri To Be The One) as he battled lymphoma. Blue was diagnosed in March and, despite treatment with chemotherapy, he passed away in November. For most of that time he was active and seemed to feel good so I think chemotherapy was a good choice in our case, even if it didn’t bring about a remission. Other people choose to treat canine lymphoma with prednisone or with holistic therapies. It’s always a personal decision. Some dogs can achieve remission but many do not.
Until you have a dog diagnosed with lymphoma you may not be aware of how common it is in dogs today. According to the Canine Health Foundation (CHF), it accounts for up to 25 percent of all canine cancer cases http://www.akcchf.org/news-events/news/lymphoma-grants.html. It’s aggressive and, though it’s treatable, there is currently no cure or prevention for lymphoma. It can affect any dog of any breed, at any age. CHF recently announced $450,000 in funding for six new research grants for canine lymphoma.
As for English Setters and canine lymphoma, previous studies suggest that our breed is not especially at risk for the disease, at least in the U.S. One large study in France https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3658424/ found that Setters in general appeared to be more predisposed than average to lymphoma, but Irish Setters are particularly cited. Among all breeds, Boxers, Bullmastiffs, and Bulldog breeds are those most often at risk of developing canine lymphoma. This study also showed that certain lymphoma sub-types were associated with certain breeds. This is important information to know because the lymphoma sub-type (B-cell or T-cell) can determine treatment as well as possible survival time.
According to one source https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15994938, English Setters don’t seem to have a predilection for either the B-cell or T-cell sub-type. (Blue had B-cell but I know someone else with an English Setter with lymphoma who has the T-cell sub-type.) B-cell was always thought to be more common in dogs but typing has become more sophisticated in recent years so we may discover that T-cell is not as unusual as previously believed.
As I understand it – and I am only a layman – T-cell lymphoma is more likely to have a genetic origin while B-cell may be due to an environmental cause. But these are only theories at this time. I don’t think anything has been proven with regard to canine lymphoma.
Michelle J. Raisor, PhD, the ESAA’s Health & Genetics Chairman, recently shared Dr. Anne Avery’s presentation from the AKC Canine Health Foundation’s National Parent Club Canine Health Conference in St. Louis. (CHF Grant: 2316 - Genetic Risk Factors for Canine T-zone Lymphoma https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4895451/) T-zone lymphoma is a type of T-cell lymphoma. (I know it gets very confusing.) English Setters are not specifically listed among the breeds described in the study, at least according to the figures and tables published. However, according to Dr. Avery, the study found a protective component http://esaa.com/enews/docs/healthgenetics.pdf against T cell lymphoma if a dog is spayed at one year of age or older; given a daily dose of probiotics; and if the dog is hypothyroid. Of course, no one wants their dog to be hypothyroid, so I’m not sure how this advice applies to dogs with normal thyroid or to intact dogs, which many of us have.
I can’t speak to the points about spaying/neutering your dog or hypothyroidism, but certainly there are many people who have dogs with lymphoma who would agree with Dr. Avery about the use of probiotics. The gut makes up about 70 percent of the dog’s immune system so proactively giving your dog probiotics makes sense. Lots of people who are caring for dogs with lymphoma focus on their dog’s diet and immune system, along with whatever treatment they and their veterinarian have chosen. A good site with information about diet and supplements for dogs with canine lymphoma is Mary Straus’s Dogaware.com http://dogaware.com/health/cancer.html#lymphoma site. She also has links to many other sites about lymphoma.
After Blue was diagnosed I found two other English Setter owners who subsequently had their dogs diagnosed with lymphoma. Fingers crossed for them that their dogs will achieve remission. If you do happen to have a dog with lymphoma, there is a strong support network on Facebook with people going through the same thing as you and your dog. There are people familiar with the latest research and treatments; and people who know what has worked for dogs in the past. It really helps to reach out and discuss things with them. They can provide a good shoulder when you need it because canine lymphoma is not easy for you or your dog. Sending Setter Zen to every dog that needs it.

Carlotta Cooper
English Setter Association of America
Greeneville TN
423 639-6195

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