A diagnosis of multiple myeloma means a dog suffers from bone marrow cancer. Fortunately, this disease is relatively rare, responsible for less than 8 percent of canine cancers, according to DVM 360. While the cause of multiple myeloma is unclear, genetic and environmental factors might play a part.
Multiple myeloma consists of plasma cell neoplasms, or cancerous plasma cells in the bone marrow. Plasma cells, a type of white blood cell, produce immunoglobin for disease-fighting. The cancer cells eventually enter the bone itself and eat away at it.
Although multiple myeloma can affect any dog, certain breeds are more prone to the disease than others. German shepherds are especially vulnerable. This disease usually affects older canines, with symptoms appearing about the age of 9 or 10. Multiple myeloma affects males and females equally.
Dogs suffering from bone marrow cancer might exhibit lameness, lethargy or signs of pain. They might experience bleeding from the nose or gums, and they might frequently come down with infections. Excessive drinking and urinating is another sign of the disease. A dog might appear "out of it" or even have seizures.
Your vet makes a thorough physical examination of your dog, along with conducting a urinalysis, complete blood count and platelet count, among other tests. She also will perform a bone marrow biopsy. Normal bone marrow has less than 5 percent plasma cells, while bone marrow affected by multiple myeloma has far more.
While there's no cure for multiple myeloma, oral chemotherapy can give your dog a good quality of life, free of most symptoms. During treatment, your pet is closely monitored with regular blood tests and X-rays. Since the disease causes secondary problems, your dog receives treatment for those as well. For example, if your dog's kidneys are compromised, he might need frequent intravenous fluid therapy. Because he's very susceptible to infections, your vet might prescribe antibiotics as a precaution. Dogs also receive pain medication. Although most dogs will succumb to multiple myeloma, dogs undergoing chemotherapy and given good care might live another year and a half, or longer.
By Jane Meggitt
DVM 360: An Overview of Multiple Myeloma in Dogs and Cats
petMD: Multiple Myeloma in Dogs
The Veterinary Cancer Center: Multiple Myeloma in Dogs
Michigan Veterinary Specialists: Multiple Myeloma
National Canine Cancer Center: Plasma Cell Neoplasms
About the Author
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.