Lymphedema is a disorder that entails the buildup of lymph fluid due to excessive flow, which in turn leads to bodily swelling. This buildup most often occurs in the back limbs' tissues. Lymphedema not only appears in dogs, but also in cats and human beings. Canines tend to experience it more than felines.
Primary and Secondary Lymphedema
Lymphedema exists in two distinct types, primary and secondary. The primary form of the disease is congenital, and generally appears in puppies by the time they're around 3 months old. Many puppies have lymphedema from the moment they're born, as well. Secondary lymphedema, on the other hand, is caused by lymphatic blockage due to lymphatic vessel injury, surgical procedures or neoplastic or inflammatory ailments.
Common Signs of the Condition
Dogs who have lymphedema develop conspicuous swelling, generally on the feet, chest, legs, tail, ears or stomach. If you observe swelling in any of these areas, lymphedema could be the reason. The swelling of the limbs can make way for a variety of other symptoms, specifically pain, exhaustion and inability to walk. You might even see changes in coloration right over the spot of swelling. If you apply light pressure with your finger over the swelling spot, it creates a hollow.
If your pet is showing signs of lymphedema, an appointment with the veterinarian is a must. Veterinarians can determine whether or not a canine has the disease through a variety of methods, including lymphographies and analyzing bloodwork. Although lympedema doesn't have a cure, numerous management options for the disease are available. Some of these options involve antibiotics, medications that decrease swelling and pressure wraps. Management plans often focus on minimizing discomfort -- think pain and walking difficulties. Antibiotics aim to halt possibilities of infections. In extreme situations, lymphedema can be life-threatening. Your veterinarian can consider your pet's individual case and decide which choices are most appropriate for him.
Breeds of Dogs and Lymphedema
Primary lymphedema is thought to affect both genders equally. Cases of lymphedema have been confirmed in numerous canine breeds. These breeds are miniature dachshunds, Great Danes, poodles, Old English sheepdogs, Belgian Tervurens, borzois and German shepherds. Lymphedema has also been observed in dogs who are a mix of Labrador retriever and Old English sheepdog.
By Naomi Millburn
PetMD: Fluid Retention and Tissue Swelling Due to Collection of Lymph in Dogs
Vetstreet: Diseases of the Lymphatic Vessels
US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Lymphedema - Clinical Signs, Diagnosis and Treatment
Muller & Kirk's Small Animal Dermatology; William H. Miller et al.
About the Author
Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.