Canine Lymphedema

Lymphedema is the collection of lymph fluid in body tissues due to obstruction within the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system consists of organs, vessels, and lymph nodes. The vessels absorb protein rich fluid that has escaped into body tissues from capillaries. The fluid is normally returned back to the bloodstream to ensure that the cardiovascular system has enough blood volume to function properly.

The obstruction of the flow of lymph fluid flow causes it to collect in the tissues of the body. Although internal, this collection of fluid will eventually become visible on the outside of the body. Visible signs of swelling include regions of the body such as:

  • Feet
  • Legs (usually begins at foot)
  • Chest
  • Abdomen
  • Extremities (ears or tail)

The dog may eventually exhibit other symptoms that are caused by fluid retention in the swollen limbs. These symptoms include:

  • Lameness
  • Pain
  • Lethargy
  • Discoloration of skin (in affected body regions)
  • Delayed Healing

Lymphedema cannot by cured or prevented. Many different treatments have been attempted, but so far nothing has been found to help. A healthy diet and an environment that is free of allergens can help to reduce the symptoms. Maintaining good health will reduce the chances of an immune system reaction and therefore the amount of work the lymphatic system has to do. Not enough is known about this disease to be able to predict what the future holds.