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Canine lymphoma, just like lymphoma in humans, can be separated into stages, representing the growth of the cancer cells, the spread of those cells from the lymph node of origin, and the involvement of other organs. Terminal lymphoma is also called end stage lymphoma, and as the name implies, is the last stage of the cancer's spread. Treatment options have been exhausted and the objective becomes palliative care.
End stage, stage 5, or terminal lymphoma in dogs is defined by the involvement of all peripheral lymph nodes by the cancer, along with the spleen, liver, and bone marrow. Depending on the form of lymphoma and success of treatment, it can take anywhere from four weeks to a year or more to get to this level of involvement.
This stage marks a turning point, in that the cancer has become therapeutically unmanageable. Focus shifts from remission to ensuring quality of life in the ensuing weeks.
Cellular structures at this point will be perforated with holes. Cancer cells at this stage will bear little to no resemblance to the type of cells they were before the cancer.
Although chemotherapy can still be performed, any gains will be only temporary. Terminal lymphoma in dogs occurs after one or two remissions, but these will become increasingly short, and by this stage, chemotherapy ma well have no effect. Instead, canine lymphoma treatment will shift focus to pain management, and helping the animal live out the remaining days in comfort.
As the final stage of the disease, this stage represents the point at which death from the cancer becomes inevitable.
Because chemotherapy is generally better tolerated in dogs than in humans, your pet may still be seeming quite healthy, and will continue to do so throughout this stage. Weight loss may increase, and complete absence of appetite is not uncommon. It is important to support the dog's diet as much as possible to ensure sufficient nutrient intake. The dog may have trouble walking, or show signs of pain. Bodily functions will remain unaffected.
It is at this stage that thought should be given to euthanasia. While the dog may pass quietly without suffering, some owners prefer to take conscious control over that passing. This is a very routine practice, and not stressful for the dog. Your veterinarian will be able to help you decide on a course of action, and make the necessary arrangements.