Skin Cancer (Epidermotropic Lymphoma) in Dogs

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial
Published: April 10, 2010
Skin Cancer (Epidermotropic Lymphoma) in Dogs

Epidermotropic Lymphoma in Dogs

Epidermotropic lymphoma is an uncommon malignant form of skin cancer in dogs, originating from the lymphocyte cells of the immune system. A type of white blood cell, lymphocytes play an integral role in the body's defenses. Epidermotropic lymphoma is considered a subset of cutaneous (skin) T-cell lymphoma.

Dogs of all ages and breeds are susceptible to this cancer, though it usually affects older animals.

Symptoms and Types

  • Itching
  • Loss of hair (alopecia)
  • Scaly skin
  • Redness of skin
  • Lightening of skin color or loss of pigment (depigmentation)
  • Skin ulcers, nodule or mass formation (lesions may involve lips, eyelids, nasal surface, vulva, oral cavity)


The exact cause of this form of skin cancer is currently unknown.


You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health, including the onset and nature of the symptoms, to your veterinarian. He or she will then perform a complete physical examination as well a biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and complete blood count  -- the results of which are typically found to be variable, depending on the stage of the disease. Radiographic studies are used in advanced stages of the disease to confirm advanced tumor stage.

Often, a skin biopsy helps in making a definitive diagnosis. This is accomplished by removing a small piece of skin lesion, which is then sent to a veterinary pathologist.


Because a “cure” is thought to be highly unlikely for dogs with epidermotropic lymphoma, providing an adequate quality of life remains the major goal of therapy. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be used to treat the disease, but are highly variable in their efficacy. The veterinarian may also recommend surgically excising isolated nodules.

Living and Management

Follow guidelines for using chemotherapy medication at your home, as these drugs are toxic to humans. They should only be used after seeking advice from a veterinary oncologist.

Unfortunately, overall prognosis is very poor in dogs affected by this form of lymphoma. Only a few dogs may live longer than two years after the diagnosis, and often they are euthanized.

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