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Multiple Myeloma in Dogs: What You Should Know

by Geoff Works |

Multiple myeloma, also known as bone marrow cancer, is a rare type of cancer in middle-aged and old dogs. It can cause them pain, sluggishness, and bleeding if left untreated for a long time. To better help your dog in cases like this, dog owners need to be well-informed about this rare disease.

In this article, we will discuss the things you should know about multiple myeloma in dogs. This guide includes the nature, causes, symptoms, and treatment options you can discuss with your vet.

What is Multiple Myeloma in Dogs?

Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer that affects the bone marrow of your dog. It occurs when cancerous or malignant plasma cells replicate and spread in the bone marrow. On their own, plasma cells do not pose harm. They help the immune system defend against diseases since they produce antibodies called immunoglobulin.

However, these plasma cells can transform into malignant cells and multiply excessively. What happens when there are too many plasma cells? First, the bone marrow becomes overcrowded, which can reduce the space for other cells. This can restrict other essential blood cells from performing their functions.

Second, it can rapidly increase the amount of immunoglobulin in the bloodstream. This can make your dog’s blood thicker, reaching a syrup-like consistency as opposed to its normal water-like texture. Once the blood gets thicker, it can damage the narrower blood vessels and the surrounding tissues. It can also threaten your dog’s life if it reaches the brain.

This condition often affects older dogs of 6 to 13 years of age. Moreover, purebred dogs like German Shepherds are shown to be more prone to this disease.

What Causes Multiple Myeloma?

Based on recent studies, the cause of canine myeloma remains unknown. However, it has been associated with exposure to toxic chemicals such as tobacco smoke and petroleum waste emissions.

What are the Symptoms of Canine Myeloma?

This condition can damage the bones, blood vessels, and tissues of your dog. It can also lead to other serious complications in their eyes, kidneys, and other organs. The symptoms can vary depending on the extent and location of the disease.

It’s important to watch out for these commonly observed symptoms to see if your dog has bone marrow cancer:

  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Labored breathing
  • Lameness or limping
  • Bone pain
  • Bleeding (from the nose, mucous membranes, punctures, gastrointestinal tract, retina)
  • Increased thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Sudden onset of seizures or other neurological symptoms

If you notice that your dog has any of the symptoms listed above, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your vet immediately. The sooner it’s detected, the sooner your pet will receive the care they need.

How Can You Treat Canine Multiple Myeloma?

Once your pet is fully diagnosed, your vet will refer you to a veterinary oncologist to discuss available treatment options. It’s vital to treat this disease immediately, not progress to more severe health conditions. If detected too late, it can cause other organ complications, hemorrhage, infections, kidney failure, stroke, and other life-threatening problems to your dog.

To know more about what your options are, we have listed some possible treatments that are available for dogs with multiple myeloma below:


One of the most effective ways to treat multiple myeloma is through chemotherapy. With this treatment procedure, your vet will prescribe oral medication to fight cancer cells and stop their growth.

However, since the drug kills both cancerous and healthy cells indiscriminately, it might also weaken your dog’s immune system. Given that your dog may be immunocompromised during the treatment process, antibiotics may be prescribed alongside chemotherapy drugs.

Radiation Therapy

Aside from chemotherapy, your vet oncologist may also recommend a more palliative approach involving radiation therapy. Instead of ingesting drugs, this procedure uses radiation to kill the cancerous cells. This treatment option works best in reducing pain in isolated or bony areas of your dog.

However, just like in chemotherapy, radiation targets both healthy and malignant cells. This puts your dog at risk of infections due to a weakened immune system. It is also advisable to administer antibiotics during the treatment process to protect your dog against bacterial infections.


On some occasions, your vet may require surgical intervention to treat the myeloma. For example, if the affected area is not responsive to chemotherapy, it needs to be surgically removed instead. This also applies to cases where there is a single isolated lesion with myeloma.


Multiple myeloma can put your dog at risk of serious complications, including bacterial infections. To protect your dog against these risks, your vet may prescribe antibiotics. If your dog already has a bacterial infection along with cancer, they may recommend an aggressive use of antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria.


As mentioned earlier, multiple myeloma can cause pain in your dog’s bones. To make it easier to manage this pain, your vet will recommend administering bisphosphonate drugs. Aside from reducing pain, it also aids in minimizing hypercalcemia or excess calcium. Lowering the calcium levels in the bloodstream prevents kidney failure.

Home Management and Recovery

The treatment process for bone marrow cancer in dogs can be long and tedious. Because of this, it’s important to provide your dog a conducive environment to let them rest and recover properly. Here are some things you can do to help your dog as they undergo treatment:

  • Maintain a clean and safe place for your dog to stay in.
  • Keep your other pets away from your recovering dog to prevent them from having wounds and scratches from play or fights.
  •  Adjust your dog’s diet if they have other health conditions.
  • Follow your vet’s prescribed medication during the treatment process.
  • Visit the vet frequently for follow-up check-ups to keep them updated about your dog’s recovery progress.

Aid Your Furry Friend With Multiple Myeloma

While it is not a curable disease, multiple myeloma is one of the more treatable forms of cancer in dogs. With early detection and continuous, consistent treatment, your dog can return to full health and gain a better quality of life.

Want more tips and advice for your dog’s health? Visit the Lick Sleeve blog today.

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