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Causes of a Dog's Enlarged Prescapular Lymph Node

Dog's Enlarged Prescapular Lymph Node

The causes for a dog's enlarged prescapular lymph node can be various. Normally, in dogs the lymph nodes should not be very easy to palpate. When a dog owner or veterinarian detects them, this can be alarming. The good news is that not always enlarged lymph nodes are necessarily a sign of something dire going on. However, there are some conditions that need to be ruled out to play it safe and get to the root of the problem. If your dog has an enlarged prescapular lymph node, see your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment. Following are several causes of a dog's enlarged prescapular lymph node in dogs.

Dog's Enlarged Prescapular Lymph Node


As mentioned, lymph nodes in dogs should not be very easy to palpate, however, there may be exceptions to this rule For instance, sometimes lymph nodes may be easier to palpate in dogs who are overweight and dogs who are too skinny.

In dogs who are overweight, the lymph nodes may be easy to palpate considering that fat may surround the lymph nodes causing them to appear larger. On the other hand, in skinny dogs, the lymph nodes may be easier to palpate because there is loss of muscle mass or reduced fat making them easier to detect.

A dog's prescapular lymph nodes are located on each side of the chest, just in front of the shoulder area. One or both prescapular lymph nodes may be enlarged. If you notice your dog's enlarged prescapular lymph node, consult with your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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A Sign of Possible Cancer

When lymph nodes are found to be enlarged, the condition is medically referred to as "lymphadenopathy." In some cases, enlarged lymph nodes in dogs can be indicative of a cancer known as lymphoma. In this case, the enlargement is medically referred to as lymphoid neoplasia.

Generally, dogs affected by lymphoma or another form of cancer develop significant enlargement of the lymph nodes (five to ten times larger than normal) compared to dogs with a benign reactive lymph node enlargement.

Dogs affected by lymphoma, on top of developing significantly enlarged lymph nodes, typically develop joint pain, lethargy, vomiting, weight loss. However, it is estimated that most dogs with lymphoma (60 to 80 percent) are asymptomatic with most dogs often feeling well at the time of diagnosis.

On top of lymphoma, there are several other types of cancer that can cause lymph node enlargement. In the case of only one enlarged lymph node, it is possible that a localized form of cancer affecting the area may be at play. Mast cell tumors, for instance, are known for spreading into the lymphatics. When this happens, there is often decreased lymph drainage leading to fluid accumulation and edema/swelling.

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A Matter of Reactive Lymph Nodes

In a dog with enlarged prescapular lymph nodes, this can be indicative of some sort of systemic inflammation or infection going on. Potential causes of system inflammation include the presence of a bruise from running into something, autoimmune disorders, tick-borne diseases and fungal or bacterial infections.

When a lymph node gets larger because of a localized issue it is referred to as being "reactive" (lymphoid hyperplasia). A reactive lymph node is suggestive of a local or general immune response.

Generally, if all of the dog's other lymph nodes palpate normal, then lymphoma is less likely. However, this is not a general rule of thumb. It is possible for dogs with early lymphoma to only have localized lymph node enlargement.

Sometimes, when in doubt, veterinarians may decide to perform a trial of antibiotics for several days to see if this reduces the size of the enlarged lymph nodes. In dogs with lymphoma, the use of antibiotics are unlikely to cause any improvements.

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At the Vet's Office

Upon seeing your dog's dog's enlarged prescapular lymph node, your vet will likely want to take a fine needle aspiration from the lymph node/lymph nodes to gather more information. In this procedure, the vet will stick a small needle into the enlarged lymph nodes and collect some cells to look at under the microscope or send out to a pathologist.

Generally, in reactive lymph nodes, vets will notice the presence of plasma cells. In lymph nodes enlarged due to inflammation, vets can gain some insights on the underlying cause by evaluating the type of inflammatory cell population.

A greater than 50 percent amount of lymphoblast cells can be indicative of lymphoma. A biopsy of the lymph node though may be needed to confirm cancer, and if cancer is present, it is possible through a biopsy to gain an insight into its stage. In general, the greater quantity of tissue submitted to the pathologist for biopsy, the more accurate the diagnosis.

Ruling out tick-borne disease may be insightful. A simple in-house blood test for Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases just requires a few drops of blood and often, in as little as 10 minutes, it is possible to have the results.

Bloodwork may be helpful sometimes in detecting abnormal lymphocytes on a blood smear, however this test alone is not reliable to confirm or rule out lymphoma.

If lymphoma may be suspected, it helps to take x-rays of the chest so to check for any signs of a cancer spreading to the lungs. Lung x-rays that come back clear though doesn't rule out lymphoma, but can be indicative that the cancer hasn't had a chance yet to spread to the point of causing the presence of visible nodules.

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