A dog with lumps on both sides of the neck is concerning, and requires veterinary evaluation to determine exactly what the problem is. Many dog owners assume that, a dog that has developed bumps on both sides of the neck, seemingly overnight, must be suffering from some conditions such as tonsil problems or even the "mumps." While dogs can get the mumps too, it is relatively rare in dogs and a dog's tonsils are in tucked in the back of the throat; therefore, bi-lateral lumps on both sides of the dog's neck are likely due to something else. Following are some causes of lumps on a dog's neck, but because some of these causes can be serious, it's best to see a veterinarian sooner than later.
A Lesson in Anatomy
Often, the lumps at the base of the dog's neck are nothing more than swollen lymph nodes. The enlargement of lymph nodes is medically known as '"lymphadenopathy."
Lymph nodes are known for containing lymphocytes, special white blood cells that activate when the body is fighting any foreign invasion such as by bacteria, fungi, viruses or cancer cells.
Enlarged lymph nodes in dogs are therefore a signal that the body is trying to rid itself from some sort of inflammation or infection and the enlargement is due to proliferation of lymphocytes gathering in the area to fight.
In dogs, the lymph nodes located under the dog's neck, where the dog's lower jaw meets the neck, are known as submandibular lymph nodes.
Under the jaw though there are also salivary glands which are also prone to becoming infected or impacted; however, it's unusual that both of them would be affected at the same time, explains veterinarian, Dr. Margo. Also, with salivary gland problems, there would also likely be excessive drooling.
Did you know? Lymph nodes are found throughout the dog's body even internally! The ones that can be felt by hand are known as peripheral lymph nodes, while the ones that are impossible to palpate because they are found internally, and are tucked deep inside the dog's body, are known as internal visceral lymph nodes and they require special imaging techniques to determine enlargement.
A Source of Infection
Lumps on both side of the neck in can be possibly caused by an infection. In dogs, an increase in size of the lymph nodes in this location are often triggered by a local infection. These lymph nodes are very reactionary, meaning that they enlarge easily.
What local infections can cause both lymph nodes at the base of the dog's neck to swell? Several abscessed teeth, sinus problems, allergies or an obviously severe skin infection, may all be triggers causing the dog's immune system to try to fight, and thus, increasing the size of the dog's lymph nodes. In dogs with such localized, regional infections, normally only the lymph nodes of the inflasmed or infected area are enlarged.
The infection may be bacterial or fungal and, in some cases, the infection may widespread, rather than localized. A tick-borne disease such as ehrlichia or bartonella may trigger lymph nodes to enlarge and so may a fungal infection (such as histoplasmosis and Valley Fever) which occurs from inhalation of fungal spores present in certain areas of the U.S.
Did you know? When the lymph nodes enlarge because of an underlying infection, it's called lymphoadenitis.
A Sign of Cancer
More concerning is the presence of significantly swollen lymph nodes under the dog's jaw and in other parts of the body affecting a dog who is also showing other signs such as acting lethargic and not eating. Not all dogs though act sickly though or show all of these other signs.
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The concern in this case is a cancer known as lymphoma, where the dog's major peripheral lymph nodes increase in size. The enlarged glands may therefore be also seen under the jaw, behind the knee of the dog's rear legs and in front of the dog's shoulders.
However, just because a dog has only one lymph node or several lymph nodes enlarged but limited to a certain region, doesn't mean it can't be lymphoma. Lymphoma has different stages.
For instance, in stage 1 lymphoma, only one lymph node is affected, in stage 2, several lymph nodes of the same regional area are affected, and in stage 3, there is generalized lymphoadenopathy, therefore, depending on what sub-stage of lymphoma the dog is in, there may one, several or many lymph nodes involved and there may or may not be not be signs of systemic illness such as loss of appetite, lethargy, weight loss.
Generally, in lymphoma the lymph nodes are not painful to being touched as they are more space filling than anything else; however, if they enlarge too much and end up pressing on a local nerve, they may be problematic.
Fortunately, while worrisome, lymphoma in dogs is a cancer that, when treated in a timely manner, has a not so grime prognosis compared to some other types of cancer.
" I have seen dogs early in the disease present with only some lymph nodes involved. In fact, the number and location of nodes involved are used to "stage" the disease." Dr. Christine
Better Safe Than Sorry
As seen, lumps on both sides of your dog's neck can be due to many conditions. If your dog's has swollen lymph nodes are any suspicious lump, bump or growth, it's important to have it evaluated by a vet. It could be your dog just has some diseased teeth, or those lumps under your dog's neck may be a more serious fungal or bacterial infection, an auto-immune problem or even cancer.
What happens at the vet's office? Upon seeing your dog, your vet will likely check if there are any other swollen lymph nodes in other parts of your dog's body and will ask you about how your dog is feeling. Other diagnostic tests such as bloodwork and tick titer tests may be needed to rule out certain conditions.
The most reliable way to determine what is causing the swelling of the lymph nodes is to ultimately evaluate the mass through a fine needle aspiration (FNA). The vet will simply use a small needle to collect a sample from the enlarged nodes. The collected cells are then evaluated under a microscope to determine the nature of the mass. Sometimes, the sample may be sent off to a pathologist for a professional review.
Depending on whether your vet will do the FNA in house or send it out to a lab, the result may come in anywhere between just a few minutes to about a week.
How to Find Dog Lymph Nodes
Wikipedia, Lymphoma in a Golden Retriever Joel Mills CCBY3.0