Lymphedema is a chronic swelling caused by excess fluid retention of the extremities. It may be either primary or secondary. The lymph channels are one of three channels in the body that move fluids. Two of the channels, veins and arteries, move blood. The lymph channels move clear fluids. Treatments, be it surgery, radiation or chemotherapy in the lymph node area, interrupts or destroys the paths that are used to drain the fluid. It is not possible to remove the excess fluid because it is within the tissues.

Primary Lymphedema either present at birth (congenital lymphoedema) or may occur later in life. It is caused by hyperplasis (increase) of the lymph vessels and may affect the entire body, but usually affects hind limbs. Dog breeeds predisposed to congenital lymphoedema include Bulldog and Poodle.

Secondary lymphoedema is usually the result of infection; malignancy blocking the lymphatic syste, or lack of lymph vessels after surgery. In cancer patients, the removal of tumor-draining lymph nodes during tumor resection can lead to acquired lymphedema. This disease lacks an effective treatment.

Lymphedema is aggravated in hot weather, when the limb is allowed to hang down unsupported so that the lymph collects in the extremety.

Diuretics may be of some help in lessening the swelling; spicy and salty foods should be avoided, since they increase thirst and, therefore, fluid intake into the body.


  1. Cancer Res. 2008 Jan 15;68(2):343-5.
  2. Acquired lymphedema: an urgent need for adequate animal models.Hadamitzky C, Pabst R.

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