Microvessel density is a frequently used parameter of angiogenesis, which is a complex multistep process necessary for tumor progression. The aim of this study was to compare the microvessel density of normal lymph node biopsies with those diagnosed with lymphoma in dogs. Furthermore, we sought to determine if there was any correlation between microvessel density and vascular endothelial growth factor expression in canine lymphoma, representing a potential target for anti-angiogenic therapy. Combined immunohistochemistry (von Willebrand factor) and lectin histochemistry was used to highlight microvessels in 40 untreated canine lymphomas and 14 normal lymph nodes. To evaluate microvessel density, the number of profiles of blood vessels per unit area was calculated. Fifty image fields (a total area of 5.68 mm(2)) were sampled for each specimen in a systematic random, way. We found a significant difference between the microvessel densities (MVD) of normal and neoplastic lymph nodes (177+/-35 versus 241+/-72 microvessel profiles/mm(2)). Classifying lymphoma samples according to the working formulation and the Kiel classification system revealed no significant differences in MVD between different grade malignancies. Immunohistochemical demonstration of the proangiogenic protein vascular endothelial growth factor showed expression in 60% of canine lymphomas, although there was no correlation between microvessel density and vascular endothelial growth factor expression. As an increase in tumor angiogenesis was observed in lymphoma samples compared to normal canine lymph node tissue, additional anti-angiogenic therapy, besides conventional chemotherapy as a lymphoma treatment may be effective. The optimal target among many pro-angiogenic factors has yet to be elucidated.