We hypothesized that neutrophil function in tumour-bearing dogs is negatively impacted by chemotherapy. Flow cytometric techniques were used to assess neutrophil oxidative burst and phagocytic activities at baseline, 7 and 21 days after induction chemotherapy in 20 dogs with lymphoma. Dogs had a lower percentage of neutrophils exhibiting oxidative burst activity after stimulation with Escherichia coli (day 7; P = 0.009) and phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) (days 7 and 21; P = 0.0003 and P = 0.01, respectively), compared with healthy controls. From day 0 to 7, the percentage of neutrophils exhibiting oxidative burst activity decreased after stimulation with E. coli (P = 0.016) and PMA (P = 0.0006). Induction chemotherapy suppresses the percentage of neutrophils capable of oxidative burst in dogs with lymphoma, with improvement in phagocytic activity over time (P = 0.03). The impact of neutrophil dysfunction on incidence and severity of sepsis in dogs receiving chemotherapy should be investigated.