Canine Hemangiosarcoma is widely known throughout the veterinarian community as a “silent killer”. This is because this cancer is most often in its advanced stages before the dog owner notices any changes in their dog that would cause them to take the dog to their veterinarian.
Canine Hemangiosarcoma presents itself in three types, dermal, hypodermal and visceral. Dermal is the type of cancer that affects the dog’s skin. Hypodermal is located beneath the skin, visceral is the most serious, and affects the spleen and heart, generally spreading quickly to the liver and lungs.
Canine Hemangiosarcoma does have symptoms associated with it that should alert the dog owner to the fact that something is wrong with their dog. These symptoms include nosebleeds, getting tired easy, weaker than usual, pale eyes and gums, heavier breathing than usual, swelling of the abdomen and even depression. Any dog owner who notices these symptoms in their dog should understand that they could be the telltale signs of a very serious condition that needs to be seen by their veterinarian. The sooner the veterinarian diagnosis and treats Canine Hemangiosarcoma, the greater the chance that the dog will have a longer life.
When the dog gets to the veterinarian clinic, the veterinarian will arrive at a diagnosis by performing a physical exam, taking into consideration any symptoms that they notice. After performing the physical exam, blood will be drawn to be used for the appropriate blood tests. The veterinarian may order x-rays, an ultrasound or even a biopsy if they feel they need to. The diagnosis the veterinarian arrives at after evaluating all the information gathered will determine the treatment prescribed.
Treatment for Canine Hemangiosarcoma involves a hospital stay to stabilize the afflicted dog. IV’s will be administered as prescribed by the attending veterinarian. The dog may require a blood transfusion to replace the blood lost. Treatment may also include surgery when possible, to remove the tumor and chemotherapy combined with anti-tumor medications.
The prognosis for Canine Hemangiosarcoma is guarded to poor at best, especially if it is diagnosed in the spleen or heart. This type of cancer is usually fatal, but if caught soon enough the dog’s life may be prolonged. The amount of treatment will affect the prognosis as well as the stage the cancer is in. If surgery is the only means of treatment, the dog may live an extra 2 to 3 months longer than if the dog was not treated at all. If treatment includes surgery and chemotherapy, the dog has a chance to live 4 to 6 months longer.
Follow up treatment generally includes monthly thoracic x-rays and physical exams necessary to watch for any reoccurrences of the cancer.
The dog owner whose dog has been diagnosed with Canine Hemangiosarcoma will have several decisions to make, even though they can be heartbreaking. Among these decisions is will the dog owners budget be able to handle the veterinarian bills necessary to prolong the dog’s life by only six months or so. The dog’s age should be considered as well as any other health conditions the dog maybe experiencing. If the dog owner decides the dog is not a candidate for treatment, due to cost or due to other circumstances involving the dog, they may decide to have the dog euthanized or let nature take its course.