How To Treat Canine Hemangiosarcoma: Dog Health Care

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Canine hemangiosarcoma is an aggressive, highly malignant dog cancer that preys on blood vessels. To treat this type of cancer, you’ll need to know about the symptoms, diagnosis and more. These tips should help you. 
There are three types of canine hemangiosarcomas:

  1. Dermal, found on the skin
  2. Hypodermal, found under the skin
  3. Visceral, found on the spleen and heart, is most commonly diagnosed and is deadliest

Now that you know the types, let’s discuss the symptoms so you know what to look for. Symptoms include:

  1. Visible bleeding such as nosebleeds
  2. Lack of energy and stamina
  3. Loss of color to mucous membranes located in the mouth and eyes
  4. Rapid breathing
  5. Abnormal swelling
  6. Depression
  7. Non-clotting drawn blood
  8. Lameness
  9. Seizures
  10. Confusion
  11. Collapsing spells

Once you spot the symptoms, your vet can diagnose the illness. Diagnosis of canine hemangiosarcoma is determined by a veterinarian using:

  1. Physical exam
  2. Blood count
  3. Ultrasound
  4. X-rays
  5. Surgical exploration
  6. Biopsy

Treatment includes:

  1. Hospitalization to stabilize the ill dog
  2. IVs administered
  3. Blood transfusions if needed
  4. Pain relievers such as buffered aspirin
  5. Anti-inflammatory such as Rimadyl
  6. Surgery of primary tumor
  7. Chemotherapy with anti-tumor medications

Dogs with hemangiosarcoma tumors of the skin only (that have not spread) have a good prognosis; however because the cancer is usually in its advanced stages before it is detected, the prognosis is usually guarded to poor at best. The cancer is responsible for creating large tumors in the spleen and heart and quickly spreading to the liver and lungs. These large tumors have also been known to rupture and kill the dog. 

Canine hemangiosarcoma is also responsible for a blood disorder known as cisseminated intravascular coagulation. This causes blood clotting inside the blood vessels and leads to death as well. With no treatment, the dog will live 6 to 8 weeks from discovery of the tumor. If the dog is treated with surgery alone, the dog will live approximately 2 to 3 months from time of discovery of tumor. If the dog has surgery followed by chemotherapy, it will have approximately 4 to 6 months from discovery of the tumor. After deciding on treatment, the veterinarian will follow up monthly with thoracic X-rays and physical exams, to watch for a reoccurrence.

A diagnosis of canine hemangiosarcoma is not what any owner wishes to hear from his veterinarian. Decisions following this diagnosis are not easy ones, but are ones that the owner will have to make. These decisions will involve many factors, such as:

  1. Cost Will the owner’s budget handle the cost of the treatment?
  2. Age of the dog Will the dog’s age make prolonging its life feasible?
  3. Health of the dog Does the dog have any other health issues besides the cancer, which would make it a poor candidate for treatment?


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