Symptoms of Dogs with Hemangiosarcoma
Dog hemangiosarcoma symptoms may include non-specific signs of illness such as lethargy, weight loss, loss of appetite, abdominal swelling, difficulty breathing, exercise intolerance, and chronic weakness. Because of the tendency of these tumors to bleed, some dogs may present with acute collapse and even sudden death. Dogs with hemangiosarcoma of the skin may have bruising associated with a skin tumor.
Diagnosis of Hemangiosarcoma in Dogs
A full medical examination is recommended including CBC/chemistry blood work and urine analysis. X-rays and/or ultrasound of the chest and abdomen are quite helpful in defining the extent of the disease and whether the cancer has spread to other organs. As with other types of cancer, definitive diagnosis is possible only through surgical biopsy. Dogs with spleen or heart involvement often have secondary heart arrhythmias, which often need to be identified and treated by cardiac tests, so that stabilization is possible. Due to blood loss associated with this type of cancer, many dogs are severely anemic and may need blood transfusions as well.
Treatment of Hemangiosarcoma in Dogs
With involvement of the spleen, the most important part of the treatment is surgical removal of the cancer and/or spleen. Because many hemangiosarcomas have spread at the time of diagnosis and treatment, it is often best for pet owners to discuss with their veterinarian whether humane euthanasia is a possible option prior to having exploratory surgery to remove the spleen. If possible, chemotherapy may be offered with drugs such as Doxorubricin or Vincristine, which may in some cases prolong life over surgery alone.
Prognosis for Dogs with Hemangiosarcoma
Due to the highly malignant nature and advanced state of disease (often to other organs), the prognosis for dogs with hemangiosarcoma is quite guarded. Prognosis will depend on the stage of cancer at time of diagnosis. With surgery alone, dogs will often live only two to three months. With chemo and/or immunotherapy, dogs with only Stage 1 or Stage 2 of the disease may live several months up to one year after treatment.
There have also been recent advances in immunotherapy, which may be available at specialty veterinary hospitals, and also might help prolong survival time.