Hemangiosarcoma is a malignant or cancerous tumor found in the abdomen of dogs. It is most commonly found in the larger breeds such as German Shepherds, Labradors or Golden Retrievers. This tumor originates in the blood vessels but is most often found in the spleen; it can also be found on the skin and the heart. Due to its blood vessel origins, these tumors bleed excessively. A common sign exhibited is a lethargic patient who tires easily. Upon examination, the veterinarian may find an anemic patient whose abdomen is distended due to the presence of free blood in the belly.
These tumors can range in size from golf ball to softball size or larger and can be difficult to treat due to this cancer’s aggressive nature. The tumor can quickly metastasize and spread to other locations within the body making removal impossible. Prior to any treatment, it is necessary to ensure that spreading has not occurred. The veterinarians will ultrasound the chest and abdomen to detect if the tumor is isolated to the spleen. If it is, surgical removal of the spleen followed by chemotherapy is the appropriate course of action. Even with this aggressive treatment, the average survival time for patients diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma is 3 weeks to 3 months. Only 10% survive longer than a year.
Despite the poor prognosis, there are patients who have “beaten the odds.” These cases make our jobs rewarding.
“Tyson” is one of those cases. “Tyson” was diagnosed in early February of 2011. He immediately had his spleen removed and had 3 rounds of chemotherapy. As of this writing, I am happy to report that “Tyson” is doing very well and, like always, is happy to see us!