When To Euthanise A Dog With Hemangiosarcoma is an all-too-common question we get asked. What is hemangiosarcoma? Also known as HSA, this is an aggressive cancer of the blood vessels in your dog that is malignant. And often grows in the spleen, liver, or heart due to the amount of blood making its way to each of these organs. A mass in one of these structures can rupture at any time without warning.
It can also spread to other parts of the body. It can appear suddenly without notice, so this guide will pinpoint signs. And help you decide when to euthanise a dog with hemangiosarcoma…
Frequently Asked Questions
What causes hemangiosarcoma?
Some breeds of dog have a genetic predisposition for the disease. These include German Shepherds, Labrador and Golden Retrievers. All ages of dog can be affected.
Exposure to carcinogens – substances capable of causing cancer in living tissue such as asbestos, tobacco smoke, chemicals, and chlorides can all be causes.
How long can a dog live with hemangiosarcoma?
The prognosis sadly is always poor. Even with surgery and chemotherapy, the disease continues to progress and cancer cells create masses throughout the body.
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Bleeding from haemorrhages may start and stop – or continue until your dog collapses. Survival time with surgery and chemotherapy is less than a year.
Are there different types of hemangiosarcoma?
There are three main forms of hemangiosarcoma in dogs:
- Dermal – these growths appear on the skin and although surgery can remove them there’s always a potential threat of internal metastasising
- Subcutaneous – occurring under the layer of the top skin as dark red blood growths – almost 60% spread internally
- Visceral – affecting the spleen and the heart where tumours form and bleed profusely. Removing the spleen may potentially prevent a life-threatening bleed – if the growth ruptures in the heart it can exert extra pressure and stop it from pumping properly – known as pericardial effusion.
What are the signs my dog is dying from hemangiosarcoma?
Your dog may show a few of the following signs, or none at all. Internal bleeding in the abdomen means there are no visual signs of blood in the urine or stools. Clues that your dog may have this cancer include:
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- A distended mass in the stomach
- Bruising on the skin
- Pale gums
- Vague weakness that comes and goes
- Heavy panting
When do I need vet assistance?
Even before a diagnosis, you’ll need to get immediate help if your dog has:
- Uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhoea
- Prolonged seizures
- Difficulty breathing
- Sudden collapse
- Vocalisation indicating pain is unbearable
How is a diagnosis made?
Your vet will quickly conduct a physical examination. And take a detailed symptom history from you. Occasionally your dog’s body may be able to control the bleeding and reabsorb the blood back into circulation. But this is rare and your dog will often be in a critical condition.
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Using ultrasounds and radiographs your vet will investigate heart, liver, and spleen tumours. X-rays will determine whether cancer has spread to the lungs. A biopsy will confirm any masses are hemangiosarcoma.
What are the treatments?
If your dog has been collapsing intravenous fluids will need to be administered. And a blood transfusion may also be necessary. Blood pressure will be monitored until your dog becomes stable.
Then surgery will be required to take away the bleeding mass. In 75% of cases, this is found to be ruptured in the liver or spleen. There are no cures. While surgery will remove the primary tumour and stop bleeding temporarily, all of the metastases won’t be removed.
Chemotherapy will help combat the cancer cells that have spread – but won’t provide a cure.
What is hemangiosarcoma life expectancy?
After emergency surgery, the average life expectancy is only about three to four months. Chemotherapy following surgery can extend this for an average of five to nine months.
How can I decide what to do?
Once you’ve recognised the symptoms of this aggressive cancer, you’ll need to discuss the options with your vet as soon as possible. You’ll be faced with a huge decision as your dog may still be active and alert in-between times.
If the greater chance is that your dog has hemangiosarcoma then you’ll avoid the trauma of profuse bleeding, signs of shock, and collapse if you have your dog put to sleep. Facing canine cancer is always extremely emotional, but you must take your vets advice on board before making your decision.
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When To Euthanise A Dog With Hemangiosarcoma at Home and Gently
When dog euthanasia at home is your final option end of life care home visit vets will give you all the help and support you need. The process involves two injections – the initial one will gently send your dog to sleep – and the anaesthetic agent will slowly stop the heart. Your dog will peacefully pass away surrounded by the family and in the home he loves.