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Hemangiosarcoma in Dogs and Cats

A Cancer of the Blood Cells

By Madeleine Burry. December 05, 2013 | See Comments

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    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

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Dog And Cat Laying In Leaves

A cancer diagnosis for any pet parent can be devastating, but even more so when it is a type where very little can be done. Learn more here about hemangiosarcoma and the options available.

Hemangiosarcoma, cancer of the blood cells, is a sad and tough diagnosis for any pet owner to receive, since a cure is unlikely with this aggressive and fast-moving cancer. The prognosis for a pet with this diagnosis will vary depending on the location of the hemangiosarcoma, with tumors found in the skin or subcutaneously having the best prognosis. Regardless of location, treatments are available that can help to extend a pet’s life. Hemangiosarcoma in dogs is fairly common, and it can also occur in cats.

The tumors that develop as a result of this cancer generally occur in the spleen, heart, or liver of dogs, and in the spleen, liver, or skin of cats. However, the tumors can occur anywhere, since they are formed from blood cells.

Learn how to detect some of the signs that your pet may have this form of cancer, and some of the treatment options that are available.

Hemangiosarcoma Symptoms

As with many pet illnesses, the symptoms of hemangiosarcoma are a general lack of wellness: exhaustion, depression, and a disinterest in food and exercise. Anemia (which can be detected by pale gums) can also be a sign of a tumor that has ruptured in your pet’s liver or spleen. A pet’s complete collapse is an indicator that the cancer has progressed to a late stage.

When the tumors develop on the skin -- either of the dermal variety, directly on the skin, or the hypodermal variety, just below the skin -- they can often be felt. Tumors that are on the skin are typically raised and red or black in color.

Treatment Options for Hemangiosarcoma

Perhaps the worst part of a hemangiosarcoma diagnosis is that a cure is rarely possible, with the exception being hemangiosarcoma that develops in a pet’s skin. Surgery to remove the dermal or hypodermal variants of hemangiosarcoma can be an effective treatment if the cancer has not metastasized throughout the pet’s body and the surgery is able to remove all the cancerous cells. In general, this surgery is followed up with chemotherapy for a better prognosis.

When hemangiosarcoma is present within a dog or cat’s organs, the prognosis is generally less positive. However, a combination of surgery and either chemotherapy or radiation can be used to extend your pet’s life.

  • If the tumor is present within the pet’s spleen, a splenectomy, or surgery to remove the spleen, will be the next step.
  • Surgery can also sometimes be a viable option when the tumor is present within the heart or liver.
  • If a cat or dog is very anemic, transfusions can be helpful.
  • If the tumor is within a pet’s heart, a pericardial tap can be done to remove fluid buildup in the area surrounding the heart.

Most treatment options will result in extending a pet’s life by around six months, although treatment for hemangiosarcoma found in the skin is more successful, and tends to extend a cat or dog’s life by up to a year.

More on Cancer In Pets

Treatments for Cancer in Dogs and Cats
Bone Cancer in Cats and Dogs
How to Save on Cat Chemo and Cancer Drugs

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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