Ways To Treat Hemangiosarcoma In Cats An Aggressive Cancer of the Blood Cells

BY | March 31 | COMMENTS PUBLISHED BY
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Hemangiosarcoma is a tumor of blood vessel cells that have become cancerous. Getting this diagnosis can be devastating since this is a particularly aggressive and fast moving type of cancer. Depending on your cat's case, there maybe options available to extend your cat's life just a little bit longer than most. Learn more here.

Finding out that your pet has cancer can be heartbreaking, especially if it is an aggressive type that is difficult or impossible to treat. Hemangiosarcoma -- a tumor of cancerous blood vessel cells -- falls into that category. These tumors can occur anywhere in -- or on -- the body, and they tend to metastasize rapidly, causing dangerous internal bleeding.

In general, the prognosis for cats with hemangiosarcoma is not good. However, depending on the location of the tumor, the degree of spreading, and how well your cat responds to treatment, your veterinarian may be able to extend their life by up to a year.

Types of Hemangiosarcoma in Cats

Hemangiosarcomas are much more common in dogs than they are in cats. However, cats can still develop these tumors, and when they do, the tumors tend to be located one of four places:

  • On the skin (dermal)
  • Under the skin (subcutaneous)
  • Internal organs (visceral)
  • In the mouth, usually on the gums (oral)

The cause of hemangiosarcomas in cats is not well understood, but the fact that two of the four main types are located on the head suggest that exposure to sun may be a risk factor, just as it is in humans, as well as exposure to certain chemicals and insecticides.

Treatment for Hemangiosarcoma in Cats

Treatment will depend on the location of the tumor as well as the degree of the cancerโ€™s spread. In most cases, a combination of surgery and systemic therapy (such as chemotherapy or radiation) will be the best option for extending your catโ€™s life.

  • Dermal and subcutaneous hemangiosarcomas are the easiest to remove surgically, and thus have the best prognosis of any type. However, subcutaneous hemangiosarcomas can be difficult to remove completely and have around a 60% recurrence rate. Cats with skin hemangiosarcomas treated with surgery have an average survival time of around 1 year.
  • A visceral hemangiosarcoma is the most aggressive type, and approximately 30% of affected cats will be sick enough to warrant euthanasia.
  • Some cats with visceral hemangiosarcomas will be candidates for surgery. If the tumor is located on the spleen, the organ will be removed (splenectomy). Surgery may also be an option for tumors located in the liver or heart.

  • Tumors in the heart may also be treated with a pericardial tap, which is a surgical procedure in which a needle and catheter are used to remove fluid from the sac around the heart.

  • Blood transfusions may be useful if the hemangiosarcoma has resulted in anemia.

  • Systemic therapy like chemotherapy or radiation is not a cure, but it may work to slow the growth of the tumor and thus extend the catโ€™s life. While surgery alone may only extend a catโ€™s life by 1 to 3 months, surgery plus chemotherapy or radiation may extend it by 8 to 9 months.

If you notice any symptoms of hemangiosarcoma -- including lethargy, depression, loss of appetite, or a visible or felt tumor -- contact your veterinarian right away. They will examine your cat and perform a series of diagnostic tests to determine the best treatment option. The below information can help give a little more information about the same.

Hemangiosarcoma in Dogs and Cats

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 petโ€™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 petโ€™s liver or spleen. A petโ€™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 petโ€™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 petโ€™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 catโ€™s organs, the prognosis is generally less positive. However, a combination of surgery and either chemotherapy or radiation can be used to extend your petโ€™s life.

  • If the tumor is present within the petโ€™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 petโ€™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 petโ€™s life by around six months, although treatment for hemangiosarcoma found in the skin is more successful, and tends to extend a cat or dogโ€™s life by up to a year.

More on Cancer In Cats

Cat Tumors And Cat Skin Disease - How To Detect Them And What You Can Do
Mast Cell Cancer In Dogs And Cats
Cat Symptom Checker: Match Your Cat's Symptoms To Health Conditions

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