Hemangiosarcoma in dogs

Hemangiosarcoma is an aggressive blood vessel cancer that causes tumours on the spleen, liver or heart. It can go unnoticed until the tumours rupture and cause internal bleeding. 

Some dogs may sporadically bleed internally, with the blood reabsorbed by the body. Others experience profuse internal bleeding that suddenly becomes a life-threatening emergency.

What are common hemangiosarcoma signs in dogs?

Early signs include:

In many cases, no signs are observed in the early stage of hemangiosarcoma. However, some things to look out for are:

  • Waxing and waning weakness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss

Intermediate to advanced signs include: 

  • Excessive thirst
  • Chills
  • Pale gum colour
  • Abdominal distention
  • Panting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Inability or reluctance to rise
  • Collapse
  • Sudden death

Excessive thirst is a sign of hemangiosarcoma in dogs.

How is hemangiosarcoma managed in dogs?  

For splenic or liver hemangiosarcoma, the entire spleen or affected liver lobe is removed and followed up with chemotherapy. For cardiac hemangiosarcoma, chemotherapy is often recommended as the primary treatment, because surgery can be difficult.

Dogs receiving chemotherapy for hemangiosarcoma need regular veterinary visits and diagnostic tests to monitor their status and prognosis. 

Discussing a personalised management plan with your veterinarian, and a veterinary oncologist is important for the best outcome for your dog.

What is the prognosis for dogs with hemangiosarcoma?

The prognosis for hemangiosarcoma in dogs is dependent on tumour location and stage, surgical outcome and medical management response. The survival time for surgical treatment alone is between 19 and 86 days because hemangiosarcoma has a high potential for spreading to other organs. 

With a poorer prognosis of cardiac hemangiosarcoma, different combinations of chemotherapy with surgery may provide a good quality of life for up to seven months.


Management tips for dogs with hemangiosarcoma

At-home needs include:

  • Easily accessible food and water, and a comfortable location
  • Consistency with medications and supplements
  • Monitoring appetite, drinking, urination, energy level and gum colour
  • Watching for signs of worsening disease
  • Avoiding strenuous exercise, if directed by your veterinarian

For end-of-life care:

In a crisis:

Immediately contact your vet if your dog becomes lethargic, pants heavily, has difficulty breathing, drinks excessive amounts of water, collapses, or vocalises in pain.

It is vital to begin end-of-life care discussions before your dog‘s condition becomes unmanageable or they begin losing their quality of life. 

The team at Goodbye Good Boy offers individualised support to help you and your family navigate this difficult time by providing quality-of-life checks, in-home euthanasia, cremation and aftercare services and personalised memorialisation options. Our services can even be pre-paid to help ease the financial burden at the time of your pet’s passing. 

To learn more about our pet end-of-life services, give us a call on 1800 953 619 or visit our website goodbyegoodboy.com.au.


This article was reproduced with permission from Goodbye Good Boy advisor Dr Dani McVety, of Lap Of Love.