What is Hemangiosarcoma?
Hemangiosarcoma is a cancer of the blood vessel walls that is primarily found in dogs. It often grows undetected, and presents few or no signs until the cancer is in the late stages of metastasis (see our Symptoms page for more information). It is more common in older dogs (usually 6 years and older), and while some breeds are considered higher risk than others (see our Breeds at Risk page), it can occur in any breed, and is not a rare disease. While researchers are still learning about the causes, one of the leading researchers in the field, Dr. Jaime Modiano, explains that hemangiosarcoma "is not caused by environmental exposures or behaviors".
Standard treatment options include surgery and chemotherapy, but are usually not curative unless the tumor is located on the skin. Other common locations of tumors include the spleen and heart. Splenic tumors can sometimes be removed via a splenectomy (spleen removal), while cardiac tumors are often inoperable. Please see our Treatments page for more information, but remember to always consult your veterinarian for any medical advice.
Due to the aggressive nature of hemangiosarcoma, pet owners are often forced to make difficult and potentially life-saving decisions with very short notice. In some cases, treatment options may extend your pet's life by a few weeks or months. In more severe cases, you may only have a few days or less. The most important thing to consider when making any decision is your pet's quality of life. Some instruments called "quality of life scales" have been developed to help pet owners make the decision to pursue treatment, palliative care, or humane euthanasia. You may even consider experimental treatments (e.g. at a reputable university or some other licensed, veterinary care organization). Regardless of what you do, make your pet's quality of life a focal point of the conversation you have with your veterinarian.
Finally, if your dog is believed to have hemangiosarcoma, we wish you and your pet the best of luck in fighting it. You are part of our family now, and we will not stop until we make a positive difference for dogs like yours, and pet owners like you.