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Liver Cancer (Hemangiosarcoma) in Dogs… How it is diagnosed, and what you can do to help!

As a general rule of thumb, it’s pretty safe to say that having the word “sarcoma” inserted into a descriptive paragraph about someone we love isn’t what we want to hear. And this holds when talking about a hemangiosarcoma. But let’s face it, in life, people and pets will face challenges, which is why we wanted to take a moment and discuss what it’s like to have a dog that has been diagnosed with a hemangiosarcoma so that you’ll be better prepared for what to expect while treating them.

So, without further ado, let’s dive right in.

Hemangiosarcomas in dogs

Though not a common problem, hemangiosarcoma in dogs does happen. This is why we want to begin our don of this condition by first defining what a hemangiosarcoma is, and from there, begin to discuss what some of the symptoms might be and what you, as a responsible owner, can do to help treat the condition.

Hemangiosarcoma in dogs defined.

Hemangiosarcoma is a type of tumor in the blood vessels in the spleen or liver (AKA liver cancer in dogs). And here lies the problem because identifying a tumor found in the spleen and or liver is challenging, if not impossible, early on. Unfortunately, once these guys are formed, they spread relatively quickly throughout the body (through the blood).

If left untreated, it will metastasize in other organs in the body, such as the heart, lungs, etc. It can even make its way into the brain. As you can see, this is a severe problem that can take place.

A serious situation…

That seems to be more common in:

This could suggest a hereditary link associated with this disease; however, it can also occur in other breeds (so the verdict is still out on that one). Also, hemangiosarcomas are much more common in older dogs and will only be found in younger dogs on frequent occasions.

The possibility of a hemorrhage

This is a massive threat to your dog or cat’s life if they have hemangiosarcoma. Because the hemangiosarcomas are full of blood, they can rupture or burst at anytime. When this happens, there will be little you can do to save your pet’s life. It will usually result in sudden death. If your dog dies suddenly in their sleep, it could be due to a hemorrhage.

Symptoms of Hemangiosarcoma

You will probably see some typical clinical signs if your dog has hemangiosarcoma. These will significantly impact your dog’s life. Those may include:

  • Lack of interest in food (ultimately leading to weight loss),
  • Overall fatigue.

Neurological Impairments such as:

  • Collapses,
  • Muscle coordination problems (other serious issues could cause this as well),
  • Lack of coordination,
  • Dementia, strange behavior.

It can also be present as well.

Diagnosis of Hemangiosarcoma

Whenever you take your dog to the vet, giving as much information as possible is the best way to get an accurate diagnosis. The more your vet knows about your dog’s symptoms and medical history, the easier it will be for a diagnosis.

There are some lab tests your vet will probably do to get to a diagnosis. Those may include:

  • Blood cell analysis,
  • Red blood cell count, white blood cell count,
  • Checking iron levels for anemia,
  • Studying for a low blood platelet count,
  • A urinalysis,
  • X-rays of the abdominal cavity,
  • Thoracic radiography.

Your vet will look for signs in the blood, internal bleeding, and unusual mass. If your vet sees a tumor, they will probably do a fluid and tissue biopsy to analyze it for cancer cells. This is not done through the skin but via an ultrasound guiding it through a body cavity.

Treatment & Prognosis

Treatment and prognosis will depend entirely on how far it spreads.

Treatment options may include:

  • Chemotherapy,
  • Surgery (surgical removal of the primary tumor),
  • And radiation therapy.

The stage of metastasis…

It will also play a significant role in determining what “type” of treatment may be the “best,” as well as in determining your dog’s survival rate. Unfortunately, the median survival after this diagnosis is not very long, but every procedure could lengthen your dog’s life and give you more time together. However, we at IndulgeYourPet firmly believe that the most critical factor in your pet’s care is ensuring they live as comfortably as possible.

Which brings us to…

This is a good place in this article to remind folks that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians, or medical professionals. We are all a bunch of folks passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them. For this reason, regardless of what you read here in this article or anywhere on our site, if you feel that your pet may be suffering from a medical condition, be sure to have it checked out by a professional! Or, like we say around here…

“When in doubt, have a vet check it out!”

But be prepared because when it comes to being diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma, your dog will probably not be able to recover from this entirely. The main reason for this is that it’s doubtful for you to discover that your dog has developed a hemangiosarcoma before their condition has become “advanced.”

Now, this isn’t because you are a responsible and loving pet owner; it’s just the nature of this disease. And while several great treatment options are available, we should point out that these “options” can become quite expensive to the average pet owner.

Which is why…

We here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal. Now, for those with a pet diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma, it’s probably too late for you to qualify for a pet insurance policy, but that doesn’t mean one of your other pets won’t be eligible.

Now, will a pet insurance policy be suitable for everyone?

No, probably not. But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

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