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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 talking about someone that we love isn’t really want any of us want to hear.

And this holds…

True 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 him or her.

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

Hemangiosarcoma’s in dogs

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

Hemangiosarcoma in dogs defined

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

Which means that…

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 very serious problem that can take place.

A serious situation…

That seems to be more common in:

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

The possibility of a hemorrhage

This is a huge threat to your dog or cat’s life if he/she has hemangiosarcoma. Because the hemangiosarcomas are full of blood, they can rupture or burst at any time. When this happens, there will be little you can do to save your pet’s life. It will usually result in sudden death. In fact, if your dog dies suddenly in his/her sleep, it could be due to a hemorrhage.

Symptoms of Hemangiosarcoma

If your dog has hemangiosarcoma, then you will probably see some typical clinical signs. 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 problems could cause this as well),
  • Lack of coordination,
  • Dementia, strange behavior.

Can also be present as well.

Diagnosis of Hemangiosarcoma

Whenever you take your dog to the vet, the best way to get an accurate diagnosis is to give as much information as you can. 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,
  • Checking for a low blood platelet count,
  • A urinalysis,
  • X-rays of abdominal cavity,
  • Thoracic radiography.

Your vet will be looking for…

Signs in the blood, internal bleeding, and any unusual mass. If your vet sees a tumor, then he/she 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 how far its spread.

Treatment options may include:

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

The stage of metastasis…

Will also play a major role in determining what “type” of treatment may be the “best” as well as play a major role in determining the survival rate of your dog.


the median survival after this diagnosis is not very long, but ever procedure could lengthen your dog’s life and give you more time together.  That said however, we here at IndulgeYourPet firmly believe that the most important factor in your pet’s care is to be sure that they are living as comfortably as possible.

Which brings us to…

A good place in this article to remind folks that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians or medial professionals.  All we are is a bunch of folks who are passionate about animals and only wants 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 him or her checked out by a professional!  Or like we say around here…

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


Be prepared, because when it comes to being diagnosed with a hemangiosarcoma the truth is, your dog will probably not be able to fully recover from this.  The main reason for this is because, it’s very unlikely for you to discover that your dog has developed a hemangiosarcoma before his or her condition has become “advanced”.


This isn’t because you are a responsible and loving pet owner, it’s just the nature of this disease.  And while there are definitely several great treatment options 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 who already have a pet that has been diagnosed with a hemangiosarcoma, it’s probably too late for you to be able to qualify for a pet insurance policy on them, but that doesn’t mean that one of your other pets won’t qualify.

Now will a pet insurance policy be right 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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