Hemangiosarcoma: Cancerous Tumour on the Spleen or Benign Tumour?
Hemangiosarcoma is a fairly common form of cancer in dogs, particularly in larger breed dogs, like German Shepherd, Golden Retriever and Labrador. Hemangiosarcoma is a cancerous tumour that grows on the spleen. Some forms of this tumour also grow on the skin and under the skin.
Our black Labrador cross first drew our attention he could have problems when he kept eating grass at every opportunity in an effort to make himself vomit. He would try vomiting but generally only brought up the grass he had devoured.
Being notorious for eating anything and everything we assumed he had swallowed something that was unable to pass through his digestive system and needed to come back via the mouth. As a young dog he had once swallowed a large "grandfather" marble. The vet couldn't feel anything so we assumed he hadn't swallowed it until two months later when he vomitted up the missing marble along with copious amounts of grass.
This time the vet decided to x-ray our dogs abdomen to check for any foreign objects and to our dismay found a large tumour on his spleen. Typically these tumours are cancerous and eventually bleed as they grow in blood vessels. Hemangiosarcoma is an aggressive cancer which spreads quickly to other areas such as lung, liver and brain. Left untreated the tumour will rupture and internal bleeding will occur.
Our vet explained to us the situation we or our dog had found himself and the likely outcomes dependent on what the final biopsy showed. Unfortunately with this type of cancer it is only possible to realize the malignancy of the tumour once it has been removed. Attempting to biospsy before surgery will often cause excessive bleeding which can in turn mean the demise of the animal.
Our dog was typically over wieight as Labradors often are, being fond of food. A number of things started to niggle at us. If this cancer often resulted in bleed outs or internal bleeding and our dog had an extremely large growth why hadn't we seem any sign of this. Internal bleeding can cause your dog to suddenly collapse and appear very unwell. Also the cancer moves on quickly showing more illness. The extra x rays taken to decide whether the cancer had progressed to lungs or liver proved negative. This seemed a positive outcome considering the size of the tumour and likelihood of metastisizing. We considered the possibilities over the next few days as we tried to make a decision whether to operate or not.
The information we received indicated that if we operated the likely survival rate would be only two months or so. If we chose not to operate then a probable bleed out would prove imminent death. A difficult decision to make when you have no idea what your dog actually has. Many owners decide to have their dog euthanased to alleviate more ill health. Deciding to have the tumour removed only to find their dog passes away less than two months later leaves a lot to be desired. Firstly the expense of surgery followed by death soon after makes owners decide on euthanasia. They feel this is likely to be kinder to their loved dog in the long run.
We contemplated all the likely outcomes with all the information we could glean from the internet. After much to ing and fro ing we decided the odds were in our dogs favour. Considering he had never shown signs of internal bleeding and as the tumour was large this should have been happening. We assumed our chances were OK. The other factor we took in to account was our dog never appeared to be unwell apart from eating excessive amounts of grass. He was still excitable and had his usual insatiable appetite. We had noticed he found it hard to get himself in a comfortable position when travelling in the car. The thing that persuaded me it was time to get him checked out was a slight bulge at the bottom of his ribs on one side.
After consulting with the teaching veterinary hospital at our local university we were able to obtain a surgical fee almost half the price of the original quoted so we decided to go ahead with the surgery to remove the tumour.
Much to our delight the results of the post surgery biopsy showed the tumour to be completely benign. Had the tumour been malignant we would then have to decide whether to put him through chemotherapy which increases the survival time considerably and of course costs more money. From our research we had read of many cases where dogs who did have malignant tumours have still been alive two years later which is quite good considering the prognosis portrayed to us at the time. There is always hope. Some people choose to change their dogs diet to a more natural one.after surgery in an effort to increase their life expectancy. Humans often take this approach themselves when faced with ill health and I feel it is a valid option.
The spleen had to be removed however our vet told us he could live quite happily without one. The tumour was the size of a soccer ball and weighed two and a half kilograms. No wonder the poor fellow couldn't get comfortable in the car. He was obviously trying to accomodate a large growth. He looked quite trim after surgery especially with his stretchy net bandage tube on to protect the wound.
It is almost one year since surgery and although I think he has probably regained the two and a half kilos we are so happy to still have him with us as he is our friend. By the way he is ten years old now
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.