Hemangiosarcoma in Dogs
Definition of Hemangiosarcoma
Hemangiosarcoma, also called angiosarcoma, hemangioendothelioma or HAS, comes from uncontrolled overgrowth of cells lining small blood vessels. What causes hemangiosarcoma in dogs is poorly understood, although genetics probably play a role. These are fast-growing, invasive, fragile tumors that can occur anywhere on or in a dog’s body and tend to spread rapidly. Hemangiosarcomas bleed profusely when disturbed and often rupture, causing life-threatening internal bleeding. Hemangiosarcomas seem to cause dogs a great deal of discomfort, especially in the later stages. The exact symptoms depend on where the original tumor is and where it has spread. Sometimes, the initial signs of hemangiosarcoma are chalked up to old age, changes in weather or alterations in the dog’s living environment. However, once the disease advances, most dogs deteriorate rapidly. Some die suddenly from internal bleeding if a tumor ruptures. Unfortunately, hemangiosarcoma is fairly common in dogs, especially in large and giant breeds.
The actual causes of hemangiosarcoma, like the causes of most other types of cancer, are not well understood. Hemangiosarcomas can develop anywhere on the surface of a dog’s body, inside its internal organs or within body cavities. Primary hemangiosarcomas tend to occur most frequently in the skin, heart, spleen, liver and bone. Wherever they start, hemangiosarcomas initially are formed from cells lining small blood vessels. They are predisposed to spreading rapidly to remote areas of
While it is difficult to say with certainty how a dog with hemangiosarcoma is affected by its condition, reports from people with this disease, and observations of dogs, suggest that hemangiosarcoma usually causes a great deal of discomfort and pain, especially in the later stages. The exact symptoms will depend upon the site of the primary tumor (liver, spleen, heart, skin, bone, other), and where the cancer has spread.Owners of dogs with hemangiosarcoma may notice
Hemangiosarcoma is usually diagnosed using X-rays (radiographs), ultrasonography (ultrasound), computed tomography (CT scan) and tissue biopsies of suspicious masses. Chest X-rays are especially useful to determine whether the cancer has spread to the lungs. Abdominal X-rays and abdominal ultrasound can also reveal spread of the cancer, especially if they show an enlarged liver or spleen. Of course, a complete history and a thorough physical examination are critical parts of the diagnostic process. The abdomen will
The main goals of treating hemangiosarcoma are to remove the tumors surgically if possible, minimize the chances of bleeding from tumor rupture and prolong the dog’s survival time and quality of life.
If the cancer has spread to the spleen, that organ can be removed by a splenectomy. Unfortunately, depending upon the extent of local invasion of the cancer into surrounding areas, it is not always possible to remove all of the cancerous tissue.