Hemangiosarcoma is a rare and often fatal form of cancer. These tumors start in the pet’s blood vessels, and because blood vessels are found throughout the body, these tumors can pop up anywhere. However, they are most often found in the spleen, heart, liver, skin, and bone. They are typically filled with blood so when the tumor ruptures, there is typically internal and external bleeding.
This condition is more common in dogs than other pets and typically occurs between the ages of six and 13 years old. Larger breeds are also more prone to this condition, especially German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, and English Setters.
Unfortunately, it is usually quite hard to diagnose hemangiosarcoma before the condition becomes severe, because there may be no obvious symptoms until the tumor actually ruptures. At that time, you may see the following:
- A lump under the skin
- Visible bleeding (sometimes as a nose bleed)
- Tiring easily
- Unexplained weakness
- Pale color in the gums
- Difficulty breathing
- Abdominal swelling
- Abnormal heath rhythms
- Exercise intolerance
While this aggressive form of cancer is most often incurable, if the tumor is located on the skin only, it may be possible for the pet to survive. A veterinarian will cut the tumor off the skin and perform chemotherapy treatment.
A combination of surgery and chemotherapy may also be used to attempt to treat these tumors on other parts of the body, but the success rate isn’t high.