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Health & Wellness

How does hemangiosarcoma affect dogs?

This cancer's symptoms aren’t always obvious.

Thinking about cancers affecting dogs is a heavy topic, but doing your research will prepare you to help your pet cope as best they can. Hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive cancer, is one type you’ll want to do your homework on. 

This cancer doesn’t always present symptoms in our pups, so learning about what it is and what to expect will help you and your pet in the long run. 

What’s hemangiosarcoma?

Hemangiosarcoma is an aggressive, malignant cancer that affects the cells from the blood vessels’ lining. It can cause tumors throughout a dog’s body, including on the spleen, liver, heart and skin, Dr. Emily Singler, VMD, Fetch by The Dodo’s on-staff veterinarian, says. 

Hemangiosarcoma symptoms in dogs

Symptoms depend on where the cancer appears in your dog’s body, Dr. Singler shares. For example, raised lumps (similar to blood blisters) will appear when your pup has skin hemangiosarcoma. Some scenarios, like when a dog has internal hemangiosarcoma, won’t show symptoms until a tumor bursts, which can cause internal bleeding.

“This can cause dogs to become very weak and have pale pink to white gums, trouble breathing and a distended belly,” Dr. Singler says. 

Because veterinarians aren’t always able to determine the hemangiosarcoma type with the naked eye, they’ll recommend a tumor biopsy as the definitive test. In this case, dogs will undergo surgery to remove the tumor, which will be sent to a pathologist for further evaluation. 

RELATED: How to know if your dog’s tumor is cancerous

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Is hemangiosarcoma painful for dogs?

Hemangiosarcoma can affect your dog’s quality of life and cause discomfort. If an internal tumor is bleeding, your dog might feel abdominal or chest pain, weakness or lethargy from blood loss. Cancer can also cause vomiting, irritating your pup’s gastrointestinal system. 

Treatment options for hemangiosarcoma in dogs

According to Dr. Singler, hemangiosarcoma is treatable, but even with treatment, it commonly comes back or spreads to another area in a dog’s body. 

Treatment varies case-by-case but may involve surgery to remove the entire tumor, followed by chemotherapy to prevent or slow cancer cells from spreading. Veterinarians can recommend the right treatment plan depending on the location and your pup’s case. 

The Dig, Fetch by The Dodo’s expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too. Fetch provides the most comprehensive pet insurance and is the only provider recommended by the #1 animal brand in the world, The Dodo. 

Photo by Matt Briney on Unsplash

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