You will probably find the initial warning sign of skin lesions while bathing or grooming your dog. As you comb or lather, you encounter a strange small lump that you have not before seen. New lumps like this tend to spring to mind that alarming word: cancer. While it may well be a simple hemangioma, pet owners should not ignore such growths.
What is Hemangioma in Dogs?
This type of growth, a cutaneous hemangioma, is a neoplasm on the skin that is benign. It resembles a blood blister or angiokeratoma. Hemangiomas are lesions of the vascular system that are formed by the cells that are responsible for forming blood vessels, or endothelial cells. These benign tumors or growths vary in color from black to red. The lesions may ulcerate. Hemangiomas are capable of growing and becoming more prone to laceration, bruising, and infection.
Hemangiomas are idiopathic in a cause, which means that the cause of these vascular tumors is not known. The growths tend to appear later in life, not forming until the dog is at least in its middle years. You are likely to find them on your dog’s legs or trunk. The lower abdomen, where the hair is sparse or the skin bare, is a particularly common location for hemangiomas. Breeds that are light in color and thin of skin experience hemangiomas more frequently than darker dogs that are thicker of skin.
Tumors that grow subcutaneously, or beneath the skin, generally occur in a single mass. Such masses are prone to easy bruising or bleeding. They may contain ulcerated areas or areas with dead tissue. These tumors are often painful to the touch. About a third of those dogs with the subcutaneous form possess a history of illness related to tumors. Symptoms include lethargy, lack of appetite, cough, lameness, hemorrhages, voice change, neurologic abnormalities, and bruises about the mass.
What is Canine Hemangiosarcoma?
Hemangiosarcoma commonly impacts older dogs of large breeds. Some studies show that males can be more prone to these cancers than females. Hemangiosarcomas first begins when the cells that line blood vessels begin to grow uncontrollably. The spleen and the heart, with their abundant supply of blood, are among the most common sites to find this variety of tumors. Because of their predilection for growing in areas that are rich in blood, these tumors are often deadly. They can rupture abruptly. This causes massive blood loss. Hemangiosarcoma often forces dog owners and their veterinarians to come to difficult decisions in mere minutes following diagnosis.
These visceral vascular tumors may be found in a variety of places. While the liver, heart, and spleen are the most common sites of hemangiosarcomas, they may also occur in the urinary bladder and anywhere blood vessels can be found. A hemangiosarcoma is the malignant cousin of benign hemangioma. Both types of tumors arise from a single source of cell lines: vascular endothelium. But hemangiosarcomas can spread throughout various parts of the dog’s body and are known to be aggressive.
Similarities Between Hemangioma and Hemangiosarcoma
Apart from the fact that both tumor types come from a single source of cell lines, there are additional similarities. Sun exposure can increase your dog’s risk for each of these tumor formation types, both on the skin’s surface and in subcutaneous tissue. Surface tumors, or those just beneath the skin, look-alike like both types of tumors. They are reddish, purple, or black in hue, and in appearance are blisters or bumps.
Causes of Vascular Tumors
There is no straightforward reason why a particular pet develops this, or any, type of tumor. Risk factors include sun exposure, according to some research, may play a significant role in the tumors that appear in the skin. Some breeds are more likely to bear these growths. This implies a genetic factor in the disease’s origin.
Breeds Commonly Afflicted
While any breed can display the growths known as hemangioma and hemangiosarcoma, a few are particularly predisposed. German shepherd dogs are one example. The breeds that are overrepresented in cases of these tumors tend to be large in size. Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers are two other commonly afflicted breeds. Others include Boxers, Portuguese Water Dogs, Skye Terriers, and Bernese Mountain Dogs. In a 2000 Golden Retriever Health study, that breed’s estimated lifetime risk for malignant tumors of this type is one in five.
Clinical Signs of Canine Hemangiosarcoma
Symptoms of these malignant tumors vary depending on their location. Tumors located on the heart may result in signs indicating heart failure such as weakness, lethargy, coughing, difficulty breathing. A ruptured tumor in this site may result in sudden death. Liver and spleen tumors may also rupture, causing bleeding that spreads into the abdomen. Symptoms of bleeding internally feature a distended abdomen, decreased appetite, lethargy, weakness, and collapse. Rupture does not require a traumatic injury. It may simply occur spontaneously. Severe, untreated bleeding can lead to death.
Diagnosing Hemangiosarcoma in Canines
This variety of tumors is frequently diagnosed using ultrasound technology. Depending on the chest or abdomen results, according to the tumor’s location, surgery may be advised. A splenic tumor requires the spleen to be removed in most cases. In other locations, the tumor itself is simply removed. A veterinary pathologist studies samples of the removed tumor cells under a microscope. This evaluation is called histopathology. When a hemangiosarcoma has been diagnosed, staging needs to be pursued. Staging is searching for tumors that have spread elsewhere in the body. Routine blood tests, urinalysis or evaluation of the urine, your dog’s clotting ability, an abdominal ultrasound, and X-rays may all be included in staging.
Progression of Hemangiomas and Hemangiosarcomas
Hemangiomas, being benign, have a strong chance of a good prognosis. While they can rupture, causing internal bleeding, they generally do not spread. The malignant form, hemangiosarcomas, have poor prognoses, however. In addition to the chances of sudden bleeding or death, these tumors are known to commonly metastasize or spread throughout the different parts of the dog’s body. Other organs are thus affected, risking bleeding. Any organ can experience metastasis of a vascular tumor, with cancer cells found anywhere including the kidneys, lungs, spinal cord, brain, and muscles.
What Happens When a Tumor Ruptures?
The rupture of a tumor can simply cause bleeding. Unfortunately, a severe rupture that is not caught in time may result in sudden death. Catching these tumors early is vital for optimal prognoses. Your dog may have a distended abdomen, a loss of appetite, collapse or be weak or lethargic if it is enduring internal bleeding due to a ruptured tumor.
Surgery tends to be the advised treatment option for hemangiosarcoma. For both types of tumors, surgery prevents rupture-related complications. If the tumor is located on the heart, unfortunately, surgical options can be limited. Splenectomies, or surgical removals of spleens, are advised when a tumor is located on the spleen. This removes the greatest possible amount of the disease, allowing the prevention of further bleeding risks. Because hemangiosarcoma is highly metastatic in nature, chemotherapy also is frequently recommended. When surgery is impossible, chemotherapy alone can be used.
Prognosis When Your Dog Has Been Diagnosed
Even with treatment, the prognosis on a long-term basis for dogs with hemangiosarcoma tends to be poor. With chemotherapy following surgery, average survival times are typically five to seven months. Only a tenth of dogs with these tumors survive as long as a year. Visceral hemangiosarcoma is nearly always fatal. Analgesics may help to manage pain, but the cancer is so severe that recovery is not a possibility.
End Stages of Canine Hemangiosarcoma
Intermediate to advanced symptoms of canine hemangiosarcoma includes pale gums in dogs, display of excessive thirst, suffering from chills, showing gums that are pale in color, having a distended abdomen, panting more than usual, displaying difficulty breathing, a reluctance to rise, or an inability to do so, collapsing, or dying suddenly. The best thing you can do for your dog in these stages is to maintain as high a level of comfort for the pup as possible. Make sure food and water are easily accessible and monitor their consumption.
Management Tips at Home
In addition to ensuring that your pets dog food and water can be reached with ease in a location that is comfortable, monitor your dog’s appetite, thirst, urination, gum color, and energy level. Be consistent with supplements and medications that have been prescribed or recommended by your veterinarian. Avoid any strenuous exercise. Finally, watch for signs and symptoms of the disease worsening. End-of-life care includes keeping your dog comfortable and safe. Maintain adequate hydration and nutrition. Evaluate your dog’s progression and monitor the canine for discomfort or pain.
Cancer Treatment in Dogs
Consultation with a veterinary oncologist will result in one or more of several treatment options. For hemangiosarcoma, the tumor generally requires surgical removal . The main time this is not possible is when the tumor is located on the heart. Chemotherapy tends to follow surgery for the best results. When surgery cannot remove a tumor, chemotherapy may be used as a sole treatment option. Radiation therapy is another possibility.
Costs of Tumor Removal
Remembering that the actual surgery tends to be just one portion of the cost that is involved in treating cancer in dogs, the cost of a skin tumor removal tends to vary between $180 and $375. Internal tumors that require more complex surgeries may cost upward of $1,000 to $2,000. The precise cost relies on the time and complexity of the surgery. Other costs include ultrasound scans, X-rays, and radiation or chemotherapy treatments.
Limiting Your Dog’s Sun Exposure
Unfortunately, dogs, like many animals, enjoy a good time soaking in the sunlight. Sunbathing is common in many dogs. They often like to sprawl out on their backs, bellies up to receive the warm rays. To limit sun exposure, keep your dog inside when possible. Try to discourage sunbathing in the light from windows; you can also keep curtains or blinds closed. In addition, limit your dog’s access to any room that has a lot of windows and sunlight. While UV blocking shirts for dogs are available, they only reduce sun exposure to parts of your dog’s body. You may wish to try a dog-specific sunscreen. Never use human sunscreen without consulting your veterinarian.
Frequently Asked Questions
What causes hemangiomas in dogs?
Genetic and environmental factors seem to be complicit in the development of hemangiomas in dogs, according to research. Unfortunately, they are almost always idiopathic, which means that the precise cause goes unknown.
What are the symptoms of hemangiosarcoma in dogs?
The symptoms of hemangiosarcoma in dogs include your dog tiring easily, displaying lethargy, showing signs of weakness, having pale mucous membranes in the eyes and mouth, exhibiting labored or rapid breathing, having signs of depression, suffering from a decreased appetite, having nosebleeds, or showing a pot-bellied appearance with abdominal swelling. For skin tumors or subcutaneous growths, lumps are a symptom. You may see black, red, or purple masses, notice weakness in your dog, or observe weight loss. Your dog can have heart arrhythmia, loss of movement that is either partial or complete, seizures, collapsing, and a general lack of engagement or energy.
How long can a dog live with hemangiosarcoma?
While a small fraction of dogs lives as long as a year with hemangiosarcoma, the general prognosis is much shorter. Survival that lasts longer than four to six months with a diagnosis of hemangiosarcoma is uncommon. This is true even with complete, extensive treatment. Pet owners need to make drastic decisions and do their best to ensure the comfort of their pets.
How are hemangiomas treated in dogs?
With surgery to remove these tumors, the prognosis for hemangiomas in dogs is excellent. Your veterinarian will remove the benign tumor using cryosurgery or surgical excision. For the former method, liquid nitrogen is most frequently used. Your veterinarian simply sprays this super-cooled liquid nitrogen upon the diseased tissue. Another option is dabbing it on with a foam or cotton swab.