Pet ownership is filled with difficult decisions. One of the most heartbreaking choices you can make as a pet owner is when to euthanize your dog. It is important to understand your dog’s ailment so that you can make the right choice when it comes time to put down your dog.
Hemangiosarcoma is a difficult disease in dogs and it is important to understand the signs of when your dog is truly suffering. Understanding the signs and identifying the symptoms that your dog is feeling will tell you when to euthanize a dog with hemangiosarcoma.
What is canine hemangiosarcoma?
Hemangiosarcoma can be present in both humans and dogs and is considered a challenging disease. This disease is a collection of incurable tumor cells that are found within the blood vessels. Unfortunately, this disease is fairly common in dogs and is responsible for up to 7% of all canine cancers. Dogs can succumb to this disease at any time in their life but it is much more common in older age. Certain breeds are more susceptible such as Golden retrievers, German shepherds, boxers, and Skye terriers.
Hemangiosarcomas can be found in any major organ in your dog but are far more common in the spleen, the heart, and under the skin. These tumors are dangerous because they help form mangled blood vessels that make it far more common for your dog to experience blood clots.
No one is quite sure how dogs get hemangiosarcoma, but most professionals are sure that the risk factors are genetic. They’re not specific things that cause this disease so there is no way to really prevent it. If your dog seems out of the ordinary it may be best to visit a vet so that they can do the scans needed to diagnose an illness.
What are the symptoms of hemangiosarcoma in dogs?
Hemangiosarcoma causes different symptoms in dogs based on where the tumor is located. The primary location of the tumor determines the type of symptoms your dog will feel. The symptoms will be more closely related to the area in which your dog has the tumor so keeping good track of your dog’s symptoms is a good way to help your vet identify where your dog’s tumor may be.
Since hemangiosarcoma affects the blood vessels, the major symptom found in dogs is blood loss. If your dog experiences internal bleeding it could severely lower their heart rate. This will cause your dog to be sluggish and very tired. Dogs who experience this symptom will have little energy, may fall asleep suddenly, and will aggressively resist exercise.
If your dog’s hemangiosarcoma is located under the skin you may be able to see and feel the tumor. The tumor will feel like a hard lump and will be visible under a thin layer of skin if your dog has light fur. This type of hemangiosarcoma is far more common in dogs with lighter skin that spend much time in the sun.
Treatment options for dogs with hemangiosarcoma
Hemangiosarcoma is treated much like other forms of cancer in dogs. Your veterinarian may suggest surgery to remove your dog’s tumor. However, surgery can be expensive and most dogs receive surgery will also need chemotherapy soon after. Chemotherapy treatment will help fight the hemangiosarcoma if it has spread throughout your dog’s body through their blood.
Your dog may be on chemotherapy for up to three months. Most dogs respond positively to standard chemotherapy but will need regular checkups to ensure that their cancer has not continued to grow. Other medications may be prescribed to slow the growth of the tumor and keep your dog feeling comfortable.
If your dog’s hemangiosarcoma is under the skin, the chance of success in removing the tumor is much higher. Tumors that develop in this way tend to grow slower and if immediately removed will completely cure the dog of the disease.
However, these tumors still have the opportunity to grow and spread throughout your dog. Even if surgery seems successful and your dog’s tumor has been successfully removed your vet may still insist on chemotherapy. The chemotherapy will help destroy every piece of the tumor that may have grown or spread throughout your dog.
Surgery and chemotherapy can help prolong your dog’s life for a short time. However, the majority of dogs with hemangiosarcoma die within a year of diagnosis whether they’ve had surgery and chemotherapy or not. Treatment can help your dog live longer, but cancer most often grows back and will cause them pain and discomfort near the end of their lives.
When to put down a dog with hemangiosarcoma
When your dog is diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma he may not have much longer to live. The symptoms may cause pain and discomfort. It is important to frequently monitor your dog and assess their discomfort level so that you can make an informed decision and when is the right time to euthanize your dog.
If your dog seems to be in pain, it may be best to show them mercy and euthanize them so they will not have to continue to suffer. If your dog shows an extreme lack of energy and seems sluggish and sleepy all day, they may be ready to be put down.
As a pet owner, you will have to decide if treatment is right for your dog. Consultation, surgery, and chemotherapy could be very expensive and you may not have access to good treatment in your area. These treatments have a very low success rate and even when successful the dogs do not survive long. If extending your dog’s life is important to you, it may be best to seek treatment to hopefully extend their life. However, most dogs who undergo treatment still die within seven months and only 10% survive for a year.
You don’t want your dog to suffer. You want the last year of their life to be filled with love and comfort. Deciding to euthanize your dog with hemangiosarcoma can limit their suffering and save your family from experience the trauma of a painful death.