A virulent form of cancer is killing our dogs. Its called hemangiosarcoma and is currently incurable and undetectable until its too late for cancer treatment.
We recently lost our second Golden Retriever male to hemangiosarcoma. Justin (below), like Andy (above) before him, was only eight years of age and died 30 days after his spleen was removed. Andy died 4 days after his spleen ruptured. Up to that time their lives were happy, spirited and healthy, at least we thought.
This insidious form of cancer is usually only found in dogs, develops slowly and painlessly, and provides little warning prior to severe clinical signs of the disease becoming apparent. It is really a silent killer. While the cancer usually occurs in middle-aged to older medium to large breeds, the prominent breeds seem to be German Shepherd Dogs, Golden Retrievers, Labs, Huskies, Poodles, Boxer, English Setters, and Great Danes. Of the 65 million pet dogs living in the United States today, as many as two million may get this cancer and die from it. In Golden Retrievers hemangiosarcoma affects one in five dogs.
Hemangiosarcom can occur anywhere on or in the body of a dog but is usually found internally in the spleen, the liver, or the heart. The internal form usually displays as a large mass in the abdominal area with the average time from discovery of the tumor until death being six to eight weeks.
In Justin’s case the spleen was removed before it burst and he slowly reabsorbed the blood giving him 30 more days of pain free and happy life. Andy wasn’t as lucky. Justin’s liver was subsequently involved and he bled back into the abdomen, and a rabbit was his eventually downfall. He chased it out of the yard but didn’t return and we found him in the yard unable to move. A trip to the vet’s showed very low blood pressure and the consequences were unavoidable.
This cancer starts in the cells lining the blood vessels (endothelium), is highly malignant, and spreads the cancer to a point where surgery and chemotherapy (doxorubicin) treatment would be unsuccessful. Some early signs will be weakness associated with loss of appetite, weight loss, blood loss, tiring, a pale/white color of the gums, swelling of the abdominal area, decreased spirit, and collapse.
Diagnosis includes abdominal swelling and, when aspirated, will show blood. Further indicators are that this blood will not clot in the syringe. This non-clotting is called disseminated intra vascular coagulation (DIC) where the clotting occurring in the blood vessels rapidly uses up the clotting elements and probably causes the death in most of the dogs.
The only form of this cancer that may be successfully treated is on the skin as long as there has been no visceral involvement.
There is research being conducted that is focusing on methods to detect this form of cancer before it becomes clinically evident. The details of this research can be found at http://www.modianolab.org/cancer/cancer_hemangiosarcoma.shtml as well as more in depth information about the disease. Visit the Golden Retriever Club of America Cancer Research at http://www.grca.org/ for information on Golden research.
For other Golden Retriever cancer information visit:
Other sources used in this article are:
A donation to the Golden Retriever Foundation can be made at http://www.goldenretrieverfoundation.org/directingyourdonation.html. You can also donate to the National Canine Cancer Foundation at http://www.wearethecure.org/donate-now. Help them eradicate this terrible disease.
Written by Ron Lueth, Pet Guardian Angels of America This work may be shared through the Creative Common License only if attributed to Pet Guardian Angels of America
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