Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Forest and the Trees: Summer's Hemangiosarcoma

With splenic tumors it's like this - they can be benign or malignant. Either can kill your dog if not treated. The benign ones, hemangioma, are curable by surgery if the spleen is removed. Sounds very drastic but it works and saves the dog's life. With hemangiosarcoma, as of now, all you can do is buy time.

Another big problem with splenic tumors is that you can't see them. Too often, nobody knows what is going on until the tumor bursts and causes severe internal bleeding. There is no screening test to catch it early. Regular ultrasounds, perhaps.

A splenic tumor can masquerade as an entirely different problem, such as arthritis that is acting up.


Dog Conditions: Real-Life Stories - Hemangiosarcoma
Summer. Photo eileenanddogs

Summer was a sweet girl with a history of intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) flare-ups. Her mom was familiar with the condition, and when Summer hurt her back the first time, she knew to take her to a vet immediately. Summer responded well to medical management.

Another flare-up followed a few months later, though this time it wasn't clear how she's done it to herself.

Summer recovered with medical management again.


At her wellness exam, everything looked great. There were no signs of the trouble to come.

Summer was a happy, enthusiastic girl, and it didn't come as a surprise that her back could get sore again after she slipped and fell during some vigorous training games. This time, Summer seemed to have been in even more pain than before and panting heavily.

Off to an emergency vet.


Summer had to be carried in, and all four legs showed neurological deficits. The concern was that the affected nerves also provided communication to the heart and lungs and Summer could be in bigger trouble than thought.

Summer's recovery was slower, but she was improving. At the same time, Summer started showing new fearful and "stubborn" behaviors. That was not like her. Her behavior remained strange even though the pain was improving.

By the time of a regular vet follow-up, Summer was showing pain now and then, but she was panting a lot and seemed hot all the time. The vet identified the neurological deficit and the affected part of the spine, but something else seemed to have been going on.

Why were things different this time?


Was it the meds? The ER vet chose different medications to treat Summer. Her regular vet switched Summer back to the treatment she responded to well in the past.

However, Summer was not bouncing back as expected. She seemed to be getting worse. Sometimes she'd just lay down while walking. Her mom took Summer back to the ER.

The veterinarian could not find any back pain.


This was getting frustrating. They agreed to run some x-rays to see if they could offer any answers. Summer's spine looked surprisingly well. Couple places where discs looked a bit too close together; could that be the problem?

The vet did not notice a big round blob in Summer's abdomen.


Summer was sent home with very little gained.

During nights, Summer became even more restless. She would lay down on her side, next to a fan, and started licking bed covers.

The day after she finished her steroid treatment, Summer stopped eating. Her mom gave it a couple of days to see whether things get better after the steroids wash out of Summer's system. But things did not get better. There were times when Summer would practically collapse.

Armed with videos of Summer's problems and the x-rays from the ER vet, Summer's mom made another appointment with their regular vet.

The regular vet did notice the blob in Summer's abdomen.


And she didn't like the looks of it. That was the first time anybody uttered the words splenic tumor. This was a stunning development.

An ultrasound confirmed a problem with Summer's spleen. 


There was still hope. It could be a hemangioma. The next morning, Summer was scheduled for surgery. Given how miserable Summer has been, they decided that if hemangiosarcoma were confirmed, they would not wake her up from the anesthesia.

As they opened her up, they found that the cancer had metastasized all over Summer's abdomen and the primary tumor was bleeding all over the place. With a broken heart, Summer's mom told the veterinarians to let Summer cross the Rainbow Bridge.

The tumor bleeding off and on was likely behind Summer's good and bad days.


Summer did have back issues. But the splenic cancer sneaked up behind those.


Please, read the full story at eileenanddogs.

Related articles:
What You Probably Didn't Know about Splenic Tumors
Walks Like a Splenic Tumor, Quacks Like a Splenic Tumor .. It Must Be a UTI?
Fast Decline: Joney's Hemangiosarcoma




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Your story can help others, maybe even save a life!


What were the first signs you noticed? How did your dog get diagnosed? What treatment did/didn't work for you? What was your experience with your vet(s)? How did you cope with the challenges?

Email me, I'll be happy to hear from you.

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Do you know what your dog is telling you about their health?

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Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog now available in paperback and Kindle. Each chapter includes notes on when it is an emergency.

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog is an award-winning guide to help you better understand what your dog is telling you about their health and how to best advocate for them. 

Learn how to see and how to think about changes in your dog’s appearance, habits, and behavior. Some signs that might not trigger your concern can be important indicators that your dog needs to see a veterinarian right away. Other symptoms, while hard to miss, such as diarrhea, vomiting, or limping, are easy to spot but can have a laundry list of potential causes, some of them serious or even life-threatening. 

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14 comments

  1. Oh how terrifyin' that must have been for Summer and her peeps. Do you know if cats can develop splenic tumours, too? purrs

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    1. Anybody who has a spleen could but I don't know how common it is or isn't in cats.

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  2. Even as a dog owner, I can relate to the 'trying to locate the problem' issue you can have. The stress a pet parent is under can't help either. I know your post will help dog owners with this issue and it has increased my knowledge. Thank you.

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    1. I can tell you that when Jasmine had some of the problems allegedly related to her spine I did insist on checking her spleen.

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  3. I was not familiar with this medical condition, thank you for explaining. What a scary situation to deal with as a dog mom. I'm sorry to hear of Summer's passing. Hope she is getting lots of belly rubs and puppacinnos at the rainbow bridge

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    1. It is one of the nastiest cancers. In dogs, goes most commonly after the spleen.

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  4. This is so alarming would have never thought of tumors but I did loose my eldest dog of kidney cancer and it was awful. I am so sorry for your loss. With you in this difficult time.

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    1. Being aware of how hemangiosarcoma can present, I did insist on ruling that out what Jasmine had issues similar to this toward the end.

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  5. OMG this is scary and every time I read about these illnesses I become paranoid that maybe Layla has something I do not know - I ma so sorry about Summer and sending my condolences to her family

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    1. Some of these things are nasty and can hide or look like something else together.

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  6. So very scary - thank you for always sharing information that most people would not know and recognize! Beautiful girl. Summer's story might help other companions.

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    1. Yes, I hope that Summer's story might save some lives.

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  7. This is so sad. Thank you for sharing the story. It is so heartbreaking that even with todays advanced medicine and veterinary, it can still be hard to detect what is wrong with our pet.

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    1. It can get much harder when there is more than one problem ... you can only find what you're looking for.

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