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Hemangiosarcoma in Dogs

By: Dr. Kimberly Cronin

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Treatment

  • Stabilization is usually needed when the tumor causes internal bleeding or a build-up of fluid around the heart. The symptoms can be life threatening; pets that have bleeding into the abdomen can go into shock and require emergency care. Dogs that have a build-up of fluid around the heart can show signs of heart failure and collapse.

  • Intravenous fluids may be administered. This usually involves placement of a catheter and rapid administration of intravenous fluids.

  • Transfusions may be performed. If a dog is very anemic, a blood transfusion may be required to stabilize the patient. A transfusion can consist of either whole blood or just red blood cells.

  • When the tumor causes pericardial effusion, it may be necessary to remove the fluid around the heart to allow the heart to beat more effectively. A pericardial tap is the procedure by which fluid is removed from around the heart. Generally, once the fluid is removed, the patient improves, although he must be monitored for recurrence of the fluid. Periodic removal of the fluid may be needed.

    Surgery

    Surgery may be performed, and the type will depend upon the location of the tumor. In some cases emergency surgery is required to stabilize a patient when the tumor is bleeding.

  • When the tumor occurs in the spleen, a splenectomy is performed. This involves removing the entire spleen. The spleen can be removed without having an adverse effect on health. At the time of surgery other organs, particularly the liver, should be examined and a biopsy taken of any abnormal tissue. By removing the spleen, the source of bleeding is removed and the patient stabilized. Potential complications following removal of the spleen include: infection, continued bleeding, failure of the incision to heal and an abnormal heart rhythm.

  • When the tumor occurs in the heart, it is almost always found on only one chamber of the heart, the right atrium. It may be possible to remove the tumor surgically. The outer covering of the heart, the pericardium, can also be removed to prevent future build-up of fluid around the heart.

    Potential complications of this surgery include bleeding, infection, failure of the surgery site to heal, introduction of air into the chest cavity causing difficulty breathing and an abnormal heart rhythm.

  • When the tumor occurs in the skin or in the tissues immediately below the skin, surgery is required. It is important that normal tissue surrounding the tumor be removed, along with the mass, because cells from this tumor frequently infiltrate the surrounding tissues. Failure to remove these cells will result in the tumor regrowing.

    When the tumor occurs in the bone, it may be possible to remove the tumor by removing the bone itself. This is possible only in certain locations such as a leg or a rib. In some cases, it is only possible to get a biopsy of the tumor.

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