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Resource Library : Hemangiosarcoma, splenic canine

Hemangiosarcoma is a malignant tumor that affects older dogs usually between the ages of 8-13. German Shepherd Dogs are overrepresented in the breed of dogs afflicted with this tumor, although it can occur in any dog. There is no known cause of this tumor and it is the diagnosis in 25-50% of all splenic masses. If there is rupture of the mass and subsequent bleeding into the abdomen, it is more likely to be splenic hemangiosarcoma rather than the benign splenic hemangioma or hematoma.

Clinical signs of hemangiosarcoma may include; weakness, abdominal distension, elevated heart rate and respiratory rate, pale mucous membranes, weight loss, a history of collapse or weakness that has resolved within 24 hours and less frequently, sudden death due to a fatal rupture.

The treatment of choice for splenic tumors is surgical resection of the entire spleen. That allows us to remove the tumor in order to get a definitive diagnosis on histopathology and also to evaluate the rest of the abdomen for evidence of metastasis. When these tumors metastasize, they tend to go to the other organs in the abdomen (liver, omentum, mesentery) and later to the lungs and brain. In 25% of cases, there is also a right atrial (heart) hemangiosarcoma.

With no treatment, patients usually die due to a fatal rupture or due to blood clotting abnormalities. Chemotherapy alone has not been shown to be effective against this tumor as patients are still at risk for a fatal rupture of the tumor and death due to blood loss into the abdomen. Surgery alone has found a median survival time of 1-3 months. In this case, patients are risk for succumbing to metastasis to other areas in the abdomen or to the chest. Surgery followed by chemotherapy has reported a median survival time of 6 months.

The overall prognosis is poor regardless of site, stage of disease or therapy. This is because even with aggressive surgical excision and follow up chemotherapy, patients still succumb to metastatic disease that subsequently ruptures or to metastatic disease in the lungs that causes respiratory compromise.

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