Hemangiosarcoma is a tumour that develops from cells lining the blood vessels. It can occur anywhere in the body but most commonly occurs in the spleen. Hemangiosarcoma accounts for 50-70% of tumours of the canine spleen.
Dogs with hemangiosarcoma of the spleen can be vaguely unwell with intermittent weakness and lethargy or can present collapsed due to tumour bleeding and haemoabdomen (blood in the abdomen).
There are other causes of splenic masses and haemoabdomen that are not cancerous. For this reason removal of the spleen (surgery) and histopathology (sending the spleen to a pathology laboratory) is needed for diagnosis. Dogs can live a perfectly normal life without a spleen.
If hemangiosarcoma is confirmed on histopathology then it is important to determine whether the tumour is confined to the spleen or has visibly spread. At the time of surgery to remove the spleen your vet will examine the abdomen to see if there is evidence of visible tumour spread to any other organs. Chest x-rays will also be performed either prior to surgery or following confirmation of a diagnosis. In some cases a CT is performed instead as this can allow for visualisation of greater detail.
Unfortunately with surgery alone survival times following removal of the spleen are only 1-3 months. With chemotherapy this increases to 5-6 months and chemotherapy is generally very well tolerated. Chemotherapy is most often given as injections sometimes followed by a type of oral chemotherapy called 'metronomic chemotherapy'. There are a number of options for the type of chemotherapy that is given and treatment can be tailored to what you feel is best for your dog's quality of life. For more information on chemotherapy visit our Chemotherapy in Dogs and Cats page.