Euthanasia Was Best Answer for Dog With Hemangiosarcoma

Once this type of tumor spreads, no treatment can halt the cancer.


Q. I had a beloved German Shepherd Dog, Schultz, who was 8 1/2 years old. I noticed a change in his appetite the last few weeks. It became worse each week with him not eating at dinnertime. I thought it was his food, so I started feeding him chicken and rice. Then I noticed last week he was vomiting. I saw him do this about three times last week. I also noticed that when I went outside, he was not interested in coming with me. Last Thursday, I was petting his belly and noticed a swelling under his private area. I took him to the vet who found a 16-inch long malignant tumor. There wasn’t much room for his organs and the tumor was squeezing his stomach. The vet also found spots on his lungs. He had lost 8 pounds at this point.
She said that this was one of the largest and most aggressive tumors she had seen and that an operation and chemotherapy were not options. So I had two options, giving him pain killers and an anti-inflammatory with the possibility that the tumor would rupture, or to euthanize him. My husband and I decided that we did not want him to suffer so we put him to sleep. My last GSD had the same condition, but we let him suffer too long. I did not want this for Schultz. However, I still feel guilty about my decision and cannot stop crying.

A. I am sorry to hear about the loss of Schultz. You obviously cared greatly for him. You need to know that he had an untreatable condition, he was suffering, and euthanasia was the most humane decision you could make. It took a true act of love to put the alleviation of your dog’s pain ahead of your need for his companionship.
He had a malignant tumor of his spleen that had already spread to his lungs, so it was inoperable. This type of tumor, known as a hemangiosarcoma, is unique to dogs and most common in German Shepherd Dogs and Golden Retrievers. Typically you will see vague signs at first, such as loss of appetite, lethargy or periods of fatigue. Over time, you may note weight loss, vomiting and pale gums.
In about 20 percent of dogs, these tumors are benign and can be removed surgically. Unfortunately, there is no way to know in advance of surgery if they are benign or malignant. However, when chest X-rays show spread of the tumor to the lungs, the mass is malignant, and there are no viable treatment options.
Alleviating your dog’s suffering through humane euthanasia was the best choice since treatment would have been hopeless and he only would have gotten worse. Try to enjoy all of the great memories you have of him. Remember his spirit and heart.


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Sandra   Hopatcong, New Jersey

8/3/2015 6:52:03 AM

I just euthanized my dog for hemangiosarcoma. He was fine one minute and then couldn't walk. I took him to the vet. She said that he had fluid around the sack of his heart. This was due to a tumor that ruptured from his right atria. She also said that he had a mass on his liver. I was overwhelmed with all of the information the doctor was giving me. I didn't know what to do. She was talking about draining the fluid, seeing a cardiologist and giving him chemo. She said the prognosis is poor. If he lived it could be weeks to months. Reading on line, the prognosis stated that with surgery he could live 1-3 months and with chemo possibly 5 to 8 months. I didn't want him to suffer. I had the doctor put him to sleep. I have been questioning myself if I made the right decision. I wonder if those few months could have been spent loving him. I don't know. I just feel like my heart is broken. I hope my dog knew I love him. I hope that I didn't let him down.

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mick   CINCINNATI, Ohio

5/15/2015 10:14:41 AM

My dog was just diagnosed with cancer of the spleen. The vet says that how long she'll live is unknown but that she'll eventually bleed out. I have asked if it's painful and was told "no". He recommends putting her to sleep as it will be hard on me to watch when she starts bleeding internally. She's overall doing fine particularly considering she's old. I'm really torn as I'd like to let her die at home whenever the time comes(months?)

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Louise   Sarasota, Florida

4/12/2015 9:07:21 PM

My rescue Rottie, Buddy, aged 8, was diagnosed with hemangiosarcome shortly after I became his Mommy. The oncology vet said that she would not operate on him - that this type of cancer is not painful - to take him home and make him comfortable until he passes. She said he had days to live. 18 months later, I took Buddy back to the vet. She was amazed that he was still alive and told me the same thing - take him home and make him comfortable...2 and a half years later I finally decided to euthanize Buddy after he could no longer walk and I realized that he was becoming uncomfortable. My precious Buddy lived over 4 years with hemangiosarcoma. He loved his life and really wanted to live. I've never seen anything like it. He still had a heart appetite on his final day, It was one of the hardest things I have ever done and my heart feels like a rocket blew threw it. I'm so devastated at the loss of my sweet Buddy.

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Kristine   San Diego, California

4/12/2015 8:45:07 AM

My daughter and I made the decision two days ago to let out beloved 13 yr old GSD go after being diagnosed with an acute, life-threatening rupture of a splenic hemeangiosarcoma. We felt that the stress of surgery and chemotherapy so WE could have her 3-6 more months would have been unkind to our sweet girl. We learned our lesson last year with our other dog who had meningioma. His last few weeks were miserable and not what he deserved. My heart has been broken twice in 12 months, but I know I did right by my girl. Prayers for all who have made the same humane decision.

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