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When to Consider Euthanasia in a Dog with Hemangiosarcoma




a dog resting on a familiar arm


Confirming your dog has hemangiosarcoma is a heart-wrenching and overwhelming process, as the disease shows unexpectedly, cutting ridiculously short your dear pet's life. Dr. Erica Irish - a veterinarian who lost not one but two of her beloved dogs to hemangiosarcoma - understands and hopes to guide on how to recognize when the right moment for euthanasia is.


After a hemangiosarcoma diagnosis, a veterinarian may perform a physical examination and qualitative assessment, which may include recommendations for humane euthanasia if the case is already severe. If not that developed, treatment options include surgery to remove the spleen (splenectomy) - which still carries the choice that the cancer has already spread to other locations. Average survival times for patients with surgery alone are short, but without it, the only choice may be immediate euthanasia due to the emergency state. If you choose surgery, a veterinary oncologist can discuss post-surgery chemotherapy options, which may extend the dog's life expectancy to about six to nine months in some cases. Also, the process can be more controlled, with bleeding happening slowly or non-existent and naturally declining in the prognosis happening more gradually.


Still, financial costs can be deciding for you since these treatments are expensive. If unable to afford treatment, options like CareCredit, ScratchPay, crowdfunding, or pet insurance can also help with the costs. It is important not to feel guilty about euthanizing the dog if money can't be invested in quick fixes, as humane euthanasia is always a thoughtful option for pets with discomfort and pain.


Veterinarian companies also specialize in creating immunotherapy for dogs, which can boost the immune system, making it easier to detect and kill cancer cells that won't cure the disease but may longer your dog's life a few months. Dr. Irish also suggests considering non-traditional treatments, like the Chinese herb Yunnan Baiyao, which helps decrease the risk of bleeding from small blood vessels.


A dog's quality of life will depend on the type of hemangiosarcoma present. Cutaneous hemangiosarcomas typically do not spread to other body parts. Visceral hemangiosarcomas, on the other hand, can metastasize to other organs within the abdomen or even up to the lungs, causing difficulty breathing and overall lethargy and pain.


When living with a dog with hemangiosarcoma, it is crucial to consider the risk of bleeding at all times. Signs of a state of emergency to look after include pale gums, rapid heart rate, panting, difficulty breathing, weakness, collapse, and a distended abdomen.


If your dog is passing the condition without big scares, you can also help by monitoring their quality of life. Dr. Irish recommends having a log to control your dog's good and bad days, with questions like eating habits, energy, mood, how it's responding to treatment, etc. When bad days outnumber the good ones, it will help you see the timing is near. If you need help

with some clarity, The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center can help with their quality of life evaluation form.


The experience of others can also help make the decision, as hemangiosarcoma can be hard to predict and confusing to transit. Reading through real-world examples can help in making the decision. In the article, Dr. Irish expands on the story of diagnosing and supporting her two dogs on their hemangiosarcoma journey.



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