Saturday, February 4, 2012

Cutaneous Hemangiosarcoma

As I mentioned in Victor's bio he has a history of cutaneous hemangiosarcoma.  I thought I'd briefly talk about cutaneous hemangiosarcoma, so you know what to look for and how to potentially prevent it.  

What is Hemangiosarcoma?
Hemangiosarcoma is a, fast growing, highly invasive malignant form of cancer that arises from the lining of blood vessels. While hemangiosarcoma can theoretically arise from any tissue where there are blood vessels, there are generally three common presentations:  spleen form, heart base form and skin form.  Unfortunately, hemangiosarcoma of the spleen and the heart base have a very guarded prognosis.  Like any tumor of the spleen, splenic hemangiosarcoma has a high risk of sudden death since these tumors like to rupture, causing the patient to rapidly bleed to death.  If you’re pet is going to have hemangiosarcoma the skin form is the best type to get since it is usually easily removed surgically, and therefore has the potential for complete cure. 

The Skin Form

Hemangiosarcoma of the skin usually appears as a small red or purple-bluish mass or multiple masses.  They are typically found on non-haired areas of the skin most commonly the abdomen, prepuce of male dogs or inner thigh.  So when you're giving your dog a belly rub take a really good look at their abdomen and inner thighs. If you notice any small red, blood blister or bruise like masses contact your veterinarian right away.  The cause of skin hemangiosarcoma is not completely known but it is believed that excessive sun exposure plays a role.  Also, dogs with short white fur appear to be most at risk.  Approximately 1/3 of cases will spread internally so it is important to remove these growths as soon as possible. 

Victor enjoying the sun a little too much!


The method of choice for diagnosis is skin biopsy.  This is when a tissue sample from the mass is taken and examined microscopically by a pathologist.

Since there is always a risk that the tumor has spread I also recommend doing the following tests 
  • Routine blood tests 
  • Chest x-rays - hemangiosarcoma likes to spread to the lungs
  • Ultrasound of the abdomen and heart - to look at the spleen and the heart base both detectable with ultrasound
  • Possible CT 


Surgical removal with complete margins is the treatment of choice but complete surgical excision can sometimes be difficult.  Therefore, radiation and/or chemotherapy may be required as well.  Your veterinary oncologist will decide this. 


Limit your dog's exposure to sunlight which can be very hard if your dog loves lying in the sun.  If you can't then try using pet safe sunscreen or cover ups like a t-shirt.

Victor inside and out of the sun!
Victor was fortunate because he had no evidence of metastasis and we were able to cure him with surgical removal.  He's about 2 and half years out from surgery and is doing very well.  I do however check his abdomen daily!


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