German Shepherd Hemangiosarcoma: Everything You Need to Know

by David
German Shepherd Hemangiosarcoma

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German Shepherd hemangiosarcoma is an aggressive form of cancer.

Compared to other breeds, German Shepherds have a higher probability of developing cancer at some point in their lives. This probability increases after the age of 10, and approximately 50% of German Shepherds over the age of 10 will die of cancer.

Today, we will see how it forms and look at some of the possible signs and symptoms.

We will also briefly look at the options available for hemangiosarcoma and its varying prognosis.

1.) German Shepherd Hemangiosarcoma

Hemangiosarcoma in dogs is an aggressive, malignant tumor originating from endothelial cells which make up the layer known as the endothelium.

This layer lines the inner surface of blood vessels and the circulatory system.

It is responsible for the smooth flow of blood within the body’s structures and spaces.

It’s a common condition that affects dogs. German Shepherds are genetically one of the most prone breeds susceptible to this type of cancer.

Males are usually more affected. Excess sun exposure increases the chance of its development, short-coated and lighter-haired dogs are more at risk.

Dogs with hemangiosarcoma rarely show any clinical signs until the tumor has enlarged and metastasized.

Clinical signs that do eventually appear are usually due to hypovolemia. This occurs after the tumor ruptures, causing extensive blood loss. Often the condition is not discovered until the dog has collapsed.

The sarcoma growths are filled with blood, which can be seen in the red or blue coloring present in the mass.

If the growth is retained in the skin’s outer layer (non-visceral) and detected very early on. It can be removed entirely with a more optimistic prognosis.

Hemangiosarcoma of the skin is likely to be caused by sun damage. It can also occasionally be a metastasis from a visceral tumor.

However, this type of cancer is highly metastatic and can be found deeper in tissues or visceral areas of the body.

Hemangiosarcoma most commonly affects the liver and spleen. 25% of dogs with the condition also will have a heart tumor.

Other sites that can be affected include the bladder, kidneys, mouth, and central nervous system

2.) Signs and Symptoms

Hemangiosarcoma symptoms rarely show until the tumor ruptures and bleeding becomes extensive.

Symptoms that do appear include a loss of appetite, lethargy, back leg weakness, abdomen enlargement, pale-colored tongue/gums, weak pulse, and a rapid heartbeat.

Clinical signs are usually at the site of origin or metastasis tumor rupture. Fifty percent of dogs collapse suddenly due to hemorrhage or heart ventricular arrhythmias. Often owners are unaware of a problem until this occurs.

The full list of things to watch out for may include:

  • Nodules of raised, firm, dark skin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Single or multiple masses on the skin
  • Bruised appearance on masses
  • Swollen stomach
  • Back leg weakness
  • Respiratory problems, breathing, asthma-like symptoms, dry cough, mucous
  • Lethargy
  • Pale mucous membranes
  • Weak pulse
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Collapse

3.) Treatment

Blood/ urine testing and skin biopsies are taken to confirm if your dog has the condition.

X-rays or CT scans are often used to determine the program of treatment.

Surgery is carried out if it is practical and chemotherapy will be required. Wide excision of tissue provides a more successful outcome. Deep tumors may prove difficult to remove entirely.

Unfortunately, treatment may not be successful, particularly in the case of visceral hemangiomas. These are often fatal and treatment may only provide a few weeks or months of extended life.

The outcome is much more successful if the skin alone is affected. The condition may be cured with complete surgical removal, but only if there is no involvement of deeper or visceral tissues.

If your dog seems unwell or gets any of these symptoms, book a vet appointment immediately. A lot of owners are now using 24/7 online veterinary services like from home to get faster appointments from qualified vets.

Check out Vetster here to get your German Shepherd checked by a vet.

Conclusion – German Shepherd Hemangiosarcoma

Due to the lack of visible signs and symptoms, early detection may not be possible.

Visceral hemangiomas are fatal, and treatment appears to offer only short-term success. Skin hemangiomas have a more optimistic outlook for treatment, providing they are caught earlier on and excised completely.

If you are interested in learning more about cancer in German Shepherds, check out our article on German Shepherd Cancer: Everything You Need To Know here.

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