How Do You Care for a Dog in End-Stage Hemangiosarcoma?

Pet Care


March 31, 2021

Getting the news that your dog has cancer is devastating enough as it is, as it entails a considerable amount of suffering for your dog and expensive bills to help treat your dog. Getting the news that your dog has a particularly aggressive form of cancer that may not be able to be treated is even more devastating, as it means you will have to watch your dog suffer.

Throughout this process, you may be left wondering what you should do, and how you are going to know when it is time for you to say goodbye to your dog. After all, the beginning stages of the cancer may allow for your dog to still have enjoyment in life, so you may not be quite ready to let go of your dog yet. At the same time, it can be hard to tell when the cancer has advanced to the point where living in hospice is only prolonging the suffering.

While it may be tough for you at first, the best thing that you can do for yourself in this situation is to work with your vet and to also learn about the form of cancer your dog has. For instance, if your dog has hemangiosarcoma, you will want to learn about the different stages of it so that you can have a better sense of when your dog has little chance of having good days again.

Understanding How the Cancer Affects Your Dog

Of course, individual cases of cancer will vary depending on how it is spreading in your dog. Typically, hemangiosarcoma develops in the vascular endothelium. This is the scientific term for the cells that are the inner lining of veins, arteries, and capillaries. As such, it can spread to just about any organ that is connected to these vessels, but it most commonly metastases to the liver and lungs, as well as the heart.

When it affects the liver and other digestive organs, it can begin to cause bleeding if the tumor ruptures, which can be life-threatening on its own. It can affect the absorption of nutrients, leaving your dog weak and anemic until the tumor ruptures.

When it affects the cardiopulmonary system, it can be even more traumatic for you and your dog, as your dog may end up fainting. Severe conditions may develop, ranging from cardiac tamponade and pericardial effusion, as well as simply just a blockage in the heart from the tumor.

As a whole, this kind of cancer can be devastating to dogs and because it is a particularly aggressive cancer, it can spread fast, leaving you at a loss as to what you should be doing.

Working Alongside Your Vet

This is the part where listening to your vet about when to euthanize a dog with hemangiosarcoma is going to be the most important. Your vet is the one with the resources and equipment to see how far the tumor has spread, where it has metastasized to, and how it will affect your dog’s health as a whole.

In general, your vet should be able to talk to you about how each organ will be affected by the cancer and the tumors. This will give you a good sense of which areas may be worth treating with standard cancer treatments and which areas will lead to your dog living in hospice. This will give you a good sense of what to expect and also some indication of where you will need to go.

While these times can be tough, your vet will know the most about what to expect, making it imperative that you listen to your vet’s advice before you make any sort of decision about your dog’s long-term health and hospice life.

How Long Do Dogs with Hemangiosarcoma Live?

Because of the aggressive nature of this specific cancer, the prognosis is almost always poor. Any sort of long-term recovery should be regarded as highly unlikely and is not something you should rely upon. Typically, even with cancer treatments, the cancer will carry on throughout the process and will be particularly hard to fight off, meaning that it may cause your dog more trouble to put it through the treatment, though it can help your dog live longer.

Consider the fact that with surgery and chemotherapy and other cancer treatments directed for dogs, most dogs with any form of hemangiosarcoma tend to live less than a year before dying of a natural death and without induced euthanasia. Without treatment, a dog can pass away even faster, though it may be in more pain unless hospice care is provided to ease those symptoms.

With this in mind, you may find yourself needing to make this kind of decision sooner than you may feel comfortable with. It is important to always look at the facts with your vet about your dog’s health and how much the cancer is affecting its body so that you can make an informed decision about when it will be time.

Assessing Your Dog’s Quality of Life

The best way for you to determine when it will be time for you to let go of your dog is to assess its quality of life. When the quality of life is suffering to the point where your dog cannot have more good days than bad days, this is typically when it is decided that euthanasia is the more humane route to take.

Areas to look at for your dog’s quality of life include how much assistance the dog needs to perform basic functions such as cleaning, eating, and getting fluids. If your dog isn’t able to move around on its own unassisted or if it is confined to be attached to feeding tubes and IVs for fluids and nutrition, that isn’t much of a life for your dog to live, especially with a cancer that has historically shown to be hard to treat.

You will also want to think about how responsive your dog is to things that are typically treats and rewards for it. While you cannot ask your dog directly how it is currently feeling, you can gauge this kind of thing through how excited your dog might be about getting its favorite treats, toys, and attention. If your dog seems as if it couldn’t care less about these things, there’s a chance that the dog itself may not be able to find joy anymore through its pain, making euthanasia a more humane option to consider.

Assessments of your dog’s quality of life should be done over a period of time so you can get an average sense of how your dog is doing. They should be done objectively, as no matter how much you love your dog, letting it suffer more is something that nobody wants to do.