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Anna
Anna, Biologist
Category: General
Satisfied Customers: 11139
Experience:  Extensive research into cancer in animals.
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Until Thanks Giving our 5 year old retriever seemed fine. We

Customer Question

Until Thanks Giving our 5 year old retriever seemed fine. We walked twice a day, and he was my shadow. We took him to Colorado for the holiday, and he began to not eat and not want to walk. When he didn't come when called, I said we best see someone. Without having all the diagnostics the vet thought he might have pulmonary hypertension. We started Viagra, and he got better fast. About a week after we got back he had a couple of times that he dragged his feet on a walk, and then last Thursday he just laid down and wouldn't come. I coerced him into the car and off to the vet. Wow, our lives changed instantly when they said his heart was shaped like a tennis ball and there was fluid and a tumor. They drained 500 cc. The next day we did a second echo and saw a very small tumor on the spleen. He hasn't lost any weight, and his white count was fine. Should we do a biopsy to find out the kind of cancer, or is this simply non-treatable?
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: Veterinary Oncology
Expert:  Anna replied 11 months ago.

Hello and welcome. My name is ***** ***** I'm a biologist with a special interest in canine cancer. I am so sorry your dog has gotten this devastating diagnosis. Cancer treatment in dogs has advanced greatly, and most kinds can be treated. A cure usually isn't possible, but a remission with good quality of life often is. I was just ready to log off for the night when I saw your question. After a long day, my mind isn't as fresh as I would like in order to best help you. However, I know how distraught you must be, and I didn't want you to have to wait until tomorrow for a response. So, for tonight, I'll just give you this short response and we'll talk some more tomorrow. In the meantime, if you think of more questions, just post them in a REPLY. I'll be back tomorrow. I appreciate your patience. Thank you.

Customer: replied 11 months ago.
Relist: Incomplete answer.
I want a veterinarian oncologist
Expert:  Anna replied 11 months ago.

Hello again,

If treatment is financially possible for you, I do think it very important to have the biopsy. That's the only way to know what is possible. I recommend that you consult a veterinary oncologist at this time. An oncologist can stage the cancer and assess all factors to determine the best steps. This link will take you to a directory of oncologists:

http://www.vetcancersociety.org/pet-owners/find-an-oncologist/

If your state has a veterinary teaching hospital, there would certainly be an oncologist on staff there, as well.

There are two types of tumors that occur on the heart. One is hemangiosarcoma. This cancer often starts elsewhere in the body, and by the time it has spread to the heart, the prognosis is not good. The other type is called an aortic body tumor. This type can be benign or malignant. . A surgical technique called palliative pericardectomy can be performed. It is removal of as much of the tumor as possible. Before knowing if any procedure would help, the type of tumor your dog has would have to be determined. Because your dog's heart was shaped like a tennis ball, and fluid had to be drained, it seems most likely that this is hemagiosarcoma. You can read more about this cancer on the heart here:

http://www.marvistavet.com/html/body_hemangiosarcoma.html#Heart-based-hemangiosarcoma

Tumors on the spleen are also often hemangiosarcoma. Most vets recommend surgical removal, even if no other treatment is being done. The surgery alone doesn't result in longer life. What it does is stop the risk of sudden death from rupture, and it alleviates some symptoms. About 10% of dogs are still alive after one year, when surgery is the sole treatment. A few weeks to a few months is typical.

Chemotherapy doesn't cure this type of cancer, but it does lead to a longer life, and good quality for much of the increased time. With chemo, the mean survival time increases to about 400 days. The following links have details on studies, treatment methods, and staging. The early stages of the disease are generally those that have the best prognosis.

http://www.marvistavet.com/html/body_hemangiosarcoma.html#Splenic-Forms

http://www.vin.com/proceedings/Proceedings.plx?CID=WSAVA2002&PID=2639

http://www.caninecancerawareness.org/html/CanineCancerHemangiosarcoma.html

If you'll read the sites, you'll also see that there have been some studies done with an additional therapy similar to the cancer vaccines that have been studied in humans. Survival times with that therapy, in conjunction with chemo, increased even more.

With cancer, there are so many factors to consider before deciding on treatment. It can be expensive, so for many people finances are a consideration. Another is the importance of getting an oncologist's opinion. Many local vets simply recommend pain relief because they aren't aware of the latest treatments. An oncologist is up-to-date on them, and is in the best position to assess each individual case to decide what to do. There are, of course, cases that are so advanced that treatment isn't an option. Conversely, some cases that seem hopeless at the outset actually respond well to treatment. The only way to know is to see an oncologist.

There is a lot of misinformation about canine cancer online. The sites I've given you are reputable. I suggest you read the, and if you have follow-up questions afterward, come back here. Just click on REPLY - there is no additional fee. Whatever you decide to do, I hope for the best possible outcome for your dog.

Anna

My goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back, I am happy to address follow-up questions. Please remember to rate my service only after you have all the information you need. Thank you!

Expert:  Anna replied 11 months ago.

Do you need any additional information?