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Dr. Emily
Dr. Emily, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 866
Experience:  Associate veterinarian at a small animal clinic
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My 14 year old male cocker spaniel was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma

Customer Question

My 14 year old male cocker spaniel was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma of the heart 12/30/14. The cardiologist said he'd die in ''days/weeks/months''. He did very well until just lately (labored breathing and fussy eating). A 2nd echocardiogram showed the cancer spread to his stomach, maybe his lungs. Nothing can be done for him, though he has been taking yunnan bale (and it halted bleeding in his heart lining). Is this cancer painful? Is the labored breathing painful? At what point will he be struggling with pain?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Emily replied 2 years ago.
My name is***** I am sorry to hear about your cocker's condition. My personal pet was diagnosed with this same disease many many years ago. I am sorry that he is going through this at this time. From what we understand of hemangiosarcoma and pain sensation in dogs, this type of cancer can be painful in some cases. It is not clear cut unfortunately so I cannot give you a yes or no. Most often though, what we see is not deterioration due to pain, but instead due to weakness. These tumors bleed and when the blood loss is greater than what the body can produce, we see the pets become increasingly more lethargy. If the bleed is stopped internally but the body's clotting mechanism, the lethargy can pass temporarily. With it spreading to different locations though, the risk of internal blood loss becomes much more great.
Expert:  Dr. Emily replied 2 years ago.
The labored breathing you are witnessing can be from a few different causes. One is the direct impact of the tumor spread to the lungs which decreases the functional area of the lungs and makes breathing more difficult. Labored breathing is also a sign of internal blood loss. As blood is lost, the body has a greater demand for oxygen and the respiratory rate increases. This is not painful in itself. The labored breathing can also be secondary to stress. If there is a larger mass the suddenly ruptures, this is certainly a painful and stressful process for the body and can lead to labored breathing. As far as when will be he struggling with pain -- every case is different. It is most often secondary to the rupture of larger mass. This can occur suddenly without warning. Some individuals do not know their dog even has this type of cancer until sudden pain and distress is displayed at home and the condition is further investigated. Internal pain is showed by dogs with varying signs -- sometimes decreased appetite, vomiting, arced back, tucked tummy, tense tummy when touched. They also try to minimize movement and will often stretch out when laying to put less pressure on their internal organs. Please review this information and let me know what follow up questions I can answer for you.
Expert:  Dr. Emily replied 2 years ago.
Once again, I am sorry to hear about your dog's diagnosis.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for your reply and thoroughness. If the tumor erupts, does it come on suddenly?
Does it go on for minutes? Hours? Will he die quickly? What should I do?
What can my vet prescribe for any pain Sammy may have?
Thank you!
Expert:  Dr. Emily replied 2 years ago.
The rupture of a tumor is a sudden process. The growth of the tumor which leads to the rupture is the gradual part of the process. The growth is over months, whereas the rupture is sudden and the signs are seen within minutes if it is a large rupture. For example, with my dog, she showed sign suddenly, became pale and lethargic, but the blood was resorbed and she recovered and did well for about 6 months. Unfortunately the next rupture was larger and she did not recover. The best over for pain management is tramadol as it does not effect the liver or the kidneys. Buprenorphine is another option but is more expensive for larger pets. Please let me know if I can assist in any way further.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hi, ok, I am able and willing to pay for this information and you have been GREAT . . . what is gonna happen when 'something' happens . . . (as I get it will) .. . and what can I do for my dog? Do you suggest putting him down first (and when the heck would that be??), or, what are your thoughts? And, what are your thoughts on euthanasia?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I hope I am not using up too much of your time?
Expert:  Dr. Emily replied 2 years ago.
You are not taking up too much of my time at all. It was late when I got your last message though so I didn't receive it until this morning. If your dog has a episode of sudden collapse, it is best to go straight to a veterinary clinic for assessment. Stabilization with fluids and/or a blood transfusion may be necessary if the blood cell count becomes too low. Also, the platelets are assessed to determine if the body is able to clot properly. As far as euthanasia, it is a personal decision that needs to be based on the overall quality of your dogs's life. One episode of collapse does not necessarily mean euthanasia is needed. Dogs can recover from small amounts of blood loss. However, if the blood cell count or platelet count does not rebound within a 3-5 days period, my concern is for the dog's well being and we do not want any dog to suffer in a situation that we can no longer medically remedy. Euthanasia is never an easy decision but is often necessary in the end to allow for smooth passing and no more suffering.