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La Jolla Mom

We Suddenly Lost Our Dog to Hemangiosarcoma

I want you to know what happened because it's common

Our rescue pit bull Scooby entertained extended family with his usual antics on Mother’s Day. He jumped into my husband’s lap at the table knowing that’s where he was most likely to source scraps of the expensive poached salmon I ordered from a restaurant down the street.

We pulled his bed over to the table so that he could snore away, per usual, while we played some card games after our meal. He and I later curled up in bed to enjoy the penultimate episode of “Game of Thrones.” It was business as usual.

Monday came and went without much fanfare. On Tuesday morning, everyone (including Scooby) enjoyed their usual harried breakfast routine before school departure. I went out to yoga, and my husband headed out for beach jog but noticed on his way out that Scooby was a little uneasy, which wasn’t entirely unusual. He was a nervous dog, had just turned 10, and loud construction noise was coming from a neighbor’s house. Noise, trucks, and strange men talking scare him, so he wasn’t behaving out of line.

When I returned home, Scooby wasn’t at the door to greet me. He was lying on the living room rug and wouldn’t even get up for food, a highly unusual event. The dog loved food. I had to coax him up. 

A few hours later, we were sitting in the vet’s office. Fecal and blood tests were run with normal results. His physical exam didn’t reveal anything unusual, either. Maybe it’s his thyroid. Perhaps it’s the result of a hypoallergenic diet including grain-free food, a topic for another day, but one dog owners should be aware of. Dinner was refused, but he slept well and woke up on Wednesday morning with tons and tons of energy.

Relief swept over the entire family. The only thing out of the ordinary was that he was extra hungry from having skipped dinner. I’m so glad we indulged him with a little bit more bacon and other treats throughout the entire day. We took our usual walk, and he eagerly jumped into our bed in the middle of the night to sleep with us. I wrapped him in a blanket, and he snored away until he, per usual, bolted out of bed after hearing my daughter wake up for school. Breakfast came and went, and so did our housekeepers (which causes him stress). 

My radar went up again when he refused his usual midday Greenie snack, which he gets while we make lunch. Instead of being tired like he was on Tuesday, this time, I could tell he was uncomfortable. Maybe he just needed sleep, which seemed to work wonders on Tuesday. Instead, he tossed, turned, and shivered in his bed next to my desk. He still barked to announce the arrival of the mail carrier and moved with me to other rooms in the house.

I knew something was wrong, but at the time it was impossible to tell if it was indigestion or something more significant. After studying him for a few hours (which I regret), I called the vet again and we were summoned in for a chest X-ray to rule out cardiomyopathy. I wasn’t sure if we really needed to go to the vet, given his prior day recovery, but went anyway.

He never came home (or even whimpered once throughout the entire ordeal).

An ultrasound revealed fluid in his abdomen, and a sample taken revealed that it was blood. She told me that dogs with this condition go to surgery or heaven. Given that it was rush hour to the nearest pet emergency room, they gave him an IV of fluids (and lots of hugs — he always held everyone’s hands in the vet’s office which was funny) to keep him comfortable during the car ride, left the catheter in, and sent us on our way. 

We’re not strangers to the veterinary hospital where our local emergency room is, given that we’re there at least every six months to have his hemangiomas (more on these later) lasered off. So, he sniffed the same plants and dog area on the way in and politely sat down as a couple cut the line in front of us. I had to push my way in. We didn’t look like it, but we were as emergency as it gets, which I now understand more than I did at the time. 

An ER tech immediately came to get him. Rather than the usual paperwork I fill out when there, I verbally agreed to certain procedures and a do not resuscitate order (DNR). (This was hard. I had always indicated yes to resuscitate because his laser surgeries had always been minor and the surgeon’s staff agreed with this choice because if things went south, we’d make a decision later.) Our vet had already called ahead and sent the X-rays and test results.

He was rushed away though my husband points out that he walked himself throughout the entire process. Dazed, I sat in the waiting area. Thankfully, the most social and well-behaved cat on a leash distracted everyone in there. People in the waiting room at this time of day are usually not there for happy reasons.

It didn’t take long for them to call me into a room where I waited for the ER doctor. She confirmed that her ultrasound showed fluid in his abdomen. Since our vet extracted blood and he had a history of hemangiomas on his skin, I had two choices.

  1. Ultrasound his entire body. I would only do this if I was consenting to surgery. Surgery with a condition like this typically extends life by a month, if it is even successful. And, he was going to need a blood transfusion first which takes time that he wasn’t going to likely have. The cancerous blood already washed his major organs.
  2. Euthanize him right away because he was bleeding to death.

That’s a lot to process out of the blue.

I called my husband, and we agreed to number two. The ER doctor flat out told me this was the most humane thing to do. I trust this hospital and its staff and do not have regrets about this decision. I spared no expense on Scooby throughout his entire life (including TPLO surgery that he healed brilliantly from). I would have paid ridiculous sums of money to save him if I could have. Number two was about his quality of life. And it needed to be done as soon as possible.

My next decision though haunts me. I wasn’t sure how quickly number two would occur. Is it normal for a 12-year-old to see her best friend euthanized? (The answer, I later learned, is yes.) There was more paperwork (a blur), and then I was led into the room where it happens. It took a little bit of time for Scooby to arrive, and I was told to take as much time as I needed with him. I only took a few minutes because he looked terrible and had obviously slid downhill to the point where there was no question number two was the right thing to do. I was the only other family member there, but he and I were bonded. I was his person.

By the time we were in that room together though, my daughter and husband probably could have fought traffic to be with us. I didn’t make that calculation, nor do I ask what the time frame would be. If you’re ever in the same position, ask how long you have. I wish they could have brought his favorite blanket and held his hands, too. Everything happened so quickly, but no one wanted to prolong his suffering. 

I spooned him like he was used to and told him what an amazing dog he is. A deep sedative put him to sleep, and then a second shot stopped his heart. I felt it stop beating on my arm immediately. It was quick.

A few days, many tears, and many Google searches later, I now understand what happened to my perfect boy.

Pit bull with a squeaky chicken

Hemangiosarcoma

I’m not a veterinarian. I’m writing this as a pet owner who has gone through a dog’s sudden death by aggressive cancer called hemangiosarcoma, a cancer of the blood vessel walls. I hope that if you see the same signs that I did, that you will not hesitate before calling the vet which will hopefully allow you to give your dog the best quality of life and least amount of pain until the very end. 

This silent killer usually shows no clinical signs until the end is inevitable. I’ve now read multiple stories from other dog owners in shock from how their dog can drop dead a few hours after being wholly energetic and fine.

Dogs very rarely die from heart attacks, but they do suddenly die from hemangiosarcoma. The Golden Retriever Club of America National Health Survey revealed that the chances of golden retrievers developing hemangiosarcoma in a lifetime are 1 in 5. Pit bulls, Labrador retrievers, German Shepherds are also prone to the disease. 

The most common place for malignant tumors to grow is on the spleen, but they can grow anywhere there are blood vessels and spread to other major organs. Since you can’t see them, you and perhaps your dog won’t know cancer exists until things have progressed to the point of no return. If tumors are isolated to the spleen and haven’t burst, the spleen can be removed, which may buy your dog some time but not usually more than a month. And, chemotherapy might be recommended to extend life few months beyond that hopefully. It’s a no-win situation. 

I should have known he was at risk for this cancer, given his history of cutaneous hemangiomas. Hemangiomas are the benign form of hemangiosarcoma. I had not linked the two, and it’s a probably good thing because I would have obsessed over his every ailment even more than I already did. 

Cutaneous hemangiomas are likely (but they’re not sure) caused by the sun. They look like blood blisters. He has one on his cheek in this photo.

Pit bull with hemangioma

Cutaneous hemangiomas grew on him quickly and in all sizes, even though we kept him out of the sun and covered him in dog-safe sunscreen when he was in the sun for walks and short outings. They ranged from light red to nearly black. Four months before he died, a rather large one appeared on his leg that had grown to the size of a grape. Our surgeon wasn’t worried, and we always sent the suspicious looking ones to the lab. It was lasered off.

His history of cutaneous hemangiomas combined with burst tumor(s) internally is why the ER vet didn’t hesitate to recommend euthanasia.

Warning Signs to Look For

Scooby’s symptoms were sudden lethargy and lack of appetite. They think the reason why he experienced this on Tuesday and completely recovered for one day on Wednesday is that the bleeding was light, somehow clotted, and he made more blood cells to compensate for the loss of blood. On Thursday, the day he died, the bleeding restarted in a more forceful manner.

I debated whether or not to take him to the vet on Thursday afternoon, and would have taken him in a few hours earlier had I known to check his mouth. Pale gums and tongue indicate anemia which combined with lethargy and lack of appetite signals that something is wrong. His gums were fine on Tuesday as were his labs. On Thursday, his gums were very pale. I wish I would have known to look at them because I’d have known it wasn’t indigestion. Before going to the vet on Thursday, we had no idea that he was ill.

Other symptoms that are common with hemangiosarcoma, that Scooby didn’t have, include a distended abdomen, seizures, collapsing, arrhythmia, abnormal breathing. 

Long Days Afterward

Hemangiosarcoma causes dog owners extraordinary pain because we’re forced to make immediate decisions we’re unprepared for. We question what we did wrong (which is probably nothing) and wonder how we missed the signs (because there weren’t any). The loss is sudden and traumatic. It will take a long time for me to recover.

The other point of this post is to let people going through this same miserable trauma know that they are not alone. There are a lot of us. You’ll soon see what I mean when you start talking about it to others.

One of the many things I need to reconcile with is that Scooby was not the type of dog who would have handled a long term disease well (not that anyone does). He liked to be within a few inches of or attached to a human at every minute, and this does take a lot of moving around given the fact that we have a tween in the house. If I could have carried him in a Baby Bjorn all day, he’d have been cool with that.

We felt he deserved whatever we could give him as we’re confident he was abused before he came to us. We are desperately trying to take comfort in the fact that it was a “good” way for him to go because he likely didn’t experience much discomfort until his final day.

He was so loved, and proof that rescued pit bulls can make brilliant family dogs. It was just his time.

My daughter cuddling our pit bull rescue

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37 thoughts on “We Suddenly Lost Our Dog to Hemangiosarcoma

    1. This is exactly what happened to my dog Captain. 2 days before he died he ran 4 miles with my husband while he was biking. It was so sudden. A year later it’s still shocking. He was a german shepherd mix. The sweetest boy. I’m sorry for your loss and thanks for writing about it. I came across your blog when searching hotels but saw this and thought “that’s what happened to MY boy”.

    2. Thank you for sharing this post. My husband and I just went through this today. Our fur baby Dean went to heaven. He is a German shepherd. We went a head with the surgery and his pancreas burst. They found a secondary cancer in his stomach too, so they called us with the decision of proceeding on with the surgery, or let him go to heaven. We chose Heaven and that was a hard decision. Like you posted the onset is sudden. Dean started yesterday with vomiting around 4 something. He was lethargic, he collapsed, didn’t eat food, and his belly was bloated. Dean would of turned 8 next month. We just thought that he is getting a little older and was getting a little belly. It was larger this morning. You are bombarded with fast decisions to make with the fast onset. We called the vet around 9 am today and they got us in at 10:30. At the vet’s, they took his temperature and it was 104. The vet had taken him back for xrays and there was a tumor on his pancreas the same cancer that took your fur baby. My husband and I have gone back and forth with would of should ofs and with the information in your post helps us realize that the outcome would of always been Heaven. We are very raw right now, kind of in shock, denial, and disbelief. It happened so fast. Thank u for posting.

  1. I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for posting about this. Sadly, we too, lost our sweet Honey Bear to Hemangiosarcoma. Honey was a Pit/Shepherd rescue, and a truly amazing dog. Similar to your situation, it was sudden and seemed to come out of now where. We took her to the vet and were given the same options, she was 11 yrs old, and already bleeding to death when they took her vitals. We took her home and had a service come out the same day, this allowed us the privacy to grieve and have our last moments with her in the comfort of our home.

    It was incredibly devastating, but we actually had a couple of warning signs that we were not aware of at the time. She had a couple of random days where she wouldn’t move much or eat, but always bounced back to normal the next day. We later found out that this was most likely due to internal bleeding, and she bounced back once her body absorbed the blood. Apparently, the tumor was slowly bleeding but we were not aware of it until it ruptured.

    Being a pet owner, dog lover, and puppy foster for a local rescue organization, I believe awareness helps us take better care of these precious lives and enjoy them while they are with us. Thanks again for talking about this!

  2. The same thing just happened to our boxer three days ago. We are hurting and heartbroken. We definitely understand your pain!

  3. We lost our 5 year old Boxer/Pit mix a month ago to a ruptured splenic tumor, which we believe to be a Hemangiosarcoma. I have a picture of him begging for my daughters food from that morning. I noticed he looked kind of out of it that afternoon, but my daughter was cranky and had just fallen asleep, so I got my food and went back downstairs to where she was. I will regret that forever. Why didn’t l just bend down to check on him? We took my daughter to urgent care because we thought she had an ear infection, she didn’t. We then went to target after. I regret the whole evening. We were out while my poor bub was bleeding to death. I was his person, he was my soulmate, my heart dog. When we got home he was so lethargic, we rushed him to the emergency clinic. I was a vet tech for years, how did I miss this? I knew he was going to die as soon as I saw his gums, I knew what had happened.
    I’m devastated, guilt ridden, and lost. Losing him this way has traumatized me. I cry myself to sleep every night.

  4. So sorry to hear about Scooby what a gorgeous dog , we are in shock after taking our beautiful dog George to the emergency vets last night only to be given the horrendous news that it was Hemangiosarcoma of the heart and devastated that was to be the end of or George’s life story we are all very upset and i can’t stop crying i just wasn’t ready to say goodbye ?x

  5. So Sad to read about Scooby and all these other very sad stories ours is much the same our beautiful! 10 yr old Bullmastif staff cross George who was lagging after his usual nightly walk and off his food also restless during the night a vet visit on Friday 19 th and looking up his symptons we thought maybe Pneumonia but antibiotics and fluid retention tablets didn’t work his gums were pink too so he didn’t seem to be anaemic and another appointment needed for an ultra sound as none was available . Friday night he was in our bedroom and slept right through wrapped in his blanket and his favourite pillow but Saturday came and he was struggling to breath and just couldn’t sit down or lie down he was struggling badly our youngest of 5 Chase was home from his graduate Geo job in the mines and they were best friends like his brother Chase would say well we all decided Emergency vets visit -it was to be George’s last ride in the car an ultrasound and a a syringe to draw blood from around his heart showed he had Hemangiosarcoma of the heart he was given oxygen to help him and came in looking weak but with a wagging tail pleased to see us this made me crumble we were given our choices which was none as I asked for as much info on his prognosis and we knew what was the right decision for George by this time his gums had lost their colour and his legs were struggling we did have his blanket and favourite lamb toy with us and we said our goodbyes but I was a mess our brave boy hadn’t even whimpered just endured it all driving home without him was horrendous I have had trouble dealing with losing our beautiful boy all of us have I think perhaps because up until this he has been so healthy and looked so young for his age my chest hurts and I’m constantly crying we will miss him so much our house feels empty and his face isn’t looking through the glass door waiting to greet us anymore when we arrive home . Our son Chase didn’t make his 7 hour drive back to his job he stayed home an extra day and we comforted each other but nothing will help just time he was such a special dog and will be in our hearts forever along with our lovely memories . Xx

  6. Sorry for your loss. I just found out 48 hour ago my “Perfect Boy” Has a large tumor on his Spleen. It does not appear to have metastasized (at least they could see on ultrasound). But at Ten and a half with the quality of and length of life left I’m finding it difficult to justify putting him through such an ordeal. I don’t want him to suffer or, god forbid, blead out alone at home with no on around. but he’s stable and being spoiled for now. Other than his grey face and the ticking time bomb in his belly he’s really got the body of and attitude of a much younger dog. He had all the good food and treats, regular exercise slept on the bed and all the loves, rubs and squishes a good boy could want. I’m sad and angry as he’s been such to best boy his while life and this is so undeserving. I’m hoping I can be brave for him but I suck at this kind of stuff.

  7. Just to let you know, you’ll never really get over this. The same thing happened this January to our beloved, crazy, energetic whippet-shepherd mix. Apparently, Java was fine most of that day, playing and acting normally. But by the time I got home from work, she had already collapsed once in my daughter’s room. And while trying to get in touch with our local vet, Java wobbled on her legs and collapsed again. Her stomach was so distended it felt hard and when I checked her gums they were an eerie white. Realizing immediately it was serious, my wife and I grabbed Java and we jumped in the car. At the vet’s office, she tried her best to be happy, wagging her tail and wanting attention from all the staff. We didn’t wait very long, but it felt like forever due to the anxious situation. The vet did a X-ray and showed us that a large amount of fluid was obscuring the view of her abdomen. The vet said that it was likely blood and she immediately referred us to an emergency vet for an ultrasound. On the drive to the emergency vet, I could tell Java was cuddlier than usual, sticking tightly between my legs in the passenger seat. Again, we didn’t wait long, but it felt like forever, especially when they took Java from us to examine her. Minutes later, they brought us into a room and we met the emergency vet. He explained that he had drawn a syringe from her abdomen and that it was full of blood. He said that it was very likely, based on her breed, that she had hemangiosarcoma and that she would need emergency transfusions and surgery to remove her spleen. Interestingly, they wouldn’t do the ultrasound that we came there for because they already knew Java’s situation was serious. Then things became worse. Java’s prognosis with surgery was only a month and with the additional cost of chemotherapy six months. Having no pet insurance, the estimates ranged from $9,000 to $14,000 to begin her emergency care without any positive outlook. It was a horrible gut punch to find oneself in such a situation with no good options. Why was this happening? Why was it so expensive? What were we going to do? Our dog was facing her imminent demise with or without intervention. We were completely overwhelmed, but it certainly didn’t seem wise to me to extend her life for months only to have to return to a vet again for an eventual euthanasia. It was especially devastating when we had to call our daughter, who was home studying for her finals, to tell her the news. She wouldn’t get a chance to hold and love her dog again and she couldn’t, due to poor cell coverage, have one last, sad interaction via Facetime. In retrospect, we maybe hesistated longer than we should have making that quick decision on what to do. It’s especially bad when I think that that whole time Java was still bleeding out into her abdomen. It was horrible! Eventually, we opted to say goodbye to Java and we were escorted to a special room with couches and blankets. Once inside, Java was preoccupied with standing or sitting by the door, probably wanting to get away from the whole situation. The emergency vet and the tech each dropped in to see how we were doing and when they did Java perked up a bit to see someone new. The tech tried to tempt her with a toy and hot dogs, but Java just wasn’t interested. By that point, I think all her energy was being used up just to keep going. Finally, we were able to bring her closer where we could pet her and say our last good byes. My wife and I were both crying and in shock. Java was always so hyper, like in your face. She was an explosive ball of energy her whole life and to see her like this was unreal. I did my best to pet her in her favorite spots and to tell her she was a good dog and that I loved her very much. As we left, our old friend was lying there peacefully as if fixed in a dream. I’ll miss her always and there really isn’t a week that goes by that we don’t find ourselves thinking of her and how her life was cut short. It’s an absolute tragedy.

    1. You did the right thing. I went through surgery with my dog once and the recovery, when you’re a dog and don’t understand why you have to lay around and take meds, was incredibly difficult and no fun for anyone so I can’t imagine going through that only to extend life by a few weeks (and who knows if my dog would even be feeling good during those few weeks anyway). It’s a rotten thing to go through and I have so much guilt about it. We did rescue another pit bull and that has helped a lot but as you said, I think about Scooby what feels like all day every day.

      1. Thanks for reply. I’m glad you have another dog to focus on. We do too, thank goodness. Bo is a Belgian Malinois, who we adopted last summer. He’s so sweet and very much a puppy. Java was his teacher and it’s been a hard adjustment without her around. Bo’s flooded with affection every day. I guess that’s Java’s legacy. Lucky for him.
        I too have done my research on hemangiosarcoma. Like you explain, it’s common and like most things in life it’s off people radar until it affects them directly. Before Java, we had another sheperd mix, Jambo, who lived to be 17 years old. He had odd bumps on his skin, which now I suspect were cutaneous hemanigiosarcoma although no diagnosis was ever formally made. Java, unfortunately, had the more lethal spelenic kind and she never saw her 10 birthday. Both Jambo and Java were Helen Woodward rescues, who were neutered and spayed very young. That may have been part of the problem. When dogs, especially those breeds suspectible to hemangiosarcoma, don’t have their protective hormones during development, they may have increased risk to the disease later in life. Veterniary research on hemangiosarcoma is about a decade behind and more needs to be done on hemangiosarcoma and prevention.
        I wish only good things for you, your family, and your sweet, new furry friend. Loss is hard, grief is persistent, but life goes on.

  8. We are going through this right now. She had a bad day Friday night into Saturday and vet claims it’s this. Then today she is pink again and warm and energetic. I just don’t know what to do. I’ll take it day by day but it’s definitely like a ticking time bomb. But how can I euthanize when she’s perked up now?? So sad

  9. So sorry for all your losses. I lost my first German Shepherd to hemangiosarcoma when he was almost 10 years old. On July 25th of this year, my beautiful female German Shepherd passed away in her sleep at 8 1/2 years old. I chose not to do an autopsy but now questioning if she had a heart issue or hemangiosarcoma. She had been playing all night, happy, ate…then went to sleep in her dog bed. I found her the next morning as if she had been sleeping deep. To say that I am beyond devastated is an understatement. She had her share of skeletal issues, with hip dysplasia, spinal degeneration and arthritis in her knees. I had her at the vet every month for chiropractic care, what i thought was the best diet… I guess I was foolish to think she wouldn’t have other issues… As i did with my first Shepherd, I scoured the internet…The only things I can think of are cardiomyeopothy or hermangiosarcoma.. It helps to know that she went in her sleep and had a great day and knew she was loved more than any other…..

  10. This has been very helpful.Its now nearly 16 months since our beloved German shepherd, Zion died from this terrible disease. I still cry a lot and the suddenness of his death traumatised us completely.Iv been going for grief counseling but the pain in my heart is still too much to bare sime days.

  11. We just had the same experience and outcome last night with our 6 year old rottie. Still trying to process it all. Thank you for making me feel a little less alone.

  12. I lost my 9 year old boy to hemangiosarcoma. The day we found out he had it was the day he died. He passed the beginning of August. I remember a month before that, he had a little trouble getting up but the vet told us they thought he had arthritis. I said I didn’t think he did because he gets round just fine and walks fine. It’s just getting up. He still had his appitite and acted perfectly normal. Once we gave him medicine for arthritis, he wasn’t having issues getting up any more so I thought maybe it was arthritis. Then august 3rd….we left to take the kids to the park. We came home and our Jack did not greet us at the door. I ran into the kitchen and he was just laying there. I rushed over to him and he wagged his tail but was so weak. My heart broke as we rushed him to the emergency room. The vet immediately took him back and did an ultrasound. She said they saw a mass and his abdomin was filled with blood. We agreed to the surgery and so they did the surgery but came out and called us back in the middle of the surgery. The cancer was spread through his whole insides. It was covered in his abdomin and his diaphragm. The vet said at this point, they can remove his spleen but the cancer has spread through his whole entire body. She said they would give him a week or 2 at the most to live but he would spend that time recovering from surgery and I didn’t want him to be in pain trying to recover from surgery and dying from cancer. So we had him put to sleep. I hugged him hard. I cried so hard I bursted blood vessels in my eyes. He was my first baby. Had him since he was 8 weeks old. My heart still hurts and I cry every day. Every day.

    Walks everyday with him, hugs and snugs on the couch, he loved our children when they were born and cared for them like his pup’s. He helped them with first steps being there and walking along side them as they learned to walk. He was there for my son’s first day of kindergarten. He was so much apart of our life. He was family. We did everything with him. He’s gone. I spent a week in bed. My husband had to take off work to take care of us all because I was not able to. Even though I’m back on my feet doing normal daily routines, I’m broken inside. I am in agony. It’s been a month and I sometimes feel I can’t go on. My baby boy..

    1. I’ve just experienced the same thing…my boy; Alfie (a white GSD with hip dysplasia since a pup and who was a month from his 10th birthday) was my husband’s dog originally but in the last 9 weeks whilst my husband has been away on training had become like velcro to my side. I first noticed he was a bit under the weather on Tuesday 17th September 2019 – didn’t want to eat, not interested in his favourite treat, drinking more than normal, panting heavily and was a bit unsteady on his back legs. I thought it was his hips as we had been told by our vet to gradually reduce his Metacam for his hip pain, so I increased it a little. The following day he was very lethargic and just wanted to lie down. He was the kind of dog that slept most of the day anyway but it was different. I gave him breakfast and sat on the floor with him whilst he ate and then had a wonky chomp (his favourite). I let him and our other GSD; Barney, out into the garden and he just lay on the patio. I was concerned and notice his gums were so pale they were verging on white and didn’t react when I applied gentle pressure. I got him to the vet and he walked in on a loose lead (never happened he usually pulled like a train even in his elderly years) and he half heartedly barked at another dog (Normally reactive to other dogs and wanting to show his dominance). The vet did bloods which showed nothing other than a bit anemic and did an ultrasound which showed his abdomen full of blood. I was hit with the choice of operate or let him go for the big sleep. A teary call to my husband who was 5 hours away and we decided to operate and give him a change. I saw him, gave him kisses and told him to be a good boy and I’d see him soon. I was sent home to Barney but then got a phone call from the vet telling me that they had removed his spleen which had ruptured and stopped the bleeding but that just prior to stitching him up, they had checked his liver and found this cancer in a 4cm tumor about to rupture and the kindest thing would be to let him go. It broke my heart and I went back to say goodbye after he had gone and took Barney so he could understand. Barney (notorious for going beserk at any vetanary member of staff) went nuts but immediately started nudging and licking Alfie’s body. It was heartbreaking. I took Barney back to the car so I could say goodbye to Alfie without Barney going mental. The vet had done a keepsake paw print for us and I stroked and kissed him telling him to still be a good boy and that he was very much loved. We are having him cremated and his ashes returned to us to keep and today I have printed a photo so I can still see him. I have been in tears constantly and it hurts that Barney has lost his brother and playmate, that the loveable old man is not trotting beside me or popping in when I’m in the bathroom and I only make one meal not two. My husband hasn’t been home yet until tomorrow and I know it’ll hit him when he walks in and Alfie doesn’t greet him at the door with a toy and a wagging tail.
      The vet said it was so quick and I got him there as early as I could and I know he didn’t suffer much but I’m still so devastated and didn’t realise how much I loved him. I knew I did, he was my boy and one of my furry children but I didn’t realise how much I’d miss him. Due to his age we had talked about when the time came but this was so quick and unexpected. Right now I don’t know how I’ll get over it I’m just so broken, upset constantly and struggling to eat or sleep. I just want my little man back so much. I’m trying to be strong for Barney and when my husband comes home and the realisation hits but I’m crumbling more and more as time goes on and he’s not here.

  13. I lost my darling dog to this horrid disease on Sunday 15th September. I knew it was coming. Six weeks before I had taken him to the emergency vet with a distended stomach. He received an emergency spleenectomy to remove his spleen and a large tumour which had ruptured. I was warned that this was an aggressive cancer and would return but he recovered so well I convinced (deluded) myself that he would be ok. We had another precious six weeks together before I awoke at 4am on Sunday morning to find him acting quite sleepy, trembling gently and with pale gums. I rushed him to the vet, knowing that he wouldn’t be coming home again. He died peacefully, with his head in my hands. I collect his ashes tomorrow and I’ll scatter them in his favorite woods where he played as a youngster. This is just so incredibly painful, I’m sorry anyone else has had to experience this but I find comfort in knowing I’m not alone.

  14. Thank you for sharing your story. I was shocked to see Scooby had passed as I had come across your post regarding TPLO recovery which helped me with Phoenix’s recovery this past January. I’m sorry about Scooby. I’ve come again searching for owner accounts about aftercare of hemangiosarcoma post splenectomy. I know I’m fortunate that I’ve gotten this far with a live dog. Phoenix had a splenectomy today and I know the biopsy will come back positive for hemangiosarcoma.
    I lost Phoenix’s littermate Harlow 2/28/2016 to this cancer. Harlow was misdiagnosed for 2 months. Pancreatitis after I pushed back on the vet regarding arthritis. I’m sorry but arthritis does not explain anemia. Pancreatitis … maybe but she still wasn’t getting better. I opted for another vet with a 2nd opinion but I was a day short of her ultrasound appointment when her spleen ruptured, I elected a splenectomy. Post op they said everything went great, she was alert and ready to go home same day after surgery. She was 35 lbs post op and died 3 days after surgery from a secondary complication, her blood did not clot. They couldn’t figure that out before they sliced her open? I would pay 1000xs over to go back and not let her die for 2 months and suffer post op. I would’ve never done that to her had I known. Looking back I realized she was too anemic to recover at that point from surgery even after the blood transfusions. I honestly believe she lasted 2 months bleeding internally because she was a pitbull. She was absolutely stoic for those 2 months just worried eyes and a lick of I don’t feel good while I gave her arthritis and pancreatitis medication! It was so wrong!
    This go around with Phoenix, I didn’t mess around. I recognized the yelp when I touched her belly. The lethargy and pale pink-white gums. I went to our new vet and asked for blood work (anemia confirmed) and an ultrasound same day (splenic masses confirmed) scheduled for surgery next morning. Slept restlessly I was scared her spleen would rupture. In the morning, this time my directive, do not cut her open if she’s too anemic for her blood to clot. I’d like another blood panel pre-surgery. I don’t care if we ran one yesterday, I can wait. Are you good with the blood results and her ability to clot? Yes, she’s a 33 which is lower than 40and that might be as her blood is currently clumping/clotting the current internal tear. If she was lower …18 or 4, but I strongly believes she’s clotting and I would keep her overnight post op to monitor. She was 53 lbs during the ultrasound, 51 lbs pre-surgery and ~45 lbs post op. She’s staying a total of 3 nights (my request for 2 additional nights) with the vet for monitoring.
    This time around I’ve made sure I advocate for Phoenix and mDr. Coffman and his staff support my internal guide I have for this girl (my last girl). Even my work, I’ve unapologetically dictated my schedule, time off, work conditions/assignments to my bosses/co-workers to take care of Phoenix.
    I know it may be 2 weeks to 3 months is all the time I may have … if that … and I’m fine. As long as it’s kind and loving … what I owe to my dear, sweet Phoe. 12 years of friendship, happiness and unconditional love even when I was less than what they deserved.

  15. I am so glad I stumbled upon this post. I lost my boy 7 hours ago. He just turned 10 in July. He was a beagle bulldog who had hip surgery when he was 5 but was a little fighter and acted like a puppy ever since. His only loves in life were myself and food. We have a 14 month old boy which I know has been hard on Benson, not being my whole world and often being sent downstairs so he wouldn’t trample the baby or jump up and steal his food from his highchair. I’m feeling so guilty about every single minute I didn’t spend cuddling with him and making sure he knew how loved he was by me.
    This morning I came downstairs made coffee, made a bottle for the baby and fed Benson, who is usually drooling by his bowl at 658 before I even get out of bed. He didn’t get out of his bed when I poured him food. He was so lethargic, he couldn’t really even get up. He got up off the couch once and could barely walk. I called the ER vet bc something wasn’t right. He vomited at about 10am and it looked partly black which I now know was probably blood. I thought of he just ate something bad and he’ll be fine. He then limped into the dining room and collapsed on the floor. He’s quite lazy but this was different. His breathing looked labored and he had this blank stare. I called my husband and told him that to come home, that the baby was napping and that I was going to bring him to the Er. My husband could barely get him in the back of my car. He usually gets anxious in the car but the whole ride to the Er, I wasn’t sure he was even conscious. I had to basically carry him (70lbs) from the car to the lobby and he was wobbly and confused. They looked at him, yelled for triage and a nurse came out picked him up and took him back while I stood there sobbing. They brought me to a patient room where I just sat sobbing, having this gut feeling something was wrong. 5 minutes later the vet came in and said there is fluid around his heart and in his abdomen. We will test to see if it’s fluid and clear or if it’s blood. If it’s blood, it’s most likely cancer and if it’s clear, it may be heart failure which means they could drain the fluid but he would inevitably be back with the same issue at some point, however that was the best of the possible cases. She left and said she would come back once they drained the fluid. She came back in saying it was blood, meaning it was Hemangiosarcoma and that they could keep him for monitoring for 12-24 hours, that they understood euthanizing could be the best thing but that they wouldn’t pressure or push that. My husband and toddler cane, we went back to see him. He was hooked up to monitors and shaking and had heating blankets on him. I kissed him and said I loved him and decided to have them monitor him for the rest of the day. She told me if the fluid doesn’t return, most people would take their dogs home but know this could happen again but that he may improve today and be ok for a while. I decided to go home while they monitored him but ultimately decided if fluid doesn’t return, that I’ll come back and pick him up tonight. If he could recover and maybe stay fluid free, I didn’t want to jump the gun and I was too scared and shocked to consider the latter, especially if the fluid wasn’t returning. 3 minutes after I left, I got a call from the vet saying they checked the abdomen and it was full of blood, meaning the cancer had metastasized and spread to his organs. She said they either needed to do immediate surgery to remove the mass or they needed to put him down quickly. She said surgery wasn’t recommended and that given how bad it is, the most humane thing to do would be to euthanize. I continued to drive home while my husband found a neighbor to come supervise while my toddler napped, grabbed his favorite blanket and a jar of peanut butter, sobbing the whole time like is this really happening? We got back to the Er and brought into the comfort room to wait for Benson to be brought in. My husband is not a huge dog lover and while we’ve been together 6 years, I’ve had Benson for 10 and love this dog with ALL of me. My husband was surprisingly crying pretty hard when they wheeled Benson in. He seemed to be in a lot of discomfort, partly sedated. His belly had been shaved, his gums were white and he could barely open his eyes. They put him on the couch next to me and he didn’t even have the energy to get into his comfy spot behind my knees. They said to take as long as I wanted with him but seeing how much pain he was in, I rang the bell pretty quickly. I held my boy, my first loves face as they inserted the medication into his iv. Within seconds, his breathing stopped. I am without a doubt, in one of the saddest places I’ve ever been in right now. Did I make the right choice? Did I ask the right questions? Should I have done more? Were they sure and correct that it was hemangiosarcoma? I am sure that this was not a place Benson deserved to be in going forward but it happened so fast. Yesterday he was drooling by my toddlers highchair begging for puffs and today he’s so sick he had to be put down? I can’t wrap my head around it and I can’t stop blaming myself for not giving him the chance to fight. Maybe he could have. Maybe we was being selfish bc it would be too hard on me to see him in more pain. The house feels empty. 10 years is a long time and for a lot of those years, it was just us. I was his person, his love. If I was sad, he protected me. I am scared that this happened so suddenly, that I’m going to have a hard time processing it all and feeling confident I made the right choice. I just wish I had more time. I wish I had slept on the couch with him last night. My heart is so heavy and I’m scared it’s going to take me a long time to feel ok about this. I’m sure no one is reading my long saga, but for the past 10 hours, I can’t figure out wtf just happened. To say my heart is aching is an understatement. I miss him so much. I wasn’t ready for this. Does it get easier?

  16. It’s been just over a year since we lost our Pointer to hemangiosarcoma of the spleen. My husband came home for lunch break to let him outside and he couldn’t stand. When we got to the emergency vet the tech peeled back him gum area and even though I’ve never owned a dog I knew we what I saw was just freakishly wrong. I’ll never forget my poor babies white gums. We said goodbye to our baby and he almost didn’t even make it for the shot. He was already so far gone. I am so sorry to all of you. I think of him EVERY DAY. I am commenting because I had never heard of this and I really feel like it’s a silent killer. There’s no signs this is happening.

  17. We just lost our sweet Zoey last night. We are still trying to wrap our heads around the sudden nature of this tragedy. Zoey is a Lewellen Spaniel/Border Collie mix. She is 9 years old and is very healthy and active. 7:00PM she was fine. by 8:30 she was holed up in the bathroom and couldn’t walk. We brought her to the Emergency Vet in Windham N.H. near where we live. They brought her in, less than 10 minutes later we got the news. She has a Hemangiosarcoma that ruptured. The options were limited at this point. She was too far along to stabilize and we had to decide to put her to sleep. Before the Dr came in with the drugs to perform procedure, she was gone. We were with her and it was peaceful and without pain. We are trying to wrap our heads around this. Tuukka her 9 year companion brother ( a Chessie/Aussie shepard mix) is showing signs of depression. I’m trying to keep his routine and give him extra exercise. We just didn’t have time to prepare.

  18. It hurts so much reading all this and i’m so sorry to all of you who lost your beloved furbaby ;( I had NO idea this awful sickness existed until last weekend. I lost my beautiful german shepard, Luna, Oktober 12th. She was 9 years old. So vital, so full of life, such a puppy at heart.. she was everything to me and i’m beyond devastated. I‘ve been reading so much about hemangiosarcoma after her sudden death and i can’t believe the vet never told me about the risk earlier so i could’ve taken an ultrasound on her seniorcheck a few months back. My heart bleeds. I feel guilt.anger.pain. I would’ve done everything to save my baby.. but she gave up fighting in my arms after a tumor cracked on her spleen ;( Reading these stories make me see how common this is, and that i’m not the only one who has been in this traumatic situation. It all happened so fast ;( our pups did not deserve an ending like this.

  19. We just lost our German Shepherd to hemangiosarcoma yesterday. He was just over 10, like so many others mentioned in the comments here. My deepest sympathies to all of you whose beloved dogs have had to deal with this merciless cancer.

    Misha had just recovered from a gastric infection, and was in really great spirits on Sunday morning, demanding that my dad take him for a longer walk than usual. He had a good late breakfast, and three hours later couldn’t get up for his afternoon walk. Luckily the couple who live below us are vets, and they very kindly rushed with us to their clinic and got in their support staff. An ultrasound revealed massive tumours on the spleen, in the liver and in the stomach. The vets very gently told us that he had a few days more at best, possibly only a few hours. They gave him blood replacement and a clotting agent to perk him up and give him a bit of ease, and a big dose of painkiller. They asked us to carry him home, and make him as comfortable as possible, and give him anything he might want to eat. And to call them when the inevitable final collapse began and if we felt he was going through prolonged suffering, so that they could help him on his way peacefully.

    Our boy insisted on walking out of the car and was able to walk in and out of the elevator and to one of his favourite cool spots in our living room. I knew he was beginning to fade though, so I sat on the floor with him for the next 90 minutes which were all that remained of his time on this earth. My parents were in shock at the abruptness of everything, and were trying to go about their usual evening routine, but it quickly became apparent that he wasn’t going to make it through the evening.

    Five minutes before the end, he managed to get to his feet, looked out of our balcony one last time with his tail wagging, and then flopped down next to my mum, and began to fade rapidly. He did suffer at the end, I’m sorry to say, but mercifully only for a minute or two, and was gone before we had even collected ourselves enough to think of calling the vets. He died surrounded by and being stroked by his human family, our other two dogs, and our tomcat Percy. And just like that, this wonderful, loving, gentle and brave spirit that had filled up our lives and protected our home for 10 years was reduced to a still handsome but ravaged 30 kilos lying motionless on our floor.

    We took him to the crematorium almost immediately, and before he went in I uncovered his lovely face one last time, and stroked his incredibly soft ears and his greyed muzzle.

    Two things make it hit even harder: Coming home to a quiet welcome from our other two, less boisterous dogs instead of riotous barking and jumping from all three dogs instigated and led by Misha. And even worse is looking at our three young cats, who have been ‘brought up’ by Misha, from the time they were tiny enough to fit in his mouth. Looking at them, and remembering how kind and gentle he was with those frail little babies brings an unbearable lump to my throat and probably will for a very long time. I remember how he let the kittens jump on and around him, how he grinned at them and rolled over onto his back when they played with his feathery tail, whimpering slightly when they actually got their tiny claws and teeth through his thick fur. I remember how fiercely protective he was of them, growling and barking at any stranger who approached them. And I remember how he and Percy, the tom, would spend hot afternoons lying side by side in the shade.

    The really hateful thing about hemangiosarcoma is how little time most people get to prepare themselves. We had barely two hours from knowing that his time was near to his death. And we felt completely powerless, since in his case there wasn’t even the ‘bad’ option of a surgery, due to the liver and stomach tumours.

    We’re an animal loving family, and have gone through the grief of pet-loss before, but this seems particularly cruel. In time, I’m sure we’ll go from actively missing him to gratitude for the blessing that his life was, and laughter and a feeling of warmth and fuzziness at the memories this wonderful dog shared with us.

    I pray that every single one of you who are experiencing this same grief reach that place of acceptance and peace in your own time. I have no doubt that the selfless, generous souls of the animals who have left us wouldn’t want us to grieve a moment longer than necessary. God bless you all.

  20. I am so sorry for everyone’s loss. I lost my German Shepard last Friday 11/15/2019. Levi was only 6 years old. He was not eating well for a few days & seemed a little off, but seemed like nothing too bad. I looked at his gums & they looked a little pale to me, so I called the vet. Took him in & while in the room noticed his stomach looked a little bloated, as did the vet when she came in. Took him back & came in with a vial full of blood, which was what was in his belly. His blood work was pretty good, a little anemaia. Emergency surgery showed her the spleen was not to bad, but his liver was in rough shape…needless to say he was euthanized….So hard to believe you take your dog to the vet for something you think is not to serious & 3 hours later he is gone. We are heartbroken & just feel such a loss….Camilla feeling all the same emotions as you, pain, guilt, anger, loss. I pray with time we can all heal. xo

  21. I’m so sorry for your loss! We just lost our beautiful Chocolate Lab/Dane mix named Chase last night suddenly. We rushed him to the Hospital an hour before and the doctors ran tests and immediately advised that he had so much blood in his stomach and his blood pressure was at 40. He was just running around hours before, and this downfall happened so quickly. From the tests the Doctor diagnosed him with Hemangiomas and didn’t give us very promising survival news. Chase looked so tired and was in quit a bit of pain at that time. The Doctor advised that with the surgery we would be lucky to get 3 months if he makes it through the surgery, and that recovery would be painful for Chase with the hard chemo that he would require as well. My sweet boys were full of tears when they told us. We had to make a decision fast as the Doctors said his blood pressure was not good at all. We didn’t want him in pain anymore and his quality of life just wouldn’t be the same . He loved to catch the baseball and frisbee, and he just wouldn’t be able to do that after this surgery and would be very sick. We didn’t want him hurting and he didn’t deserve the pain. We adopted Chase from a local shelter and had 14 amazing years with this beautiful loving dog. The Doctor advised that the best thing would be to euthanize since the surgery was not very promising. It was the most gut awful news and my boys became historical. With tears. I just had to leave the room with them in order to hug and calm them down. I felt I didn’t want a 9 and 11 year old to witness Chase being Euthanized. We went back in the room and hug and kissed Chase telling him and kissing him over and over that we loved him more then anything and promised that we would one day see him in heaven and run again. I felt like at that moment my heart just dropped but I knew I had to be strong for my boys and be there for them the most. My husband stayed back to hold Chase in his arms until his last breath as my boys and I hugged and waited in another room. It was so fast and surreal as my husband walked out 2 minutes later and let us know that Chase is at peace. I just lost my breath at that very moment.
    As we left the Hospital, I really thought this was all a dream and we were going to get home and Chase would be there to greet us at he door with a wagging tail and bark, but instead it was silent and quiet not what we are use to. We all sat on the coach where he slept all the time and weeped for hours hugging each other and talking about great times, and all the happiness brought to our lives. It’s not going to be easy, he definitely was one of a kind! I just know my husband and I have to be stronger and be there for our boys to talk and wipe their tears when they get sad. That beautiful boy will always be in our hearts forever!♥️

  22. It is two months since my last post and the missing and longing for my Zion child, 6 year old GSD doesnt feel better.we have taken in a long haured gsd, Boots who has indeed climbed into my heart..im able to start speaking to her about her Sbrother and explained that he is at the rainbow bridge whete we will all meet up one day.She will never take his place but filling up her own. Tonite i have finally acvepted that im not ecoexted to acceot losing my child and is helping me.Much love to you all.

    1. I can sympathize with you completely. Only we opted for the splenectomy after my 9 year old Plott Hound’s tumor bursted and she had the same symptoms as Scooby. Katies tumor turned out to be hemangiosarcoma as well and we also opted for chemotherapy, which was covered by our pet insurance, along with the surgery. Katie lasted just 2 1/2 months, tolerated the chemo very well (doxorubicin) and Yunnan Bayao supplement . We fed her red meat (steaks rare) and she was living the dream until she had another bleed. At that point our Vet recommended we put her down. With heavy hearts we had to do what was right for Katie. Sure insurance would have paid for exploratory surgery to find out what was now leaking blood in her abdomen (liver, etc.). However, Katie’s immune system was already taking a hit from the chemo and who knows what her quality of life would have been after surgery. There are a lot of studies out there on this particular aggressive cancer, some seem promising but they are blind clinical trials (you either get the pill or a placebo).

  23. Thank you so much for this post. My experience with hemangiosarcoma is almost identical to your story- including both debating the morning of whether and when to take him in and the sadness for my sweet boy having been abused prior to joining my family. I lost my Cider last week seemingly out of the blue and reading this article and comment string brings me comfort knowing that I’m not alone in this experience. I feel grateful that the disease came on so swiftly and that he was not in prolonged pain. As hard as it was for me to not have time to prepare to say goodbye, I’d much prefer his quality of life over my own emotions. In so many ways, the road to the ultimate outcome could have been so much worse- prolonged and painful. It’s wonderful that people can share their stories and connect with with strangers over the internet through shared experiences. Thank you again.

  24. Thank you for posting this about your very loved Scooby. I came across it while searching on “hemangiosarcoma.” I fostered (failed) a 10 year old chocolate lab (Coco) in August of this year. I knew she had some health issues and we could afford to address them. Our ability to financially and phsycially take care of a senior dog, and her incredibly sweet face (and personality) took me about 1/20th of a second to decide to adopt her. Yesterday morning she was her normal self and by noontime we had to euthanize her. It was (is) heart wrenching. I was her person and she way my girl. My husband and kids always rescued and were our dogs’ people but this girl was mine. She snuggled next to me on the couch and would like in her bed next to me while I worked, and went EVERYWHERE with us. Coco did not miss a chance to ride in the car. My husband and I even decided to fly our kids to Florida the day after Christmas but we were going to road trip with Coco so she could ride. Sadly, our scenario unfolded yesterday exactly like you describe yours. In retrospect, she was a little more tired at times over the past couple of days and would lay down between our backyard and the front door, which we thought was because her paws were cold in the fresh snow, so we would just scoop her up and carry her inside. Now I realize she was most likely having intermittent bleeding. I have been reading non-stop about Hemangiosarcomas, what could I have done differently, should I have caught it, and did I make the right choice (resounding yes). I am heart broken but appreciate you putting your heart out here for others, like me, to find. It is devastating to say the least. I am grateful though for my four months with Coco, incredibly sad and thankful to find your post. Much love.

  25. We just lost our beloved dog this afternoon from the very same thing. He experienced all of the early symptoms you describe…reading your post was almost exactly what happened to us. We are grateful to have had him for 12 plus years. They are special creatures…truly our best friends.

  26. I am devastated reading this for I just lost my beautiful border collie aussie mix Mac to this horrible disease yesterday. He had just turned 11 on new years day. No signs, no symptoms, no change in appetite, no nothing until 2 days ago. I came home from work, he greeted me as usual, then collapsed in my arms urinating on himself. Immediately went to the vet, a chest xray done with abnormalities noted of either lung cancer or fungal infection. I was then sent the next day to a specialist for an ultrasound. Then came the diagnosis with a mass in the spleen bleeding into the abdomen with fluid around the heart with suspected mass in heart, and cancer everywhere. Horrified and devastated. Brought him home and made dreaded appt for euthanasia for later in the evening. Wanted to have 1 last day with him. We ended up bringing him to his appointment early for he collapsed again in the afternoon. He walked into appt like there was nothing wrong with him. He did not look like a dog that was dying. Now I am questioning myself if I did the right thing for he did not want to die. He would not sleep after given the sedative. He finally went peacefully with the phenobarbital but he did not want to die. After reading this post I also understand how sick he really was and that I did the right thing. I am still so devestated, heartbroken, and very angry. He was too young and I feel cheated that I should have had 3-4 more years with him.

    1. You did the right thing and, sadly, you were cheated. I think we feel tremendous amounts of guilt because we’re the ones making life and death decisions for our pets. This disease is difficult and I’ve received emails from vets who have gone through the same shock with own pets. I still feel like I should have noticed something earlier but I get that there really wasn’t a way for me to. You will feel better eventually — life will not be the same but you’ll be okay, one day at a time and Mac will have left this world very loved.

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