Symptom Misinterpretation in a Dog: The Forest and the Trees—Summer’s Hemangiosarcoma

With splenic tumors it’s like this – they can be benign or malignant. Either can kill your dog if not treated. The benign ones, hemangioma, are curable by surgery if the spleen is removed. Sounds very drastic but it works and saves the dog’s life. With hemangiosarcoma, as of now, all you can do is buy time.

Another big problem with splenic tumors is that you can’t see them. Too often, nobody knows what is going on until the tumor bursts and causes severe internal bleeding. There is no screening test to catch it early. Regular ultrasounds, perhaps.

A splenic tumor can masquerade as an entirely different problem, such as arthritis that is acting up.

Symptom Misinterpretation in a Dog: The Forest and the Trees—Summer's Hemangiosarcoma

Summer was a sweet girl with a history of intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) flare-ups. Her mom was familiar with the condition, and when Summer hurt her back the first time, she knew to take her to a vet immediately. Summer responded well to medical management.

Another flare-up followed a few months later, though this time it wasn’t clear how she’s done it to herself.

Summer recovered with medical management again.

At her wellness exam, everything looked great. There were no signs of trouble to come.

Summer was a happy, enthusiastic girl, and it didn’t come as a surprise that her back could get sore again after she slipped and fell during some vigorous training games. This time, Summer seemed to have been in even more pain than before and panting heavily.

Off to an emergency vet.

Summer had to be carried in, and all four legs showed neurological deficits. The concern was that the affected nerves also provided communication to the heart and lungs and Summer could be in bigger trouble than thought.

Summer’s recovery was slower, but she was improving. At the same time, Summer started showing new fearful and “stubborn” behaviors. That was not like her. Her behavior remained strange even though the pain was improving.

By the time of a regular vet follow-up, Summer was showing pain now and then, but she was panting a lot and seemed hot all the time. The vet identified the neurological deficit and the affected part of the spine, but something else seemed to have been going on.

Why were things different this time?

Was it the meds? The ER vet chose different medications to treat Summer. Her regular vet switched Summer back to the treatment she responded to well in the past.

However, Summer was not bouncing back as expected. She seemed to be getting worse. Sometimes she’d just lay down while walking. Her mom took Summer back to the ER.

The veterinarian could not find any back pain.

This was getting frustrating. They agreed to run some x-rays to see if they could offer any answers. Summer’s spine looked surprisingly well. Couple places where discs looked a bit too close together; could that be the problem?

The vet did not notice a big round blob in Summer’s abdomen.

Summer was sent home with very little gained.

During nights, Summer became even more restless. She would lay down on her side, next to a fan, and started licking bed covers.

The day after she finished her steroid treatment, Summer stopped eating. Her mom gave it a couple of days to see whether things get better after the steroids wash out of Summer’s system. But things did not get better. There were times when Summer would practically collapse.

Armed with videos of Summer’s problems and the x-rays from the ER vet, Summer’s mom made another appointment with their regular vet.

The regular vet did notice the blob in Summer’s abdomen.

And she didn’t like the looks of it. That was the first time anybody uttered the words splenic tumor. This was a stunning development.

An ultrasound confirmed a problem with Summer’s spleen.

There was still hope. It could be a hemangioma. The next morning, Summer was scheduled for surgery. Given how miserable Summer has been, they decided that if hemangiosarcoma were confirmed, they would not wake her up from the anesthesia.

As they opened her up, they found that cancer had metastasized all over Summer’s abdomen and the primary tumor was bleeding all over the place. With a broken heart, Summer’s mom told the veterinarians to let Summer cross the Rainbow Bridge.

The tumor bleeding off and on was likely behind Summer’s good and bad days.

Summer did have back issues. But splenic cancer sneaked up behind those.

Please, read the full story at eileenanddogs.

Related articles:
Is Your Dog’s Arthritis Acting Up? If You Catch Yourself Using These Words, Consider an Abdominal Ultrasound

Categories: CancerConditionsHemangiosarcomaReal-life Stories

Tags: :

Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

Share your thoughts