Canine Hemangiosarcoma – AKA How Jet Kicked Cancer’s Butt

Canine Hemangiosarcoma

Let me preface by telling you that the pictures included in this post are graphic. There is blood, open wounds, and stitches. There is also cancer.

A rapidly growing, highly invasive cancer.

That Jet survived.

Let me start from the beginning.

When Jet was around 8 years old a quarter sized growth popped up out of nowhere on his ankle. As we always do, we went straight to our vet at the time. The growth was identified as a histiocytoma (a benign skin tumor,) cut right off, stitched up, and (thankfully) never heard from again.

But then, in February 2015, a new growth appeared. This time, it was on the underside of his tail and very close to a quite embarrassing and sensitive location.

Canine Hemangiosarcoma


When I first saw it, I assumed it was another histiocytoma.

They can look somewhat similar.

But then, something else happened. I walked into the bedroom to this…

Bleeding Hemangiosarcoma

Well, to be fair it was just the bloody carpet, not the tissue or q-tip. Thinking perhaps Jet had broken the histiocytoma open by wagging his tail, I held the tissue on it until it stopped bleeding.

A few days later something worse happened.

Don’t worry, there’s no picture.

But Jet was lying on the floor in the living room. His dad and I came in to sit down. There was a puddle of blood on the floor.

I was sure I was going to throw up.

Now, for the most part, I am one of those people who manages quite well in the time of an emergency.

But this was a lot of blood. To make it worse, it had begun to coagulate so as we cleaned it up, it was…well, awful.

Jet sat watching as I held a piece of gauze on his tail. Then, when it didn’t stop bleeding, I put styptic powder on it to stop the bleeding.

I’m pretty sure that’s not the protocol for these types of things, but I didn’t know what else to do.

So, we bandaged him up and headed to our vet.

As it turns out, our vet was out of town for a conference. Jet HATES the vet, but has come to trust OUR vet, so when he wasn’t available, I worried.

The worry wasn’t warranted. The other vet at our practice was amazing.

Hemangiosarcoma in Dogs

She got Jet in that day for surgery to remove the lump. She was hesitant to give it a name.

She took it off cleanly, and Jet was home that night.

We sent the lump out for biopsy.

In the meantime, I was to keep the bandage changed regularly due to the position of the lump.

The next day, I changed the bandage only to find this…

Hemangiosarcoma of the Tail

The stitches had completely given way.

We headed to the vet.

Our timing was perfect because the lab results happened to have come back more quickly than they usually might.

Our vet was still out of town.

The other vet in the practice saw us immediately and looked at Jet’s wound.

She explained that the reason that the stitches may not have held was the fact that the lump had been hemangiosarcoma. The tissue was diseased.

Hemangiosarcoma is an aggressive cancer that develops from the blood vessel lining. In many cases, the cancer will have spread.

If I’m honest, I can’t recall the testing that we did following his diagnosis. We did, however, find out that Jet’s cancer had not spread.

Jet’s cancer was isolated. Not only that, but it was only a grade 2 tumor with minimal involvement of underlying tissue.

The vet told us that there were some options for our treatment plan. She said that she believed that she had been able to get good margins on the removal, and if we could get the wound to heal, she would feel better about how clean those margins were.

Our choices were to wait to see if the wound healed. If it healed we would watch and wait with regular monitoring of the area. At the first sign of any recurrence, we would obviously have to go right back in.

If the wound didn’t heal or if we weren’t confident that the vet had got good margins, we could opt for full tail removal.

We asked for a few days to think about our options so that we could consult our vet when he returned.

In the meantime, we were given a solution of iodine and sugar to put on the wound to facilitate healing. We were also given a supply of bandaging supplies. I was to change the dressing daily.

When our vet returned, we went for another visit.

He made it clear that the choice we made was up to us, but after examining Jet’s wound, he was confident that the full tumor was removed. The remaining tissue was healthy in appearance.

We talked about the fact that at 14, a full tail amputation would be extreme and very likely cause more problems than it would solve.

We decided instead to take a more complex approach to healing the wound on Jet’s tail.

Let me pause here to say that you should NEVER undertake a wound healing program for your pet without the explicit instruction of your vet. The plan that we laid out for Jet was one that my vet was confident in and one that he was confident in my ability to carry out.

Our plan consisted of the following:

  1. Remove Jet’s dressing daily.
  2. Cleanse the wound using Chlorhexidine solution.
  3. Use a clean surgical razor blade to debride (gently aggravate) the wound to promote blood flow to promote healing.
  4. Cut a small piece of petrolatum impregnated gauze and spread the iodine sugar solution on to it. Place this over the wound.
  5. Cover the wet gauze with a piece of dry gauze.
  6. Wrap the area with vet wrap moisture resistant bandage.

We repeated this process every day and watched as the wound began to heal.

Healing Hemangiosarcoma

Slowly but surely, the wound began to close.

Until eventually…

Healed Hemangiosarcoma

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Jet beat cancer.

He has been – *knock on wood* – cancer-free since February 2015.

We feel so very lucky not only because Jet is cancer free, but also because we have been blessed with such AMAZING vets.

If you ever find yourself in the Raleigh, NC, Cary, NC or Apex, NC area looking for a vet, drop me a note, we would be happy to refer you to ours.

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1 Comment

  1. Peta Keegan
    October 14, 2018

    Hi Amy, my bull Arab Girl has to similar. For about a year and a half everytime a spot pops up we book her in to get it removed right away. About a year ago we also had her heart and spleen scanned to check if it had traveled inside and thankfully it hadn’t. Now She has one on her eye and when I was washing her an hour ago I noticed one right near her anus. Shes booked in tomorrow morning for removal. Its possible the vet said to travel in her blood and as long as the lumps keep getting removed not travel to her organs?? I hope they’re right. I love my baby very much. She is 10.

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