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Classification and external resources
ICD-9-CM 155, others
ICD-O 9120/3
MeSH D006394

Hemangiosarcoma[1] is a rapidly growing, highly invasive variety of cancer, occurring almost exclusively in dogs and rarely in cats and horses. It is a sarcoma arising from the lining of blood vessels; that is, blood-filled channels and spaces are commonly observed microscopically. A frequent cause of death is the rupturing of this tumor, causing the patient to rapidly bleed to death.

The term angiosarcoma, when used without modifier, usually refers to hemangiosarcoma.[dubious ][citation needed] However, glomangiosarcoma (8710/3) and lymphangiosarcoma (9170/3) are distinct conditions [in humans]. Hemangiosarcomas are commonly associated with toxic exposure to thorium dioxide (Thorotrast), vinyl chloride, and arsenic.

Hemangiosarcoma in dogs[edit]

Hemangiosarcoma of the skin in a dog
Hemangiosarcoma of the spleen in a dog

Hemangiosarcoma is quite common in dogs, and more so in certain breeds of dogs including German Shepherd Dogs and Golden Retrievers.[2] It also occurs in cats, but is much rarer. Dogs with hemangiosarcoma rarely show clinical signs until the tumor has become very large and has metastasized. Typically, clinical signs are due to hypovolemia after the tumor ruptures, causing extensive bleeding. Owners of the affected dogs often discover that the dog has hemangiosarcoma only after the dog collapses.

The tumor most often appears on the spleen, right heart base, or liver, although varieties also appear on or under the skin or in other locations. It is the most common tumor of the heart, and occurs in the right atrium or right auricular appendage. Here it can cause right-sided heart failure, arrhythmias, pericardial effusion, and cardiac tamponade. Hemangiosarcoma of the spleen or liver is the most common tumor to cause hemorrhage in the abdomen.[3] Hemorrhage secondary to splenic and hepatic tumors can also cause ventriculararrythmias. Hemangiosarcoma of the skin usually appears as a small red or bluish-black lump. It can also occur under the skin. It is suspected that in the skin, hemangiosarcoma is caused by sun exposure.[3] Occasionally, hemangiosarcoma of the skin can be a metastasis from visceral hemangiosarcoma. Other sites the tumor may occur include bone, the kidney, the bladder, muscle, the mouth, and the central nervous system.

Clinical features[edit]

Presenting complaints and clinical signs are usually related to the site of origin of the primary tumor or to the presence of metastases, spontaneous tumor rupture, coagulopathies, or cardiac arrhythmias. More than 50% of patients are presented because of acute collapse after spontaneous rupture of the primary tumor or its metastases. Some episodes of collapse are a result of ventricular arrhythmias, which are relatively common in dogs with splenic or cardiac HSA.[4]

Most common clinical signs of visceral hemangiosarcoma include loss of appetite, arrhythmias, weight loss, weakness, lethargy, collapse, pale mucous membranes, and/or sudden death. An enlarged abdomen is often seen due to hemorrhage. Metastasis is most commonly to the liver, omentum, lungs, or brain.

A retrospective study published in 1999 by Ware, et al., found a five times greater risk of cardiac hemangiosarcoma in spayed vs. intact female dogs and a 2.4 times greater risk of hemangiosarcoma in neutered dogs as compared to intact males.

Clinicopathologic findings[edit]

Hemangiosarcoma can cause anemia, thrombocytopenia (low platelet count), and disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC).

HSAs usually cause a wide variety of hematologic and hemostatic abnormalities, including anemia; thrombocytopenia; presence of nRBC, schistocytes, and acanthocytes in the blood smear; and leukocytosis with neutrophilia, left shift, and monocytosis.

A definitive diagnosis requires biopsy and histopathology. Cytologic aspirates are usually not recommended as the accuracy rate for a positive diagnosis of malignant splenic disease is approximately 50%. This is because of frequent blood contamination and poor exfoliation. Surgical biopsy is the typical approach in veterinary medicine.


Treatment includes chemotherapy and, where practical, removal of the tumor with the affected organ, such as with a splenectomy. Splenectomy alone gives an average survival time of 1–3 months. The addition of chemotherapy, primarily consisting of the drug doxorubicin, alone or in combination with other drugs, can increase the average survival time to 5–7 months.

Visceral hemangiosarcoma is usually fatal even with treatment, and usually within weeks or, at best, months. In the skin, it can be cured in most cases with complete surgical removal as long as there is not visceral involvement.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation. Accessed 2012-12-06
  2. ^ Ettinger, Stephen J.; Feldman, Edward C. (1995). Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine (4th ed.). W.B. Saunders Company. ISBN 0-7216-6795-3. 
  3. ^ a b c Morrison, Wallace B. (1998). Cancer in Dogs and Cats (1st ed.). Williams and Wilkins. ISBN 0-683-06105-4. 
  4. ^ Nelson et al. Manual of Small Animal Internal Medicine. Elsevier Mosby: St. Louis, Missouri (2005)

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