Hemangiomas and Hemangiosarcomas in Dogs - Symptoms and Treatments

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brown and white dog looking lethargic under a fuzzy off white blanket

brown and white dog looking lethargic under a fuzzy off white blanket

What is hemangioma and hemangiosarcoma in dogs?

Hemangioma and hemangiosarcoma are two types of visceral vascular tumors that develop from blood vessels in the internal organs of a dog. Hemangioma is a benign tumor, while hemangiosarcoma is a highly malignant tumor that can spread easily to other parts of the body. These tumors can occur anywhere in the body where there are blood vessels, but they are more commonly found in areas with a rich blood supply, such as the skin, bladder, intestines, heart, and spleen.

The symptoms of hemangioma and hemangiosarcoma will vary depending on the location of the tumor. You can expect symptoms such as lumps, weakness, collapse, anorexia, weight loss, and even coma. It is important to detect and treat these tumors early. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. However, early detection is key in increasing the chances of successful treatment. Seeking medical attention ASAP can help ensure your dog receives the best prognosis for this potentially serious condition.

Causes of hemangioma and hemangiosarcoma in dogs

Although the exact cause of these conditions remains unknown, certain factors are believed to contribute to their development. It is presumed that genetic predisposition and sun exposure may affect the presence of these two types of tumors. The following lists will show the breeds that are genetically predisposed and breeds that are affected by UV exposure for their short, thin, and light-colored hair.

Breeds with a genetic predisposition to hemangiomas and hemangiosarcomas

  • Golden Retriever
  • German Shepherd
  • Labrador Retriever
  • English Setter
  • Boxer
  • Doberman Pinscher

Breeds affected by UV exposure

  • Pit Bull
  • Greyhound
  • Whippet
  • English Pointer
  • Dalmatian
  • Basset Hound

Symptoms of visceral vascular tumors in dogs

black and white dog with bloodshot eyes resting on white sheets

When it comes to visceral vascular tumors, the symptoms can differ depending on the affected organ in your dog’s body. Symptoms may not be noticeable during the early stages of tumor growth. Only as the tumor progresses, there can be rupturing of fragile blood vessels which will lead to bleeding. In severe stages of hemangioma and hemangiosarcomas, symptoms can quickly worsen and in some cases be fatal for the affected dog.

Symptoms of visceral vascular tumors in the most commonly affected organs:


Skin tumors such as hemangiomas or hemangiosarcomas can be easily noticed due to their clear visibility, and often mild symptoms. Though skin tumors are more commonly identified as hemangiomas, hemangiosarcoma cannot be ruled out entirely. Typically, the tumors appear as dark red, red, or purple masses on the abdomen or legs, and may be felt under the skin. Additionally, bleeding or bruising around the tumor may also appear.

In cases where the tumor has gone unnoticed and progressed to other organs, or if there is severe local invasion, your pet may experience lethargy, anorexia, pain, lameness, and ulcers. If you suspect your pet has a skin tumor, it's important to have it evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible.


The spleen is a vital organ where blood can accumulate, and unfortunately, it's also a common site for hemangiosarcoma. It's important to note that if a tumor is detected in the spleen, other organs should be examined as well, as metastases to the heart or liver are common. The location of the tumor can rupture quickly, leading to bleeding and the filling of the abdominal cavity with blood.

This can lead to symptoms of anemia, such as:

  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Collapse
  • Coma
  • Abdominal distension
  • Pale mucous membrane or gums


Hemangiosarcoma has been known to often develop in the right atrium of the heart. This area is particularly vulnerable to bleeding because the tissue is fragile, similar to the spleen.

As the pressure and bleeding from the tumor fills the chest cavity with blood, symptoms include:

  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Collapse
  • Coma
  • Cough
  • Exercise intolerance or difficulty walking
  • Sudden collapse
  • Shortness of breath

Risk of hemangioma and hemangiosarcoma in dogs

Hemangiosarcoma can be a potentially life-threatening condition, that can become critical before symptoms even become noticeable. In case you observe a dark red mass under the skin, it's advisable to seek medical attention and undergo a test to determine the root cause of the mass. Additionally, if your pet shows sudden signs of lethargy, difficulty exercising, loss of consciousness, or difficulty breathing, it's crucial to promptly take them to a hospital for examination.

Are there any home treatments for hemangioma and hemangiosarcoma in dogs?

Visceral vascular tumors do not have any effective home remedies available. This is considered a potentially life-threatening type of tumor that requires medical treatment for the most effective recovery. If this type of skin tumor ruptures and bleeds suddenly, it is suggested to immediately apply firm pressure to the affected area to stop the bleeding and seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Diagnosing hemangioma and hemangiosarcoma in dogs

sick golden retriever laying on side while veterinarian checks her heartrate

Hemangioma or hemangiosarcoma can be a challenging condition to diagnose, particularly when it affects internal organs rather than the skin. This is because the symptoms can be vague and non-specific. In these cases, various tests need to be conducted to arrive at an accurate diagnosis. In an emergency, the hospital will prioritize quick and efficient treatment to stabilize the patient first. The necessary tests will be performed promptly, and appropriate treatment such as surgery or fluid therapy will be administered to manage the condition.

After obtaining a detailed history and a full physical examination is performed to check for any evidence of underlying conditions. By conducting a thorough examination and gathering pertinent information, the veterinarian can make a more accurate diagnosis and provide appropriate treatment for dogs with visceral vascular tumors.

  • Blood and urine tests

    Blood tests can identify any issues with organs like the liver or kidneys, check electrolyte levels, and evaluate blood cells and clotting function. A urine test can help identify any abnormalities in the urinary system, such as the kidneys, bladder, urethra, and ureters. These tests can help veterinarians narrow down potential causes and develop an appropriate treatment plan for the dog.

  • X-ray

    An X-ray of the chest and abdomen can confirm if there is a tumor in the heart, spleen, or other internal organs.

  • Ultrasound

    In cases where the location of a suspected tumor is not apparent through an X-ray, an ultrasound may be conducted to gain a more precise understanding. Depending on the suspected location of the tumor, different types of ultrasound can be utilized to identify it. For instance, echocardiography can detect tumors in the heart, while abdominal ultrasound can pinpoint tumors in organs like the liver or spleen.

  • Fine needle test (FNA) or biopsy

    When a lump or mass is detected under the skin of your pet, the diagnosis of the tumor can be determined by using a fine-needle test. This method involves extracting cells by piercing the mass with a needle. Alternatively, a biopsy can be performed to examine the entire mass.

    If the tumor is located in organs such as the spleen, liver, or heart, the veterinarian may choose not to proceed with these diagnostic tests due to the potential risks involved. This decision will depend on the specific location and nature of the tumor.

  • CT and MRI scans

    When hemangiosarcoma is suspected or diagnosed, additional upper imaging tests may be necessary to determine the stage of tumor metastasis. CT and MRI scans are commonly used for this purpose, as they can provide a detailed evaluation of the tumor's presence and location. Given that hemangiosarcoma is a tumor that commonly spreads to other organs, these imaging tests are often recommended. Identifying the tumor, assessing the presence of metastasis, and determining the stage is crucial in selecting appropriate treatment options and evaluating prognosis and survival time.

Treatment for hemangiomas and hemangiosarcomas in dogs

Hemangiomas can typically be resolved through surgical removal as they are often confined to the skin and benign in nature. However, hemangiosarcoma is considered an emergency, and prompt treatment is vital. If surgery is feasible, it is performed immediately. In cases where anesthesia poses a challenge, supportive therapy is administered first, including fluid therapy, blood transfusion, hemostasis, and removal of body fluid from the abdominal or thoracic cavity to alleviate symptoms. In cases where surgery is not feasible, chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be utilized depending on the location of visceral vascular tumors.

The prognosis for hemangiosarcoma varies depending on various factors including the size, location of the tumor, period of occurrence, and current condition of the patient. Early detection and removal of the tumor, when it is still small, typically results in a better outcome. Treatments are usually focused on slowing down the progression rate rather than curing hemangiosarcoma, to improve the quality of life and alleviate symptoms.

Treatment for visceral vascular tumors in the skin

Skin hemangiomas or hemangiosarcomas are usually noticeable to the naked eye, making them easy to detect at an early stage. The chance of spreading is low if the tumors are believed to be a result of UV exposure. Treatment is fairly straightforward and surgical removal will be conducted promptly. However, tumors that develop in the subcutaneous tissue tend to penetrate deeper and may have a poorer prognosis. If surgical removal is not feasible or the cancer has spread, chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be recommended.

Treatment for visceral vascular tumors in the spleen

If a dog is diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma in the spleen, surgery can be an option to remove the tumor. In some cases, the entire spleen may need to be removed, but this generally does not have a significant impact on the dog's quality of life. However, since hemangiosarcoma tends to spread to other organs, chemotherapy may also be necessary even after surgery to ensure the rest of the cancer cells are destroyed.

The prognosis for dogs with hemangiosarcoma in the spleen is typically poor and less than 10% of dogs with hemangiosarcoma survive for a year or more. Dogs who undergo surgical removal of the tumor alone may only live for 1 to 3 months on average. With the addition of chemotherapy, dogs may live for up to 9 months.

Treatment for visceral vascular tumors in the heart

When a dog is diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma of the heart, it's common for them to have pericardial effusion due to bleeding. This can lead to symptoms that can be relieved through pericardiocentesis, a procedure that involves removing fluid from around the heart through a needle. However, when tumors originate from the heart, surgical treatment becomes challenging, and most of the time, supportive therapies are used to manage symptoms. The prognosis for dogs with hemangiosarcoma in the heart is also typically very poor.

Can you prevent hemangioma and hemangiosarcoma in dogs?

Hemangioma or hemangiosarcoma in dogs cannot be prevented. While exposure to ultraviolet rays is believed to increase the likelihood of occurrence, it may be beneficial to limit walking during peak sun hours for breeds with light colors, thin coats, and short hair.

Regular health checkups are crucial for early detection of tumors and it is advisable to schedule yearly checkups for dogs aged 8 years and above.

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