DaDane of DaWeek

 Created: 02/26/07


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Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Conclusion

February 26, 2007 — Last week you read about the passing of Zeli and Bret Schulte's nine-year-old girl, Grendel. Grendel had been stricken with a deadly form of cancer called hemangiosarcoma. She was preceded in death by her "sister" Circe, who was struck down by the very same disease. I have long been aware of hemangiosarcoma because it killed my first Great Dane, an eight-year-old brindle named Bouncer. Since this is a disease that afflicts our breed, perhaps we should take some time to talk about it.

What is Hemangiosarcoma?
Hemangiosarcoma is a rapidly growing, rapidly metastasizing, blood-fed cancer of the soft tissue. Blood vessels grow directly into the tumor which then becomes engorged with blood. The tumors eventually rupture, causing the victim to bleed to death. Known as a silent killer, most dogs are symptom-free until they reach an advanced stage of the disease. Many die without warning. Symptoms may include decreased appetite, weight loss, general weakness, lethargy, pale gums, vomiting, and eventually shock. Blood work may show anemia, low platelet counts, DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation). Radiograph or ultrasound screening often reveals the primary cancer site to be the spleen or heart with involvement of the liver, lungs or brain.

Large breed dogs are more likely to be affected by hemangiosarcoma, most notably German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and Labs. However, as we've just seen, Great Danes are also vulnerable, as are Boxers, Huskies, Pointers, and Poodles.

Except in cases of skin-based hemangiosarcoma, the prognosis is extremely poor. The goal of treatment, which can involve surgery and/or chemotherapy, is to extend a dog's life for a few weeks or possibly a few months. In Grendel's case, Zeli and Bret went to extreme lengths to slow the course of the disease. Having lost Circe to a sudden internal hemorrhage due to hemangiosarcoma (unaware that she even had the disease) they were ready to fight when Grendel was diagnosed. She underwent surgery. Her spleen was removed along with a large section of her liver. This bought them another month.

A Unique Perspective
As Zeli puts it, "I have now seen the cancer from both sides – the sudden loss, and the fight for life." She feels that her recent experiences with hemangiosarcoma has put her in a unique position to inform us about detection, the course of the disease, options for treatment and other considerations. She has graciously offered to share her story here, hoping that it will help others. Stay tuned.

This was the introduction to the series.
Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Conclusion

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