Cardiac Hemangiosarcoma - Advice
Hercules has taught me how to love unconditionally. I have had many animals in my life, but 7 years ago when I got my GSD puppy I formed a bond that I didn't know existed. He is my best friend, has been through so much with me. He is a sweet, affectionate, talkative, loving German Shepherd. He has had a wonderful life, from playing on the ranch with the horses, to his obsession with my cat - chases her everywhere and she swats at him from behind furniture and then curls up with him at night. He goes to work with me on a daily basis, does long distance runs, patiently waits in line with me in the morning at starbucks, and always makes sure to check everyones desk ever 30 minutes to make sure no one has forgotten he is there. A dog with quite a personality is an understatement! I never have to guess how he is feeling, he will always let me know.
Three weeks ago I took him out to go to the bathroom at work and then he just stood there staring off into space. I had to practically drag him back inside (which is abnormal as it gets for a dog that loses his mind if he doesn't know where I am.) I called the vet immediately, walked him home (he had to stop every few minutes, it was a struggle just to get him to the car.) 8 hours later, lots of tests, it was found that his pericardial sack around his heart was filled with fluid and there was a large mass on the base of the heart. They removed the fluid and told me they believed it was hemangiosarcoma and the outlook was grim - without treatment days to weeks. I went and saw the oncologist the next day and both him and the cardiologist were looking at the case and believed that it actually may just be a tumor due to the location and density of the mass. This was definitely more positive news. Unfortunately due to the location of the mass they thought it would be too risky to do a biopsy and suggested we wait 3 weeks, come back and do another ultrasound to see if the mass has grown and how quickly the fluid was building back up within the sack.
Almost two weeks later Herc woke me up at 4 am showing the same lethargic symptoms, I rushed him back to the ER and the sack had filled back up already. Additionally at this point he developed an arrhythmia. Based on how quickly the bleed started again and apparently they couldn't see the mass on the ultrasound anymore because they looked at it after the fluid was removed they were back to the original prognosis of Hemangiosarcoma.
At this point I could wait for him to have another bleed and bring him in to do another tap (which he could die really at any point), chose to remove the pericardium sack or consider chemo. The oncologist didn't recommend starting with chemo because they still weren't 100% sure what it was and did not want to treat him incorrectly.
Hercules just had his 7th birthday a month ago today. I decided to do the Surgery because it also allowed us to get a biopsy. The surgery went extremely well, he is 6 days out and practically dragging me around, chasing the cat (as much as I will let him) and acting like his old self. The biopsy revealed a confirmed diagnosis of Hemangiosarcoma.
Hercules has never been sick a day in his life. He has been a healthy happy dog, and I know many others have shared this same experience. I am always sad at his birthday's because I don't want him to get older, but never did I expect a few weeks later with no warning that he was going to die.
I have read up on quite a few forums but I haven't been able to find many situations quite like this in which people have taken the same route. The mass on his heart is inoperable. The only option now is to do nothing or to do a mild or more aggressive chemo treatment. With there being a mass I'm not sure chemo is really worth it. According to the oncologist, with his prognosis after surgery he says he has about 2-3 months. With chemo possibly 4-5. I know there are a lot of people with dogs that experience this on the spleen and they are able to remove the mass but I don't know how quickly the masses grow again and if it presents even more danger if it is on the heart and can't be removed.
I am leaning towards not doing the Chemo simply because it doesn't seem worth putting him through another treatment every 3 weeks for the possibility of a month or two more. But if there are any stories of people in a similar situation that had good results I'm definitely interested in hearing. And I'm asking specifically for those who's pup had a inoperable cardiac mass.
I am so sorry for anyone else who has had to deal with such a terrible disease. It is unfair that such amazing companions in our life can leave us so quickly but I would not give up these 7 years for anything, even knowing the outcome.
Thank you all for any advice that you give and for reading my story