Dear GSD Form, I hope there are still few of you left on here who remember me and my puppy, Rorie (and his sister, Gretchen). Rorie grew up to be the most magnificent and unique GSD in the entire UNIVERSE..... (I'm allowed to say that.... I'm his mommy and he's now gone..... :-( )
Yes, Rorie died on Tuesday night at the age of 10 years and 11 months from CARDIO HEMANGIOSARCOMA!!!!
I am completely and absolutely devastated. This happened so quickly and unexpectedly and I am in complete shock. I haven't stopped crying since then.
He was fine in the morning and gone in the evening! He had no symptoms. We had absolutely no idea that he was ill. This cancer is one of the most aggressive ones.
Rorie was otherwise healthy, energetic, full of life, goofy as ever, physically and mentally fit. He still ran and played. He went on long walks and event hikes in the woods. There was absolutely no signs that he had cancer of the heart!!!
I never heard of this disease before, but apparently it is very prevalent in GSDs... Below, I'm including a description of it for you.
This is Rorie as a baby...
And here he is just a couple of days ago....
Rest in Peace my little Red King. Mommy will never forget you.....
Hemangiosarcoma, also known as malignant hemangiothelioma or angiosarcoma, is a very aggressive, high-grade soft tissue cancer of vascular tissue with the skin, heart and spleen the most common areas affected. Visceral (internal) tumors are highly malignant tumors with a poor prognosis. This highly malignant cancer originates in the lining of the blood vessels, spreads rapidly, causing tumors almost anywhere in the body. Insidiously, it attempts to build its own blood vessel network, making blood-blister-like formations which disrupt normal organ function. A common form of cancer in dogs, hemangiosarcoma affects mostly older, large breed dogs although all dogs, including young, can be affected. Males tend to have a higher rate of diagnosis than females, with German Shepherds, Portuguese Water Dogs and Golden Retrievers more affected than other breeds.
Visceral (internal) hemangiosarcoma accounts for 2% of all reported malignancies and up to 5% of all noncutaneous tumors in dogs. Although these numbers seem small, the impact is significant since this form of cancer kills. The spleen and right atrium of the heart are the most common sites of occurrence of visceral hemangiosarcoma. The spleen is seated deeply within the abdomen and tends to go unnoticed unless it develops a growth of unusual size. Because the spleen is especially vascular, any growth, regardless of whether it is benign or malignant, has a tendency to break open and bleed profusely. If the splenic tumor is found early and is not too large, a splenectomy (removal of the spleen) may be preformed. Although a splenectomy certainly protects from this life-threatening sudden bleed, splenic hemangiosarcoma is still a rapidly spreading malignancy. 25% of dogs with splenic hemangiosarcoma also have a heart-based hemangiosarcoma.
Like the splenic hemangiosarcoma, the heart-based hemangiosarcoma tends to exert its life-threatening effects by bleeding. The heart is enclosed in a sac called the "pericardium." When the hemangiosarcoma bleeds, the blood fills up the pericardium creating so much pressure that the heart can no longer function. If allowed to progress, results are a circulatory collapse called a "pericardial tamponade" and can only be relieved by withdrawing the excess fluid from within the pericardium. At the time the heart-based hemangiosarcoma is discovered, 63% have evidence of metastatic tumor.
Bleeding disorders associated with hemangiosarcoma are sometimes confused with immune-mediated hemolytic anemia because the type of anemia caused by the two conditions is very similar and early clinical signs are often very similar. Also, due to the thrombocytopenia (platelet deficiency), immune-mediated thrombocytopenia may be suspected.
Visceral hemangiosarcomas leave little warning they are present prior to causing severe clinical signs of disease. A common estimate of the average time from discovery of the tumor until death occurs is six to eight weeks, but death occurs more rapidly than this in some cases. Visible bleeding, usually in the form of nosebleeds, and signs associated with blood loss, such as tiring easily, episodes of unexplained weakness, pallor to the mucus membranes of the mouth and eyes, increased respiratory rates, abdominal swelling and depression are the most common presenting signs for hemangiosarcoma. A few dogs just suddenly die with no clinical signs having been noted. A large splenic hemangiosarcoma can be found on physical exam. Heart-based hemangiosarcoma is hard to find on physical exam and can be missed on x-rays. If bloody fluid is aspirated from the abdomen, hemangiosarcoma is suspected. Sometimes hundreds of small tumors are spread throughout the body, and surgical exploration or an autopsy are the only ways to identify the problem.
In summary, hemangiosarcoma tumors cause significant bleeding extra-vascular (outside the blood vessels) and clotting intra-vascular (within the blood vessels) and spread early; survival times are usually short. Surgery is helpful to prevent massive blood loss, but rarely affords a cure. Chemotherapy can be helpful, but even with aggressive treatment survival beyond one year is extremely rare. Only superficial skin tumors allow long-term survival with surgery alone, although recurrence is likely.