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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Survival Times and Dog Cancer

Updated: March 25th, 2020

I recently got a comment from a reader who was quite upset with her veterinarian.

Turns out her dog underwent a splenectomy (spleen removal), presumably for treatment of a hemangiosarcoma (a malignant tumor of the blood vessel walls)  of the spleen. This dog lover was incensed that the vet  indicated this procedure, combined with removal of a lipoma (fatty tumor) at the same time, would extend her dog’s life for a “long time”.

Following the splenectomy, she was dismayed to find out, according to certain people, that this procedure would only extend her dogs life for an additional 3-6 months.  Whereupon she became “furious” at her vet, reasoned that the vet was trying to get her money, and sent in the comment.  My quotes indicate her wording.

I think there are various aspects to this scenario that deserve attention.

First and foremost, hindsight is 20-20. In cases of dog cancer, foresight is never 20-20.  However, foresight can be sharpened considerably by education.  I often will ramble on about “being your dog’s number one health advocate” and stress how information gathering is one of the initial steps that must be taken.

Most of us will research before buying a car.  However, the health professional industry, over probably thousands of years, has created a mass-consciousness belief that information from a Doctor should not be questioned.  I am sure that a whole book could be written about how and why this came about. Regardless of the genesis of this belief, it is now counter-intuitive for us to gather our own data about the care of our four legged family members.

Being your dogs primary health care advocate implies that the information is gathered before the action is executed.  Although it is not always natural, I think it is so important for everyone to please try to gather as much data as you can before embarking on what can be a complicated journey.  This was one of my main reasons for writing the Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

For more invaluable tools and information, get a copy of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide

In the case of this blog reader, it could be argued that, from her vet’s perspective, the removal of the spleen would indeed extend her dog’s life for a long time.  What does that phrase mean, anyway?  A “long time”?

If one were to look at years of life in proportion to lifespan, a one year would be half the life of a creature expected to live two years.  A year would indeed be a long time for this creature.

One year, in a dog with an average life expectancy of 12 years, is 8.3% of this dog’s life.  (Here is a good link for average life expectancies.)  Suppose a human were to live 80 years.  8.3% of that 80 years would be 6.67 years.

How about, say, 7 months for a dog?  Well, for a dog expected to live for 12 years, this turns out to be 3.88 years of life for a human with a life span of 80 years.

Is 3.88 years a long time for a human?  I don’t know.  Could be.  I guess it depends on your viewpoint.

A dog with a splenectomy following hemangiosarcoma and no further care of any kind could live 3 months (more than 1.5 “human” years) or longer.  With chemo maybe 7, and with diet, supplements, and the rest of the full spectrum plan maybe much longer.  Every dog is different.  These details are included in the Guide.

Anyway, the bottom line is this:  everything is relative.  Gather the data before you set sail and do what makes sense to you while using “compass”-ion as your compass.

Best to all,

Dr D


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Leave a Comment

  1. Mark Barnhart on May 28, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    My 11 year old golden retriever was diagnosed on May 18 th after persistance of me trying to find a reason for loose stool. Vet originally diagnosed bacterial infection and prescribed anti-biotics. It cleared and he was eating okay on chicken and rice diet. He relapsed the following week and I took him in and demanded ultrasound and x rays. They informed me at that time he had a suspicious area on his spleen. I took him the following day for a bad shave and an ultrasound. They confirmed a 10cm mass on his spleen. Given his age they suggested nature run it’s course, 2-4 months with surgery and 1-3 without,so I figured I would continue to spoil him and give him every minute of my love and attention as I always did. Sad to report that through tears,10 days after diagnosis, I had to put him down today due to severe internal bleeding. My heart is broken. I was with him through life, and with him as he died. Miss him so much and i know he’s not in pain. This disease is aggressive. Please fellow owners if something seems odd, it probably is. He was fine until two weeks ago, had diarrhea, and 10 days later is dead. This disease sucks!!! Keep on your vet and get the answer sooner. I only regret I couldn’t fix my Max, but vet will tell you “ well he’s 11”. He was on the boat swimming this morning, and at 2:15 I was holding him in my arms as they delivered the euthanasia.

  2. Lori on April 9, 2018 at 4:03 am

    Just doing some research on hemangiosarcoma and I came across this post. Our dog (female, 8 years old at time of diagnosis) had her spleen removed along with a very large tumor. We have done no other treatment and she is doing great. She had surgery to remove tumor/spleen the end of June 2017 – it is now April of 2018 and she has been cancer free. She had numerous x-rays done in January of 2018 which showed no signs of tumors. We are taking it one month at a time, but are very happy that she has done so well. I realize that not every dog lasts this long with hemangiosarcoma, but you never know as my dog is proof.

    • DogCancerBlog on April 9, 2018 at 10:42 am

      Hi Lori! We are so happy to hear about your dog and how well she is doing. Thank you for posting your story!

  3. Carol Gonshak on March 28, 2018 at 11:20 am

    This is the only promising story i have heard. My 11 year old golden had spleen removed 10 days ago. Hes doing great. Results came back cancer. Level 1 whatever that means. Vet said kidneys liver lungs all look good. Im so scared to loose him. How long did your pup last after diagnosis? Im starting him on organic canfood and immunity pills. Im freakin. Cananyone give me some hope. ♡

  4. Iris on December 18, 2015 at 3:19 am

    I gave surgery to my dog due haemogiosarcoma ,she had her spleen out and also Chemotherapy 3 sessions. Unfortunately it came back in the lung in about 3months later, was on steroids for a week and collapsed ,Vet said nothing more could be done. For my beautiful dog Chemo therapy did not extend although she had a good quality after surgery for a couple of months. Was told that there was no guarantees before surgery,but because they could not see any more tumours during this time I was told maybe with chemo it might not come back but if it did there was nothing more that could be done. I still haunts me as I miss her so much and did not want to euthenise but vet said no more could be done.

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