Scout’s Diagnosis: Canine Hemangiosarcoma

The Stealthy Killer

One of the worst things about having your dog die suddenly is the guilt that emerges. What did I do? What didn’t I do? What did I miss?

Because everything happened so quickly on July 2 and the fact that most places are still implementing social distancing (which I advocate), the morning I lost Scout I came away shell-shocked. My regular vet was on vacation. The emergency vet who saw Scout initially only communicated over cell phone with the shocking words: he’s dying. He’s nearly coded twice.

To hear these words about a dog who the previous day was a little slower but eating, barking at deliveries, happy, ran out to see his “daddy” when he arrived home, is mind-boggling.

My mind asked the vet to stop. Wait. What? He was there three weeks ago. How is this possible?

She replied that “yes, it could be just this quick.”

I said: “We need to be there.” I wouldn’t let Scout nor any of the dogs or cat who’ve been in my life die alone.

The entire episode was over in probably less than 10 minutes: The arrival at the hospital, the technician taking Scout inside, talking to the emergency vet, walking around to the back of the building to a room where we would be isolated, talking to Scout to let him know we were there–although he might have been too far gone by that time to hear–and then the vet injecting him with the overdose of pentobarbitol. He was gone.

We stayed longer. Disbelief surrounding shock and grief.

The cause: A tumor or a broken blood vessel.

The Dog Days when the author’s house was full of the happiness of four dogs. Rescue Shevy, NESR (ONB) Scout and NESR Kasey. Scout had been in his foster home (soon to be his furever home) for four months. January 30, 2010

Canine Hemangiosarcoma

I contacted my regular vet via email. She is probably one of the best vets I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. She’s intelligent and her heart is as big as anyone’s I’ve met. When she first saw Scout, she fell in love. Let’s face it. For anyone who loves and understands dogs, knowing Scout’s history and seeing his beautiful, sweet face, his brave stoicism, meant immediate caring.

She had seen him just 23 days before. Except for needing to lose a few pounds, he was in great shape for a dog of 14(+?). Because I was worried about a cough, she x-rayed his lungs. Again no problems.

In her reply email, she said she was devastated. She looked at his chart and said that it was most probably hemangiosarcoma.

Hemangiosarcoma is a mouthful, but what it is ultimately is a dog death-sentence because even if the disease is detected early, current means of treatment don’t extend the dog’s life significantly1. In most cases, like Scout’s, the disease is not detected until the tumor has hemorrhaged.

Research being conducted by a group at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota called The Shine On Project may be yielding results via a blood test that is being modified to provide early detection of the hemangiosarcoma cells as well as a drug that may prevent the disease when it’s been identified. Their results so far provide hope.

In a follow up email, after having read about hemangiosarcoma, I asked my vet one question: was Scout in pain?

Her response, for which I was grateful in so many ways, was: He would have been acutely very weak but pain-free.

In all of the ways that we want to barter, offer anything for a bit more time, for one last hug, one last wag of the tail, the one thing I would not exchange for more time would be Scout’s pain-free death.

1I found one case of an 7 year old Aussie taken to the emergency room who had his spleen removed and survived for 14 months but the story has no follow up.

Below is more information on canine hemangiosarcoma:

The Shine On Project

Can We Find a Cure for Canine Hemangiosarcoma?


Hemangiosarcoma in Dogs – An Aggressive Blood Vessel Cancer

30 thoughts on “Scout’s Diagnosis: Canine Hemangiosarcoma

  1. I am still so, so sorry you have lost Scout, but I am relieved to hear it was pain-free and he likely heard your voices at the end.

    1. Thank you, Briana. πŸ’– The one thing that helps is to know he was pain-free because as you know I’ve been through seeing my other dogs in pain and having to weigh when to let them go. None of it’s easy but to think that I might have kept them around and in pain . . .

  2. Good to know he was pain free, and good to know you were with him. Such a shock, especially when he had been so well the day before. I am so sorry Sascha. With Barney it was a nipped spinal cord and paralysis. He’d been playing with his football, hit it funny, and that was that, he couldn’t move, not even wag his tail. The vet was marvelous, and we stayed. We saw him when we took Maggie for microchipping and her final jabs. He was pleased we’d got another dog and told us although he couldn’t tell us at the time, we had made the right decision. It didn’t make it any easier, and 15 plus years on, it is still raw. We love our pets so much, want to do the best for them, and when they leave us, the emptiness is vast and cannot be filled. My thoughts and love are with you. <3

    1. Oh, Di, I’m so sorry. Sophie likes to jump high to catch her ball and one time she came down wrong and my stomach flipped because I have read about the bad things that can happen. Poor Barney! And, it is difficult to let them go even when you know it’s the right thing to do. I don’t think our dogs ever truly leave our hearts, even years after they’ve passed. I’m glad you brought Maggie into your life.

      1. Barney loved his football, but after what happened, we never encouraged Maggie. However, she’s a runner and would fly off the end of the little jetty or over groynes at Hamworthy Park and make my heart flip. The heart’s willing, but the legs aren’t, though sometimes she forgets and tries to chase the gulls or pigeons. I lasted just 6 days before we got her. It was hard going home after work, but for Hubby it was worse as he was in the empty house all day.

  3. Dear Sascha,

    I weep with you and wish Word Press had something besides a “like.” Sadly we outlive our pets. We’ve had dogs and cats who’ve gone over the rainbow bridge, but never left our hearts. I’m so sorry for your loss. You gave him a loving home and were with him to the end. Sending hugs.



    1. I know what you mean about WP. Sometimes I hate the “like” button because sometimes it feels so totally wrong to “like” some posts. Thank you for your kindness. I’m still “seeing” him, “hearing” him, “expecting” him to be in his places. A part of my brain thinks he’s just visiting somewhere and will be home soon–which is a really weird thing to admit to but I think it has to do with the suddenness of it, the lack of preparation.

      Thank you so much, Rochelle. 🧑

  4. Oh my god. I am so so so so sorry to read this. I am so sorry that this happened to you and Scout. Dogs are true blessings, and I constantly wish they lived as long as humans, because they are the purest love this world knows. You gave him a loving and fantastic 14 years, and I am so glad he wasn’t in any pain.

    Having your pet taken so suddenly is a pain I, unfortunately, know very well. My best friend died of sudden kidney failure at only 5 years old. (Literally playing ball in the back yard one day, and then gone one week later.) As I was reading your post, I my heart was breaking with every word because these are things I said almost exactly.

    It is such a shocking, traumatic, shattering situation, and I am thinking about you and sending healing thoughts during this difficult time.

    1. Thank you so much. I am sorry that you went through this too. You are so right about the love. The happy greetings, the sweet eyes, the wagging tail, all given so freely. Thank you. ❀

  5. Sascha, I’m so sorry about your loss. Your Scout sounds like a true best friend that was well loved. I’m sure he knew it right up to the very end. You can find peace knowing he wasn’t in pain. That is a true blessing. Sending hugs.

  6. I met Scout ever so briefly as a volunteer with NESR, in the whirlwind of days as dogs took their next steps in their New Beginnings. It’s so bittersweet to hear the stories of these amazing, resilient dogs as they ease into old age or pass on to the next part of their journey. Thank you, thank you for giving Scout the life he was always meant to have.

    1. Thank you, Melinda, for writing. Yesterday I revisited the notes that preceded and came with Scout and then marveled over the dog he was 11 years later. He was never the “average ” dog and each new doggie achievement gave me so much joy. I was truly the lucky one. Thank you. πŸ•β€

  7. The hardest thing I’ve had to do in life was say goodbye to my dogs. Both of my previous Newfoundland dogs were fine one day then not the next.
    I felt so bad when I first read your post on Facebook as I know how you feel. Sending you virtual hugs.

    1. Thank you, Susan. The only thing I’m grateful for is that Scout didn’t suffer and didn’t have to go through as much stress as the dogs I lost previously. 🧑

  8. I am so very sorry, Sascha. I recall our devastation when we lost our lovely staffie – waiting for the doggy cuddle that never comes… Good to know he didn’t suffer, though.

  9. I’m tearing up reading this. I feel like I knew Scout from reading your posts the past couple of years. I’m so sorry. It’s a cruel cosmic joke that we love them so deeply, and their lives are so comparatively short.

  10. So sorry for the loss of your dear Scout. I know we love our pets so much, and it is so hard to have to let them go. (((hugs))) <3

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