Raising Your Paws - Your Pet Parent Resource

When the Diagnosis is Canine Cancer. (Blog #106)

Published: 11/11/2021
Rosy lying in the grass

I’d like to tell you what has been going on with Rosy since I wrote about her emergency  surgery.

I got the biopsy back from when they took out her spleen and she does have cancer. It’s visceral hemangiosarcoma – the kind that affects the internal organs.  There is no cure for it.  Standard of care is chemotherapy but it’s not known to be very effective on this type of canine cancer.

Basically this is an aggressive cancer of the endothelial cells that line the blood vessels. Not good news at all to use a major understatement. …….I didn’t tell you  about this before, because I really did not know what to say nor if I should share the bad/sad news with you and I’ve been in emotional turmoil and quite distressed.  My liaison, Adam, at NutriSource pet foods, encouraged me to let you know – after all, you have been hearing all about Rosy throughout the podcast.

So, I got a recommendation from my regular vet for an oncologist and off we went. I was sad that because of the blasted pandemic, I was not going to be able see him in person as he interacted with my dog. It had to be over the phone. Sigh……….But he was great – spent a lot of time talking to me. Explained exactly why chemotherapy is not very effective in fighting this particular type of cancer. The cells that line the blood vessels are VERY resistant to any medicine and attempts to kill them. It makes sense when you think about it. Blood is our life line and the vessels are the pipeline. Gotta be tough little cells. But when they become cancerous – hard to treat. You may recall, she had a mass in her spleen which had bled into her abdomen.  As this type of hemangiosarcoma is essentially a cancer that is in the blood, microscopic spread of the cancer cells into other parts of the body or other organs is a real possibility.

On Oct. 14, the oncologist did recommend doing the heavy duty intravenous chemo therapy but  acknowledged that the first thing I needed to do was to decide if I wanted to use chemo or not.  On average, it may offer a few more months of survival to a dog. But it may not.  And there could be some negative side effects that Rosy would experience from the chemo  – or not. No way to know in advance.

You can imagine, I left there needing to do a lot of thinking. I made an appointment for the following week with this doctor to do some further diagnostics like an ultrasound of her abdomen and x-rays of her chest to see if the cancer had spread and give my decision about if I wanted to start chemotherapy.  Many people do and many people don’t with this type of cancer.

So two things I found out in the week in between the appointments. One, a dog can have episodes of internal bleeding –and become anemic. They are very tired, and don’t feel like eating. It is upsetting to see a dog go through this, but if they are not really bad bleeds, the body absorbs the blood over time and the dog can recover from the episode. This happened to Rosy. She got VERY lethargic , her gums became a pale pink color (not the usual bubble gum pink that is normal)  and all she could really do iwas lie down and sleep. Very thirsty. I brought small bowls of water over to her bed where she could lap up the water easily without getting up and I hand fed her food when she could eat.

Two, there is a Chinese herb called Yunnan Baiyao that is recommended by most veterinarians that helps stop bleeding in dogs with this cancer. When she had the surgery I was sent home with capsules of this.  Besides the regular capsules that Rosy gets on a  daily basis there is a concentrated dose of the herbs in the form of a small red coated pill that comes in the center of the package of capsules. This controls bleeding in emergency situations. Rosy was given this red pill by my vet the first time she had an internal bleed. It works to stop the hemorrhaging. It seems like a miracle pill.  I am so grateful to be able to give these to Rosy because I feel like I am doing something to help her.   You can only give the red pill on a limited basis in any  24 hours, so if you ever find yourself fighting hemangiosarcoma, make sure you consult with your vet about how many red pills to give your dog. And you need to source the herb from either your vet or a reliable, trusted place the vet recommends. In the past there have been issues with counterfeit Yunnan baiyao being sold. Please be careful with this.

In two days, Rosy had recovered from the event and was her energetic waggy-tailed self in time for the next appointment with the oncologist.

It’s hard for me to write this,  but after her ultrasound and talking to Dr. H, (as I call him) the news got worse. The ultrasound showed that there was more blood in her abdomen and an ill-defined mass had grown in the belly.  Wasn’t causing any pain to Rosy but this indicated that the cancer was rapidly advancing and Dr. H, told me he did not recommend doing any chemotherapy at this point. No oral, no intravenous.  The cancer was so far ahead of us, that nothing we could do would catch up.

“Let Rosy be Rosy” and consider palliative care as it progresses,  was his compassionate suggestion. No way to know how long she would be with me.

I am taking good care of her. She is taking supplements Dr. Royal is giving her to build up her immune system, getting exercise which makes her feel good, seeing her dog and human friends, and enjoying her life. When she feels well, I take her to some of her favorite places.  She sleeps hard and heavy more often now, but I know this is what she needs.

We are having some great adventures. We went to a very large dog park she loves, recently, where she can sniff and explore off leash in wide open spaces. She is interested in greeting the other dogs at the park, and socializing but is very wise about not roughhousing with them.  She is not running madly along with them anymore, or outracing them in games of chase, as she used to do –  which is painful to see but she is pacing and taking care of herself, which I’m proud to see.

If you are also dealing with cancer in a pet or have done so in the past, I know now, how brutal and heartbreaking this can be.  Tell me about your dog or cat if you’d like. Write me at susan@raisingyourpaws.com or you can comment on this blog.  Here is a happy time we had recently. I’ll share an update on how she is doing in the next podcast episode.

Rosy and me enjoying the Beach on Oct. 23, 2021.


  1. Oh Susan, thank you for the update.
    I have been thinking about you and Rosy a lot and hoping that she is having more good days than bad.
    Give her a kiss from all of us.

    • Thank you Leslie,

      So far that is true – on her good days, she is the loving, sweet and happy dog you know. Kisses given.

    • Susan, So sorry my dear friend and so sorry for the sweet and beautiful Rosy. She is truly so special – Thanks for the update and definitely give her a kiss and a pat from me …..

  2. Dear Susan and Rosy, This is such sad news. I am praying for both of you.
    With lots of love.

    • Hi Candy, Thank you for your prayers. I’m living every moment with her staying as positive as I can when I’m around her so that she feels my love and appreciation rather than my sadness. It is hard to do this though at times.

  3. Hi Susan,
    Sorry to hear about Rosy. I lost my first dog, Heidi, to cancer. The tumor was removed from her adrenal gland. It gave us another year together. During her last months she was hypoglycemic an d needed frequent meals and glucose supplements to prevent seizures. One day that didn’t work and she was in crisis . I had her euthanized, emergently. I wish I had done so sooner. I had just lost my husband 5 months prior and I wasn’t really thinking about her respectfully I guess. I should have noticed her quality of life changes earlier. And, her vet was not as forthcoming as yours seems to be. It’s a hard decision, no matter when. Prayers for you both!