Liver and Spleen Cancer (Hemangiosarcoma) in Cats

Spleen and Liver Hemangiosarcoma in Cats

Hemangiosarcomas are fed by the blood vessels and fill with blood. Because of this, the tumor can rupture, leading to sudden and severe hemorrhage, collapse, and rapid death. Often, owners do not realize their cat is affected until the sudden hemorrhage or collapse.

Hemangiosarcomas of the spleen and liver are highly metastatic and malignant vascular neoplasms (blood vessel tumors) that arise from the endothelial cells, which line the interior surface of blood vessels. It begins as a large mass that develops in the liver or spleen, spreading rapidly through the blood cell routes, most frequently to the liver from the spleen, or to the lungs from the spleen and liver. In some cases, it can also metastasize to the brain or heart. It can also lead to growth of implantation lesions in the omentum, an apron type fold in the abdominal wall.

This type of cancer is relatively rare in cats, as opposed to dogs. Often, just as with dogs, the cancer goes undetected and the cause of death is not known until a necropsy is performed. In cats, hemangiosarcomas were found in 18 cats out of 3,145 necropsies, with the liver the most common site to be affected. The average age of occurrence is ten years, and in cats, the domestic shorthair appears to be more disposed to hemangiosarcomas.  

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms are generally related to the organs involved; that is, a tumor of the spleen will result in impaired spleen function, and a tumor of the liver will result in impaired liver function. Other common symptoms include:

  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Lameness
  • Intermittent collapse
  • Muscle incoordination (ataxia)
  • Partial loss of movement (paresis)
  • Seizures
  • Dementia
  • Pale mucous membranes
  • Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Abdominal (peritoneal) fluid
  • Palpable abdominal mass
  • Acute blood loss (often fatal)

Causes

Cause is unknown.

Diagnosis

You will need to give a thorough history of your cat’s health leading up to the onset of symptoms, and as much detail as you can about the symptoms you have observed. The history you provide may give your veterinarian clues as to which organs are being affected. A complete blood profile will be conducted, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. Findings can include anemia or a low blood platelet count.

Diagnostic imaging is one of the best methods for viewing the abdominal cavity and making an initial diagnosis. X-rays may reveal one or more abdominal masses, along with possible evidence of abdominal fluid. Thoracic radiography of the chest cavity can detect metastasis into the lungs. Ultrasonography can be used to reveals masses in the spleen and any liver involvement. Echocardiography may be performed in patients with evidence of fluid around the heart and may detect cardiac masses. Your doctor may also be able to use ultrasound to guide a fine needle to the tumor in order to take a tissue and fluid biopsy. An analysis of tissue taken directly from the tumor is the most conclusive method for making a diagnosis.

paresis

A type of paralysis that may be only slight; affects the way that an animal is able to move

necropsy

An examination of the inside of a dead body; used to determine the cause of death; may also be referred to as an autopsy

platelet

A cell that aids in clotting

splenectomy

A surgical procedure in which the spleen is removed.

urinalysis

An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness

tachycardia

A medical condition in which the patient has an abnormally fast heartbeat

radiography

A procedure of imaging internal body structures by exposing film

malignant

Something that becomes worse or life threatening as it spreads

ataxia

A medical condition in which an animal is unable to control the movements of their muscles; may result in collapse or stumbling.

anemia

A condition of the blood in which normal red blood cell counts or hemoglobin are lacking.

abdominal wall

The abdominal wall is a group of bones, muscles, and vital tissues that make up the wall around the organs in the abdomen. Inside these bones, muscles, and tissues is a cavity, and the cavity is what houses the vital organs found inside the abdomen. The abdominal wall is vital for protection of these organs.

biopsy

The process of removing tissue to examine it, usually for medical reasons.

dehydration

A medical condition in which the body has lost fluid or water in excessive amounts

implantation

An attachment of the zygote inside the uterus

hemorrhage

Extreme loss of blood

abdominal cavity

The space in the abdomen that holds the major digestive organs in an animal. Normally referred to as the area between the diaphragm and the pelvis. Also referred to as the peritoneal cavity.

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