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Bacteria and Hemangiosarcoma Dogs

Families of hemangiosarcoma dogs share bonds of shock and heartbreak. A fairly common cancer, especially in some breeds, hemangiosarcoma often results in a sudden, quick end. Like fine one minute, critical the next. The tumors start with cells lining blood vessels, often attaching to the dog's heart or spleen. In many cases, symptoms begin with pale gums / tongue and collapse because of internal bleeding. It. Is. Devastating. We lost our yellow Lab mix dog, Cody, to it many years ago. New research uncovered a possible connection between chronic, but undetected, bacterial infections and this aggressive cancer in hemangiosarcoma dogs.

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Some of you may know our dear friend Carol Bryant and her site Fidose of Reality. All of us shared in her devastation upon the loss of her amazing dog, Dexter, to hemangiosarcoma in 2021. She provides excellent information on this type of cancer, if you need it. 

Because hemangiosarcoma often goes undetected until an advanced stage, only 12-20% of dogs survive a year after diagnosis. Personally, I only know 1 dog -- a another friend's black Lab -- who survived that long.

Our Boy Cody 

Below find a photo our sweet boy, Cody. As I recall, we said our goodbyes over about 10 days between his diagnosis and laying him to rest. That's more than many get. Difficult? Yes, but also so lucky to take the time to make peace with the news, as best we could. 

I once asked a veterinary oncologist what would qualify as a canine cancer gamechanger. She said, "I think if you asked anyone who treats cancer with dogs, hemangiosarcoma is the disease that’s the hardest one for everyone to manage and take care of. If there was a way to overcome that disease alone, we’d be jumping for joy.”

hemangiosarcoma dogs - yellow lab mix (Cody) smiling and looking out a window

New Research Bacteria and Hemangiosarcoma Dogs

Apparently most of the research into possible links between chronic infections + the inflammation they cause and later cancers focuses on viruses. However, researchers at North Carolina State University screened 110 hemangiosarcoma dogs for three of bacteria. They found a high prevalence of Bartonella bacteria in tissue samples from the dogs -- but NOT in their blood samples. This adds to the evidence that Bartonella can live, undetected, within dogs' tissues.

Some call it cat scratch disease, if that helps you understand the infection in question. 

The research team tested 3 samples from the hemangiosarcoma dogs in the study:

  1. Tumor tissue
  2. Non-tumor tissue
  3. Blood samples

Researchers "amplified and sequenced" Bartonella DNA from 80 of the 110 dogs and found it in:

  • 34% of tumor tissue 
  • 63% of non-tumor tissue
  • 0% of the blood samples

That tells us that -- at least for now -- whole blood samples alone do not "rule out" Bartonella's presence. 

So far, this research provides an area of investigation. Not cause and effect. Future studies likely will investigate *if the bacteria *may be a cause of hemangiosarcoma in dogs.

Read the published research in full here. 

Bonus photo of me with Cody, from WAY back when. Hoooo, do I feel old looking back at that. (ha ha)

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.