Blue’s Battle With Histiocytic Sarcoma
Blue, our 10 year old Rottweiler, was put to rest on December 23, 2014 after a brief but intense battle with cancer. At first, we weren’t sure what type of cancer she had but when the pathology report came back, we discovered that she had a rare and invasive form of cancer known as Histiocytic Sarcoma.
Histiocytic Sarcoma is most commonly seen in Bernese Mountain Dogs but over the last several years there has been an increased number of Retrievers and Rottweilers diagnosed with the disease. Disseminated and malignant histiocytic tumors are fairly aggressive and are characterized by rapid progression that affects multiple body systems, including, bone, skin, lungs and lymph nodes. Unfortunately, prognosis is poor in many of these cases and because of the cancer’s rate of metastasis (spreading), it is often resistant to chemotherapy and other treatments.
According to recent studies, Histiocytic Sarcoma may develop in different ways which often helps to determine the prognosis of the disease. If the cancer develops on the surface of the skin, the dog may not demonstrate any signs or symptoms. In fact, it may only present itself by a lump or growth on the surface of the skin (often times on a limb) and can usually be surgically removed and followed up with chemotherapy. However, if the tumors develop under the surface of the skin, it is far more likely to go unnoticed and spread to major tissues and organs. This was what happened to Blue and by the time we found out that it was cancer causing her lethargy, lack of appetite and weight loss, the disease had spread to her lymph nodes and severely affected her spleen.
Blue’s passing, although untimely, was not in vain. We cherish every opportunity to learn and grow with each of the dogs we take into our care. Through all of this, we are reminded of one very important lesson that we learned years ago and would like to pass on to others. Dogs will communicate when something isn’t right. Pay attention to their sometimes subtle changes in appetite, demeanour, weight and energy level. If changes are noticed, prompt veterinary attention may make a big difference for the health and well-being of your pet.
Blue’s life was full of obstacles that we believe profoundly affected her personality and somehow prevented her from reaching her full potential. She never seemed to gain the confidence and drive for affection that we wished for her, although she would occasionally drop her guard and come for a quick snuggle if nobody else was around. She was as shy and sensitive as she was full of attitude and fiercely independent. Our small Blue will always be a big part of Keshet.
To read more about Histiocytic Sarcoma, check out the University of Pennsylvania’s article on Histiocytic Sarcoma in Dogs.