Your dog’s got cancer are words every dog owner dreads hearing. And hemangiosarcoma is an especially dangerous cancer. It affects dogs more than any other species.
Hemangiosarcoma And Its Symptoms
Hemangiosarcoma develops from cells called endothelial cells, which normally create blood vessels. It’s most common in the spleen, liver, heart and skin.
On the skin, sunlight can cause this cancer. It appears on belly skin, inner thighs and eyelids. Dogs with pale pink skin and thin fur (often white) in sunny climates are susceptible.
Breeds that are especially susceptible include German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers.
The symptoms vary depending on where the cancer is.
Skin tumors often show up as a red or purple bump, which may bruise or bleed. Tumors under the skin may feel like a benign fatty tumor, and can be soft or firm.
The spleen is a common location for hemangiosarcoma. Internal tumors may cause some of these symptoms:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Bulging belly
- Reduced stamina
- Decreased appetite
- Increased panting
- Pale gums
Hemangiosarcomas are usually diagnosed via biopsy. Ultrasounds, x-rays, CT scans and surgery can also determine the extent of the disease.
Bleak Outlook With Conventional Treatment
Conventional treatment usually involves surgery, sometimes followed by chemotherapy. And the prognosis is quite bleak. The average survival prognosis after surgery is 2 to 3 months. Surgery plus chemotherapy extends the average to 6 to 8 months.
But a 2012 study at University of Pennsylvania offered hope for a natural alternative treatment …
Turkey Tail Mushroom Study
The Penn study treated dogs with hemangiosarcoma with polysaccharopeptide (PSP). PSP is a compound from the Coriolius versicolor, or turkey tail mushroom.
Chinese medicine has used turkey tail for centuries. It’s one of the most researched mushrooms there is. Studies have shown its medicinal benefits can boost the immune system. Turkey tail may help fight bacteria, viruses and cancer cells. It may even improve gut health.
[Related: Turkey Tail Mushrooms Uses For Dogs ]
The study results were remarkable. The dogs in the study had the longest survival times ever reported for dogs with the disease.
There were 15 dogs with hemangiosarcoma in the trial. Three groups of five dogs received different doses … 25, 50 or 100 mg per kilo per day … of I’m-Yunity.
I’m-Yunity is a formulation of PSP. It’s tested for consistency and good manufacturing processes. The owners gave their dog daily capsules of I’m-Yunity, compounded by Penn pharmacists.
The dogs had follow-up visits at Penn each month. The researchers used blood samples and ultrasounds to determine how much tumors had grown or spread.
They tracked how quickly the tumors progressed … and how long the dogs actually lived. And the results suggested that I’m-Yunity was effectively fighting the tumors.
“We were shocked,” professor and department chair Dorothy Cimino Brown said.
“Prior to this, the longest reported median survival time of dogs with hemangiosarcoma of the spleen that underwent no further treatment was 86 days. We had dogs that lived beyond a year with nothing other than this mushroom as treatment.”
The differences in survival between the three dosage groups were not statistically significant. But the median survival time was highest in the 100 mg group … at 199 days. That’s more than double the previous report of 86 days!
The researchers were so surprised … they rechecked the dogs’ tissue biopsies. The pathologists confirmed the dogs really did have hemangiosarcoma.
No Side Effects
Chemotherapy is available to treat hemangiosarcoma … but many owners choose not to do it. “It doesn’t hugely increase survival, it’s expensive … and it means a lot of back and forth to the vet for the dog,” Cimino Brown said. “So you have to figure in quality of life.”
I’m-Yunity is not cheap … but it could offer owners a way to extend their pet’s life … without regular trips to the vet. And the researchers found no evidence of adverse effects from the PSP treatment.
The manufacturer also suggests using Im-Yunity for “immune maintenance and preventive care.”
The researchers plan further trials of I’m-Yunity in hemangiosarcoma dogs … to confirm and refine their results. One trial will compare I’m-Yunity to a placebo. Another will compare the compound to chemotherapy treatment.
This could mean a new alternative for hemangiosarcoma … and perhaps other cancers … in dogs. The company that manufactures I’m-Yunity may also pursue large-scale clinical trials in humans.
“Although hemangiosarcoma is a very sad and devastating disease,” Cimino Brown said, “in the long term, if we prove that this works, this treatment can be a really nice alternative for owners to have increased quality time with their pet at the end of its life.”