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June 6, 2019 – Dogs diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma typically live about six months after surgery with follow-up treatment.  A lucky few, about 10%, beat the odds. That’s what Chase Manhattan did.

Chase is a feisty, cream-colored dachshund owned by Krista Dieckamp, a Morris Animal Foundation donor. Chase didn’t just beat the odds, though, she exceeded all expectations.

Many dogs with visceral hemangiosarcoma (affecting the heart, lungs and spleen) don’t survive the high-risk surgery needed to save their lives. Many don’t even make it to surgery. Hemangiosarcoma is an aggressive cancer associated with abrupt and dramatic internal bleeding, often making it difficult to stabilize the patient. If surgery is successful, months of chemotherapy cocktails and veterinary specialty visits ensue. 

Chase began her battle with hemangiosarcoma three years ago and was declared cancer free in June 2018. She underwent emergency spleen removal surgery, followed by chemotherapy. Krista took Chase for monthly veterinary oncology visits for more than a year that included ultrasounds, X-rays and routine blood work. She stuck to a rigorous schedule of chemotherapy treatments, dealing with a dachshund that sometimes didn’t fall for the meat-wrapped pill treat.

Before the illness, Chase was an incredibly active and outgoing dog. Krista walked Chase four to six miles a day. Chase even took agility classes. “Little did I know, we were about to climb Mt. Everest, but would we survive the ascent?” said Krista.

Hemangiosarcoma is a frustrating disease as some dogs exhibit no signs of illness prior to tumor rupture. Krista warns owners to look for subtle signs and take them seriously.

“Before Chase became suddenly ill and near collapse, I noticed little changes in her behavior,” said Krista. “Chase was sleeping more on the floor instead of curled up beside me in bed. Chase had stopped being her pet sitter’s constant companion, following her everywhere, highly unusual for little furry shadow Chase.”

The clues that something was gravely wrong became more obvious and multiplied quickly. Soon, Chase could not walk far without being tired. She had low energy and didn’t want to play. On the day of the collapse, Krista’s pet sitter noticed Chase’s gums were white, indicative of a myriad of potentially life-threatening scenarios in pets. Krista’s quick-thinking pet sitter immediately notified Krista and rushed Chase to an emergency veterinary clinic.

In the wee hours of the morning, Krista gave the veterinarian the okay to perform the high-risk emergency surgery. She understood the odds of survival for little Chase were bleak, but she prayed for a miracle. The veterinarian removed both a mass and Chase’s spleen. Biopsy of the mass would later confirm the diagnosis of hemangiosarcoma.

Krista still is amazed at Chase’s tenacity to survive.

“Together, not only did we conquer Mount Everest with so many doctors, interns, veterinary technicians and other staff, we made it back to base camp,” said Krista. “We could not have tackled this health crisis without research, like the work funded by Morris Animal Foundation, that laid the groundwork to get to where we are now.”

For nearly three decades, the Foundation has funded research to help improve the odds for dogs, like Chase, diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma. Our early research tackled the disease from many different angles, from looking for new therapy targets to understanding tumor formation, chemotherapy resistance and disease reoccurrence. Every study we fund provides a launching pad for the next study until solutions can be found.

Today, our hemangiosarcoma research encompasses finding ways to block tumor growth and investigating new therapies. Researchers recently developed a promising new drug to treat dogs with hemangiosarcoma (still in the trial phase) that they hope will benefit dogs with other incurable cancers.

Chase is now 11 years old and experiencing and surviving other challenges in her life. Most recently, Chase had surgery for a ruptured disk and is having to make friends with a new cat that moved into her apartment. Chase is living up to these new challenges and is thriving and surviving. She even likes the cat!