Veterinarian Reviewed on March 29, 2014 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
If after your visit to the veterinarian, your vet determines that your dog needs a splenectomy, you will most likely have more questions than answers. This is the time to ask your vet every question you may have.
What is the spleen?
This oblong organ lies below the dog’s stomach. It is possible for your dog to live without a spleen, but it does perform many important functions in the dog’s body. The spleen cleans out old or damaged red blood cells that circulate through it. In effect, it is a filter. The spleen will filter out the iron in the cell and discard the rest. It also stores red blood cells, which it can release in the case of mild anemia, or if one has a hemorrhage.
The spleen also nips out pieces of red blood cells that are part of the immune system. This is its way of removing red cells that are damaged by parasites. On occasion the entire red blood cell is removed to prevent the circulation and thus the spread of the parasite. Unfortunately, too much removal is not good. Your dog can become anemic. This would be an indication for a splenectomy.
The spleen also has functions for the white blood cells. This fulfills its purpose of boosting the immune system. The white part of the spleen functions much the same as a lymph node. It is vital in the fight against infection and other body invaders.
Masses on the spleen can be malignant or benign. In dogs the most common are either Dog Hemangiosarcoma or hemangiomas.
Signs and Symptoms
• One of the most obvious symptoms is sudden weakness in your dog.
• Your dog may begin to shiver and appear cold.
• The gums will become pale.
• If the bleeding stops on its own, your dog will be much better the next day. This however, is not a cure. It will happen again if the spleen is not removed, and your dog will bleed to death.
If your vet determines that your dog has a benign mass that can be surgically removed, a splenectomy will be performed. This can only be done if there hasn’t been a huge blood loss that would further compromise your dog’s health. Hopefully the mass will be detected before there is a bleed. If the spleen is hemorrhaging, emergency surgery must be done immediately. You cannot wait until the bleeding stops.
If the mass is determined to be malignant, your vet can still remove the spleen to control the bleeding. Malignant tumors of the spleen are generally very aggressive. Although your dog may be saved for the moment, the chances are great that your dog will die of cancer rather quickly. Often a discussion with your vet before surgery will help to determine the steps your veterinarian should take.
If your vet sees that the Dog Spleen Cancer has metastasized after opening your dogs abdomen, what do you what them to do? Do you want them to mercifully euthanize the dog while under anesthesia? Do you want them to close the incision and send the dog home if it survives? These are difficult choices.
Considering the aggressiveness of malignant tumors of the spleen, the prognosis is grave.
Additional Dog Cancer Pages
Dog Cancer | Dog Skin Cancer | Dog Bladder Cancer | Dog Pancreatic Cancer | Dog Bone Cancer | Dog Cancer Prevention | Dog Cancer Diagnosis | Dog Lymphoma Cancer | Dog Gastric Cancer | Dog Mast Cell Tumors
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan