A splenectomy is a procedure in which the spleen is removed. In humans, the spleen sits beneath the ribs, but a dog's spleen is near its stomach. The spleen is responsible for storing blood, removing infections from blood, and acting in a similar manner to a lymph node. While the spleen is beneficial, it's possible to live without this organ and may be necessary in some cases. Our staff at Gentle Doctor Animal Hospital in Las Vegas wants you to know the benefits of splenectomies and when you should bring your pet in for a consultation.
Spleen removal may be performed if the spleen has grown a mass or tumor. Dogs are most likely to develop hemangiomas, a benign tumor, or hemangiosarcomas, which are malignant. In cats, mast cell tumors are the most common type of spleen tumors that might require surgical removal. Because the spleen stores blood, bleeding caused by tumors can be life-threatening or fatal.
A mass can sometimes be found with a manual exam of the pet's body. However, this type of exam is less likely to provide results for large and muscular dogs. Radiographs (X-rays) can also locate spleen tumors and determine whether the tumor has spread. Blood tests can also confirm spleen masses by looking for unexplained responsive anemia. This condition indicates that not enough red blood cells are produced in the animal's body. Without another explanation, a spleen mass may be the culprit.
Symptoms of a spleen bleed include a pet who is suddenly weak, cold and has pale gums. Occasionally a bleed may stop on its own, and your pet might feel much better the next day. However, your veterinarian may still recommend spleen removal surgery to avoid serious complications from bleeding in the future. Ideally, these masses will be detected before bleeding has started when surgery can safely be completed. However, emergency surgery may be necessary even if your pet is still bleeding, and a blood transfusion can replace lost blood.
Pet owners can apply an ace bandage snugly around their pet's stomach if they suspect a bleed. The pressure slows the bleed until you can seek treatment at a veterinary clinic. Your vet may prescribe medicine that helps your pet's blood clot to reduce the severity of future bleeds.
Depending on the cause of the spleen bleed, a pet may be at risk for developing cancer. This is not the case if the spleen has ruptured because of an injury or stomach bloat, of course. Determining whether a mass is malignant or benign can influence whether splenectomy is advised. Some pets may respond to chemotherapy after a malignant tumor has been removed, but this is not always the case.
Get Help in NV
If your pet displays any of the symptoms of a spleen bleed, call Gentle Doctor Animal Hospital in Las Vegas at (702) 259-9200 immediately.