The spleen is an organ that plays an important role in the good health of the dog. However, it is not immune to developing a so-called splenic tumor. Whether benign or malignant, it is imperative to act quickly by surgically removing the entire organ but can dogs live without a spleen? The answer is yes, under certain conditions that we will discuss below.
But first, let’s find out together the causes, symptoms and possible treatment of a spleen tumour that may force its removal.
What are the different spleen tumors in dogs?
The spleen is located in the front of the abdomen under the stomach and it contributes to immune system of the dog’s body and in the production and renewal of its blood cells. It also helps store platelets and red blood cells and regulate lipid metabolism. Its concentration in blood cells which it releases according to the needs of the body explains its dark red color. It contains 10 to 20% of the dog’s blood volume. As in humans, it is not essential to the life of the dog although it plays an important role for its health and it can be removed during a splenectomy if necessary.
The different types of spleen tumors
Spleen tumors are common conditions in dogs, whether they are benign or malignant. They represent on average 7% of canine tumors. Benign tumors represent half of the spleen tumors. Although they are not cancerous, it is important to remove them quickly, as swelling can cause the spleen to rupture and cause severe internal bleeding.
Malignant tumors of the spleen can take many forms:
- Hemangiosarcoma is the most common cancerous tumor in dogs. Most of the time, it is formed from pericytes, which are the cells of the blood vessels in the spleen. They then diffuse into the body to metastasize into other organs. Very aggressive, it is unfortunately detected too late in the majority of cases.
- Lymphomas are tumors that originate in the lymph.
- Leiomyosarcomas are of muscle origin.
- Fibroscaromas originate in the mesenchyme, that is, the body’s supporting tissues (blood vessels, bone tissue, cartilage, muscles).
As with many cancers, certain breeds of dogs are predisposed to develop a splenic tumor, such as the German shepherd, the poodle, the labrador, the boxer or the golden retriever.
What are the causes of the development of a splenic tumor?
The factors behind the development of a spleen tumor in dogs are still unknown. However, the fact that certain breeds are predisposed to it may suggest a disorder partly of genetic origin. Affected dogs are adult or elderly, this type of tumor tending to appear between 6 and 10 years of age.
What are the symptoms of a spleen tumor in dogs?
It is not easy to detect a spleen tumor in dogs. Most of the time, symptoms appear late and they are common to other pathologies, which complicates diagnosis. A dog with a splenic tumor may have the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain that can cause a particular posture in dogs. It extends its front legs on the ground and raises the buttocks while breathing noisily and quickly.
- An enlarged spleen, or splenomegaly, and distension of the abdomen if bleeding occurs in the abdominal cavity.
- Vomiting and diarrhea if the organ is compressed.
- Significant weight loss.
- Anemia if the organ is bleeding, with paleness of the mucous membranes and fatigue.
- A state of shock in the event of internal bleeding. This case should be treated in absolute urgency.
Examination and diagnosis
Only a veterinarian can detect a small tumor by touch. It is therefore essential to carry out an annual check-up to check the health condition of the dog. The earlier the tumor is detected, the more likely your dog can be treated effectively. Relying on symptoms alone is not enough, because most appear when the tumor is already quite advanced.
To confirm a suspicion of a splenic tumor, the veterinarian may perform several examinations:
- An abdominal ultrasound shows the appearance and volume of the spleen. This test can also detect abdominal bleeding and the presence of metastases in other organs such as the liver.
- An x-ray of the chest to check if the metastases have migrated into the lungs.
- Blood tests allow a more precise diagnosis.
To recognize hemangiosarcoma with certainty, it is important to remove cells from the tumor after surgery or perform a puncture.
Can Dogs Live Without a Spleen? Removal is an effective treatment
When the diagnosis is confirmed, act quickly. The treatment for this type of tumor is primarily surgery. The veterinary surgeon performs a splenectomy, which is an operation to completely remove the organ. On the same occasion, he makes sure that metastases have not developed in other organs of the abdominal cavity.
As we have said, removing the spleen does not compromise the health of the dog, provided that the dog has no particular blood problems. Following surgery, it is common for chemotherapy to be done to ensure that all of the metastases are destroyed.
Can Dogs Live Without a Spleen? Life expectancy depends on the type of tumor
Unfortunately, the dog’s life prognosis is rarely positive. A dog with a splenic tumor operated before bleeding occurs in his abdominal cavity has a life expectancy of around 3 months. Follow-up of chemotherapy after the operation can prolong it by 6 to 7 months. Only 30% of dogs survive after a year of treatment. If the cancer is too advanced, the veterinarian may suggest that the dog be euthanized.
If the tumor is benign and treated in time, the prognosis is very encouraging and the dog can live very well without his spleen. Only the study of tumor cells after surgery can tell if it is benign or malignant.
Can Dogs Live Without a Spleen? Prevention is important!
Unfortunately, in the absence of a known precise origin, it is difficult to prevent the formation of a splenic tumor. Some dog breeds are more prone to develop them and therefore should be particularly watched. An annual visit to the veterinarian is most recommended, with effective palpation of the abdomen. At the slightest suspicion, it is imperative to act as quickly as possible by carrying out the necessary in-depth examinations.
In general, you need to constantly watch for your dog’s good health. Give your dog healthy, quality food and get it some exercise every day with walks and other physical activity. As with humans, a healthy and balanced lifestyle is advised to reduce the risk of disease.
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