The spleen is an organ located below the stomach. It contains lots of blood vessels with circulating red blood cells, making it a storage for blood. It also supplies blood, and cleans up old red blood cells.
Dogs may develop masses in the spleen. These can be benign or malignant. Hemangiosarcoma is the most common type of malignant spleen tumor in dogs. This is an aggressive cancer that tends to spread to other internal organs. Once metastasis has occurred, the prognosis is poor.
Although this type of cancer can occur in any dog, it is common in middle aged to elderly dogs, especially large breeds like German Shepherd and Golden Retriever.
Canine spleen cancer symptoms
When the tumor ruptures, the spleen bleeds and internal hemorrhage occurs. Excessive blood loss may result in death. Symptoms of spleen cancer in dogs are:
- pale gums
- cold body
- abdominal distention
By the time the tumor is detected, it usually has become large and has metastasised to liver, lungs, brain and other organs.
Diagnosis of spleen tumor
Several tests can determine the existence of masses. The initial step involves a physical examination. A firm mass can be felt in the spleen area on palpation. Thereafter, radiographs of the abdomen are performed to determine if the mass is on the spleen and radiographs of the chest is for checking the spread of cancer. Abdominal ultrasound may detect cancer spread to liver and other organs. Blood tests are also carried out.
It may not be obvious before surgery whether the tumor is benign or malignant. If radiographs and ultrasound show spread of tumor to other organs, the tumor is malignant.
If no tumor spread is visible, the mass may or may not be benign. Where the tumor spread is too small to be seen, it may not be obvious if it is benign or malignant until the abdomen is opened.
Treatment for dog spleen tumor
For both benign and malignant tumors, the recommended treatment is splenectomy. If the cancer spread is minimal, chemotherapy following surgery may prolong the dog’s life span.
If the tumor is benign and the splenectomy is not carried out, there will be repeated hemorrhages that is potentially life threatening to the dog. Splenectomy gets rid of the associated problems and symptoms caused by benign tumor.