Your dog can live without his spleen, but that doesn't mean it's a throwaway organ. The spleen stores blood in the "red pulp" section, which also takes old red blood cells out of circulation. When a dog has a tumor in his spleen, the vast majority of the time it's in the red pulp section.
Once in a while, a spleen develops a mass. In a dog, the mass is usually a benign tumor, known as a hemangioma, or a malignant tumor, referred to as a hemangiosarcoma. Both tumors develop from the red pulp's blood vessels developing into a network of abnormal blood vessels, which eventually rupture and cause the spleen to bleed. Given the amount of blood the red pulp stores, the rupture can be life-threatening.
Symptoms of Spleen Tumors
Often the signs of a spleen tumor are difficult to detect because they're usually very subtle. The most obvious sign of a spleen tumor is a a distended abdomen, as the organ swells to accommodate its excess tissue. The dog may have a decreased appetite and associated weight loss. His gums and other mucous membranes may be pale and he may have an elevated heart and respiratory rate.
It's not unusual for a dog to show no signs of a splenic tumor until he collapses from the ruptured spleen. A dog who is suffering from a ruptured spleen will be suddenly weak and cold, with pale gums. If the spleen stops bleeding on its own, the dog will show remarkable improvement within a day, or even several hours later.
Spleen Tumor Risks
Some dog breeds carry a higher genetic risk of spleen tumors. English setters, German shepherds, Great Danes, boxers, pointers and golden retrievers have a higher incidence of splenic masses. Though younger dogs occasionally develop these tumors, the average age of occurrence is between 8 and 10 years. Male dogs tend to develop the tumors more than females.
If you suspect your dog may have a tumor in his spleen, it's vital to seek veterinary attention. Though the prognosis for hemangiosarcoma, the malignant tumor, is poor, the benign form of splenic tumor has a favorable prognosis if the spleen is removed. Generally, a splenectomy is the recommended course of action to avoid an urgent, life-threatening bleed-out, though applying a pressure bandage around his belly to buy time for veterinary treatment can be effective.
- Photo Credit rogercm/iStock/Getty Images
What Are the Symptoms of Spleen Lymphoma?
The spleen is an organ on the left side of your body, underneath the lower part of your rib cage. Its purpose...
Diseases of the Spleen in Dogs
Your dog's spleen is located near the stomach. Its purpose is to filter the dog's blood, and it plays a role in...
Abdominal Tumors in Dogs
Abdominal tumors in dogs aren't necessarily palpable. That means you or your vet might not be able to feel them unless they...
Blood Tumors in Dogs
Hemangiosarcoma, a blood vessel cancer found primarily in canines, including symptoms, diagnosis and treatment