Canine Spleen Cancer Symptoms

Learn more about canine spleen cancer including symptoms and treatments. Tumors attack soft tissue spreading quickly and creating its own blood vessels that resemble a raised blister. These masses interrupt normal organ function.

The biggest hurdle with spleen cancer is that the symptoms generally do not appear until the cancer has progressed to the advanced stages. At this point, your dog will need immediate veterinary care.

Two Varieties of Spleen Tumors

When a tumor grows on a dog's spleen, it is always one of two forms. Hemangiomas are benign and Hemangiosarcomas are malignant. In both cases, the mass forms out of the soft tissue creating what looks a lot like a blood blister. It's rare for a dog owner to even know the tumor is there until it ruptures.

Hemangiomas are not cancerous and the spleen will be surgically removed if the dog has not lost too much blood. Malignant tumors are harder to treat. Veterinarians can remove the entire spleen, but by the time the cancer is found, it has usually spread to other areas of the body. Studies find that 1 out of 4 dogs with cancer of the spleen also have tumors on their heart.

Symptoms of a Dog with Spleen Cancer

As most cases of splenic cancer are discovered after the tumor ruptures and internal bleeding occurs. It's important to rush your dog to a veterinarian if any of these signs occur.

  • Abdominal swelling
  • Pale gums/anemia
  • Quickened breathing rate
  • Sudden lethargy or weakness
  • Shivering/trembling

In some cases the tumor will drain of blood and then the bleeding stops. The animal may appear to be doing better. You should still seek veterinary care because if another rupture occurs, the animal could die from internal bleeding.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Spleen Cancer

Your veterinarian will draw a sample of your dog's blood. If the blood shows more white cells than red cells, it points towards anemia. If there is no other possible explanation for anemia, such as parasites, internal bleeding is likely. Once he has this diagnoses, he may feel the abdomen to check for masses.

Chest x-rays are another option. While more expensive, they will clearly display any masses on the spleen or liver.

Certain dogs run a higher risk for developing tumors on their spleen. Male dogs have a higher prevalence, but large breeds like German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers are more likely to develop this form of cancer. A dog's age is also important. Most cases of cancer of the spleen occur in elderly dogs.

Treatment for Spleen Cancer

If spleen cancer is diagnosed, the removal of the spleen is of the utmost importance. Even if the cancer has spread to other organs, the spleen will continue to bleed out. You can opt against the surgery, but your dog will suffer other bleeds that will affect his quality of living.

If the tumor is benign, no additional treatment is needed. If the tumor is malignant and you've chosen to have the splenectomy, your veterinarian will likely suggest chemotherapy to keep the cancer from spreading. If other tumors are found on x-rays, removal of those tumors may be advised.