Diagnosis of Spleen Cancer in Dogs

Spleen cancer in dogs requires prompt diagnosis and treatment. If a splenic tumor ruptures, it takes very little time for the blood loss to put the dog's life in jeopardy. The only chance for survival is to remove the spleen. However, if a lot of blood has already been lost due to the rupture, surgery can be risky.

Veterinary Diagnosis of Spleen Cancer in Dogs

Some veterinarians discover splenic tumors through basic health exams. As they feel the abdomen, they may feel a large, hard mass in the area of the spleen. This is easier on small dogs with less abdominal muscle layer. If this mass is felt, x-rays and ultrasounds can help pinpoint exactly where the mass is located. If the tumor is seen in the spleen, surgical removal of the spleen is indicated. The problem is that it can be hard to differentiate between a tumor found in the liver and one found in the spleen.

Blood panels are also useful in detecting spleen cancer in dogs. One of the key indicators of splenic tumors involves a low red cell count. If the blood work comes back and anemia is found, especially in cases of anemia that appear suddenly and that have no other explanation, splenic tumors are frequently the underlying cause.

Symptoms of Spleen Cancer in Dogs

Early symptoms of spleen cancer include a swollen abdomen. The abdomen may be tender and the dog may whimper or cry out when you touch that area. As the spleen expands and pushes into other organs, your dog may lose his appetite. Weight loss is possible. Unfortunately, many cases of spleen cancer are not caught until the dog begins losing blood internally. In most situations, the dog becomes extremely weak and may shiver. If you check the dog's lips and gums, they'll be very pale due to anemia.

Sometimes the rupture in the spleen heals itself and the dog will return to normal. You must still seek veterinary care, because odds are high that a new rupture will appear and cause excessive internal bleeding.

Two Forms of Spleen Tumors

Most cases of spleen cancer in dogs are either hemangiomas (benign) or hemangiosarcomas (malignant). If either tumor is found, removal of the spleen is the only possible treatment. Most cases of canine spleen cancer involve benign tumors.

With hemangiomas, the tumors are benign and surgical removal of the spleen is all that is needed to cure the animal. With hemangiosarcomas, the tumors are cancerous and frequently spread to other areas of the body. Removal of the spleen may prolong the dog's life, but it's likely that the cancer has already spread.

Benefits to Removing the Spleen

Even if it is determined that your dog has a malignant hemangiosarcoma, removal of the spleen will prevent internal bleeding in case of a splenic rupture. Left untreated, a rupture will cause too much blood loss and the dog will die. You can extend your dog's life by having the spleen removed.

Chemotherapy is often suggested to help slow the spread of the hemangiosarcoma to other areas of the body. This gives you extra months, or possibly even years, to spend time with your pet.