Symptoms of Spleen Cancer in Dogs

Spleen cancer in dogs occurs when a mass forms in the spleen and becomes malignant. Hemangiosarcoma is a type of cancer that forms on soft tissues of the blood vessels, and this is the most common form of spleen cancer in dogs.

While all dogs are subject to this type of cancer, it occurs mostly in middle-aged or older dogs of larger breeds, such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers. Hemangiosarcoma is aggressive and often spreads rapidly to other organs within the body.

Symptoms of Spleen Cancer in Dogs

The symptoms of spleen cancer in dogs will vary, depending upon the location of the tumor. A mass in the spleen is generally not detected until it becomes cancerous and begins to produce symptoms. Often, a tumor will rupture causing the spleen to bleed and resulting in an internal hemorrhage.

If excessive blood loss occurs, this can be fatal. Some things to look for if spleen cancer is suspected are severe abdominal pain, anemia, weakness or sudden collapse and loss of appetite. Dogs may experience shock with a cold body and pale gums if bleeding becomes profuse.

Types of Spleen Cancer in Dogs

In addition to hemangiosarcoma, the most deadly form of spleen cancer in dogs, there are a few other types of cancer, diseases or tumors that may affect the spleen and cause similar symptoms.

  • Hemangioma is similar to hemangiosarcoma, but is not malignant and does not spread to other parts of the body.
  • Splenic torsion causes the spleen to twist and enlarge, leading to possible rupture.
  • Hematoma occurs when a blood clot forms in the spleen leading to anemia or the formation of a mass. Hematoma usually follows an accident or trauma, but can occur otherwise. 

Diagnosis of Spleen Cancer

Diagnosis of spleen cancer in dogs will usually be discovered after a tumor has ruptured and caused bleeding. Blood tests, urinalysis, x-rays and biopsy can all help to determine the presence of spleen cancer. If bleeding is occurring, an abdominal tap may be necessary to collect free blood in the abdomen and inspect it for cancerous cells.

Treatment of Spleen Cancer in Dogs

Prognosis is rarely good once spleen cancer in dogs has caused the spleen to rupture and bleed. Emergency care will likely be necessary as soon as symptoms are discovered. Due to blood loss and the possibility of shock, intravenous fluids may be administered, as well as blood transfusions. Once the dog is stabilized, surgery may be recommended.

A splenectomy is a procedure that requires removal of the entire spleen from the dog's body. This can be done without adverse effects on the health. The spleen does play an important role to our health, but the body does not require it for survival. Once removed, the dog can more easily be stabilized and other organs can be checked for spread of the disease. Possible complications of a splenectomy include infection, continuation of bleeding or abnormal heart rhythm.