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Enlarged spleen in dogs

Enlarged Spleen in Dogs - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis and Recovery Time 

The spleen is an organ that primarily filters red blood cells, holds a reserve of white blood cells known as monocytes, and plays an important role in the immune system.

It also performs several other functions, including producing and storing red blood cells. In dogs, an enlarged spleen tends to occur most often in larger breed, especially as the dog gets older. However, canine enlarged spleen can develop in almost any dog, and is usually the result of some other underlying disease. In a few cases, the problem may be with the spleen itself, as is the case with a canine spleen tumor.

Dogs are probably the most loved and popular of all pets in most parts of the world. Dogs are highly regarded for their sense of loyalty as well as the fact that they can be easily trained to adapt to certain social requirements. However, something that a lot of dog enthusiasts as well as dog owners are not aware of is the fact that being able to understand when your pet is unwell can be quite a task. This is primarily because of the fact that due to the obvious communication barriers that exist between humans and their canine counterparts, the owner needs to have developed a strong bond with the animal to identify when it is unwell.

Moreover, dogs tend to prefer suffering in silence and will only really attempt to signal their distress to their owners when the condition has progressed to a significant extent.

Spleen Enlargement in Canines Symptoms

Enlargement of spleen typically causes some amount of pain, and may also be accompanied by bloating, with the abdomen feeling hard to the touch. Cases of spleen tumor in dogs tend to be more painful. The dog's appetite will also be affected, and there may be vomiting and diarrhea too. The dog is often unable to lie down comfortably, or for that matter perform any activity without discomfort. Sometimes you may also notice weakness and lethargy.

A rather serious medical condition that exists in our four legged friends is the case of an enlarged spleen.

The spleen is a very important organ in the body because it is vital for the filtering of red blood cells as well as holding a reserve of white blood cells in case the immune system needs to call on them to fight some kind of infection.

Some of the more common symptoms of enlarged spleen in puppies include bleeding and significant pain in the region. The owner will also see a significant reduction in the puppy’s appetite – often leading to the puppy or full grown dog simply ignoring the food laid down in front of it. This may not be because of a loss of appetite, but could the pain may interfere with the dog’s other urges or hunger. The condition will also see the animal bloat noticeably.

Causes of Dog Enlarged Spleen

Splenomegaly, as an enlarged spleen is known, is often caused by some underlying disease or medical condition. The most common causes include canine hepatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and certain bacterial infections and disorders of the immune system. These conditions can cause the spleen to get enlarged over a period of time, leading to the symptoms described earlier. Conditions directly relating to the spleen itself include bruising from an external blow or injury, as well as cancer. Cancer is in fact thought to be the most common cause of dog enlarged spleen. The type of cancer that affects the spleen is known as hemangiosarcoma, which is extremely malignant and dangerous. Splenic hemangiosarcoma in dogs is often fatal because it affects the blood vessels and thus spreads throughout the body very quickly. However, not all spleen masses in dogs are cancerous – the enlargement may also be due to a benign tumor.

The primary cause of enlarged liver and spleen in dogs is usually some other underlying medical condition that has developed substantially. Cancer is, for instance, probably the most common cause of an enlarged liver and spleen in puppies and dogs and studies have shown that it accounts for almost 7% of all cases of the condition all over the world.

Treatment for Canine Enlarged Spleen

Prompt treatment and diagnosis are essential in any case of an enlarged spleen. The treatment will of course depend on the diagnosis and proper dog health care. In case of of canine spleen tumor, malignant or benign, the entire spleen is usually removed in a procedure known as canine spleenectomy. If the tumor was cancerous, this treatment may need to be followed up with chemotherapy. In the case of some other cause, the underlying problem will need to be treated, but the spleen may still need to be removed.

Diagnosis and Recovery Time of Enlarged Spleen In Dogs

Diagnosis of the condition will be performed with the help of a biopsy of the spleen. However, this can be rather complicated because of the fact that the lab results are heavily influenced by the health of the section of the spleen that has been removed for the biopsy. In the event of the enlarged spleen in dogs causing diarrhea, bleeding and enlargement, it may be the result of a spleen tumor, in which case the condition will need to be looked at by a veterinarian. In such a scenario there could be a need for a spleenectomy, which is the removal of the tumors. Recovery time after a spleenectomy has been performed is nothing more than a few days. However, in the case that the root cause of the condition is cancerous, then most dogs will only survive for another 6 to 8 weeks. Chemotherapy is an option although the results have only been positive in a few cases. The reason for the low success rate however, has more to do with the advancement of the cancer. In most cases dog cancer is detected in the advanced stages, when chemotherapy is of little help. 

Unfortunately, there are no known preventative methods that could be followed in order to avoid the development of the condition. The primary focus should be on making sure that the animal is as comfortable as possible. The dog is unlikely to feel especially energetic because of the significant discomfort it experiences and is likely to appear rather lethargic and maybe even weak. As soon as you notice this kind of behavior, it is highly recommended that you visit the veterinarian in order to diagnose the condition in its formative stage. 

  Submitted on September 30, 2011  

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