What is Enlarged Spleen?
The spleen is an elongated organ that is on the left side of the stomach in cats. Though the organ isn't essential for living, an enlarged spleen may be a symptom of a more serious or chronic disease that will need veterinary care.
Splenomegaly, or an enlarged spleen, is a symptom of another condition or disease. The enlargement is due to inflammation, which occurs due to infiltration of abnormal cells as a result of the primary condition. The primary condition that is causing the enlargement is typically related to the function of the spleen, such as filtering blood or synthesizing antibodies in the cat's body. The cat's spleen may either enlarge uniformly over the entire organ or enlarge asymmetrically.
Symptoms of Enlarged Spleen in Cats
Because the spleen is responsible for storing and filtering blood, removing old cells and foreign bodies from the bloodstream, and helping the immune system function properly, the cat may experience a variety of symptoms that warrant investigation in order to treat the primary cause of the enlargement.
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Swollen abdomen
- Abdominal pain/sensitivity
Causes of Enlarged Spleen in Cats
There are a variety of causes of splenomegaly in cats, which include:
- Abdominal injury due to trauma
- Heart failure
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Infectious disorders, such as feline infectious peritonitis
- Cancer, such as multiple myeloma and feline leukemia virus
- Bacterial infection
- Autoimmune disorders, such as systemic lupus
- Splenic torsion (rotation or twisting of the spleen)
- Fungal infections, such as histoplasmosis
Diagnosis of Enlarged Spleen in Cats
The veterinarian will examine the cat, feeling for swollen lymph nodes and a swollen abdomen. In some cases, the enlarged spleen will be protruding through the abdominal skin and is noticeable with a visual examination. The veterinarian will need to know the cat's complete health history, all of the symptoms the cat is experiencing, and when symptoms first began.
A complete blood count, biochemical blood profile and a urinalysis will be taken. These tests will help the veterinarian determine the primary condition that is causing the spleen enlargement. The tests will also show how the other organs, such as the kidneys and liver, are being affected by the primary condition. The blood tests will typically also show signs of an enlarged spleen, which include a high white blood cell count, low hemoglobin levels (anemia) and abnormal cells that are causing the inflammation.
Diagnostic tests, such as an x-ray and ultrasound, will be performed. These tests will allow the veterinarian to view the spleen and the surrounding organs for any abnormalities. A fine needle aspiration may also be performed. During this test, the veterinarian will insert a thin needle into the spleen, drawing out a fluid sample for further analysis. In rare occasions, exploratory surgery may be necessary if a diagnosis isn't found with other tests.
Treatment of Enlarged Spleen in Cats
Treatment of the enlarged spleen will depend on treating the primary condition that is causing the inflammation.
Corticosteroids may be prescribed by the veterinarian in order to reduce the inflammation in the spleen and other organs. If the enlargement is due to a bacterial infection, antibiotics will be prescribed. Autoimmune primary causes will be treated with immunosuppressants, which work to suppress the reaction of the immune system. Cancer may be treated with chemotherapy, which will work to kill the cancer cells in the cat's body. Cats who are severely anemic may need to take iron supplements. Medications to treat fungal infections may also be prescribed.
In cases of splenic torsion or trauma, the veterinarian may need to remove all or part of the cat's spleen (splenectomy). This will be done in the hospital under general anesthesia. During surgery, the veterinarian will make a small incision in the cat's abdomen. The entire spleen or affected portion of the spleen will be removed and the blood vessels attached to the spleen will be clamped and tied. The incision site will then be closed. Surgery may also be necessary to remove any tumors or masses that have formed due to cancer.
Recovery of Enlarged Spleen in Cats
The cat will need to continue to take medication as prescribed by the veterinarian in order to prevent the primary condition from worsening and causing the spleen to enlarge once more. Follow-up appointments to monitor labs and medication will be necessary. If the cat had surgery, it's important to care for the incision site at home to prevent infection from occurring. Keeping the cat calm and stopping strenuous activities is essential in proper recovery.
Enlarged Spleen Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I have a 16 year old cat who's been diagnosed with splenomegaly. In addition to this recent diagnosis, he was also recently diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, stage one chronic renal failure and is now developing congestive heart failure along with a mass that has developed in his liver within the last month. The initial intent was to have his spleen removed; but his vet has mentioned that given these other conditions, my cat's health could potentially crash after the surgery. My question is if there's alternate treatments that can be done to treat or reduce my cat's splenomegaly.
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Cat seems to hack/cough like a hairball is coming, but nothing comes. It's random. Just started after we moved to another state (also near a coal plant). Vet gave hairball medication but hasn't worked. She crackles/wheezes afterward. She crouches and stretches her neck out and twists her head to the side when she does the coughs. Vet said her lungs sound clear. He said X-ray of lungs look fine, but online it said I shouldn't see branches in her lungs (I see very faint gray lines). The rest of her lungs are black (air). What could this be? He didn't say anything about her heart and just chalked it up to an allergy (because she wasn't coughing there at the clinic). I said it was random times but he dismissed it. I'm afraid it could be asthma.
On an x-ray you will still see faint grey lines as the trachea, bronchi etc… of the lungs are made up of tissue which partially block the x-rays passing through them, bones block all of the x-rays and air blocks nothing (the film starts clear and the x-rays turn the areas black). There are many different causes for hacking cough including allergies, chemical irritation, heart failure, laryngeal problems etc… If you are still concerned, you may visit another Veterinarian for an examination; ask your original Veterinarian for a copy of the x-ray (so you don’t need to pay again). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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Major swollen belly.
A major swollen belly in a cat (especially geriatric cats) is more likely to be caused by fluid in the abdomen (ascites), which would also cause lethargy, weakness and breathing difficulties (either from fluid in the lungs, pressure of fluid against diaphragm or both). Causes may be due to liver damage, infection, inflammation, low blood protein or tumours. You would need to take Precious to your Veterinarian for examination and blood tests (as well as possibly x-rays) to help determine the cause and possible treatment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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