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What is Splenic Hemorrhage?

A splenic hemorrhage is an extremely dangerous situation that can become fatal quickly. The blood from the spleen leaks into the abdomen, causing anemia and shock from loss of blood. If the cause is from an injury, you will most likely know that your dog has internal injuries right away due to the swollen abdomen and sudden weakness or vomiting. However, if your dog has a spontaneous splenic hemorrhage, the most common cause is splenic tumors, which may be either cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign). Both types can cause splenic hemorrhage, hematoma (accumulation of blood in the spleen), and death without treatment.

Splenic hemorrhage (hemoabdomen) is a life-threatening condition not uncommon in large breed dogs such as the German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, Doberman Pinscher, and Great Dane. A splenic hemorrhage may be spontaneous or traumatic. The most common cause of a spontaneous hemorrhage is neoplasia (80% of the time), which is a tumor in the spleen and the most common cause of traumatic splenic hemorrhage is being hit by a car. That is one of the main reasons why it is so important to keep your dog on a leash when he is outside and not restricted by a fence. Splenic hemorrhage can be fatal in less than an hour if not treated, so if your dog collapses, weak, and has a bloated abdomen, you need to take him to a veterinary emergency hospital.

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Symptoms of Splenic Hemorrhage in Dogs

There are two types of splenic hemorrhage but if your dog has either type of splenic hemorrhage, you will likely notice signs such as:

  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Bloated abdomen
  • Difficulty breathing, may be labored or your dog may be gasping for air
  • Pale gums or lips
  • Not eating or drinking
  • Sudden unexpected collapse for no obvious reason
  • Weight loss (if the condition is chronic from slower blood loss)
  • Low blood pressure (extreme lethargy, confusion, dizziness, fainting)
  • Shock (nausea, anxiety, cold limbs, restlessness, collapse)

Types

  • Spontaneous splenic hemorrhage is caused by an underlying condition.
  • Traumatic splenic hemorrhage is caused by an injury to the chest or abdominal area

Causes of Splenic Hemorrhage in Dogs

Traumatic

  • Hit by car

Spontaneous

  • Tumor
  • Blood clots
  • Toxic chemical such as rodenticides

Hereditary

  • Golden Retrievers
  • German Shepherds
  • Skye Terriers
  • Portuguese Water Dogs
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs
  • Flat Coated Retrievers
  • English setters
  • Great Danes
  • Boxers
  • Pointers
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Large mixed breeds

Diagnosis of Splenic Hemorrhage in Dogs

The veterinarian will do a fast examination while you explain the symptoms you have seen and if your dog has had any injuries or illnesses recently. In addition, the veterinarian will need to perform an abdominocentesis. This procedure is done by inserting a needle into the abdomen to extract a sample for microscopic evaluation. An echocardiogram (ECHO) and electrocardiogram (EKG) should also be done due to the possibility of shock and cardiac arrhythmias.

Additionally, abdominal x-rays, CT scans, an MRI, and an ultrasound are good for determining the amount of free fluid in the abdomen. Abnormal biochemistry results include a decrease in albumin and increased blood glucose, alkaline phosphatase, and alanine aminotransferase. Your dog will also be anemic (low iron) due to blood loss. Also, a coagulation profile will be done, but is normal in many cases. A packed cell volume (PCV) analysis will show a decreased PCV.

Treatment of Splenic Hemorrhage in Dogs

For a serious condition such as splenic hemorrhage, treatment may have already been started during diagnosis. The veterinarian may have started intravenous (IV) fluids, oxygen therapy, and blood transfusions. Other treatments include medication, abdominal wrapping, and possibly surgery.

Intravenous (IV) Fluids

Due to blood loss, intravenous (IV) fluids are essential to recovery. The standard treatment for splenic hemorrhage is isotonic crystalloids until vital signs improve followed by colloid boluses if needed.

Blood Transfusions

The veterinarian will most likely transfuse your dog with fresh whole blood or packed red blood cells to increase the PCV. If coagulopathy is the cause, fresh frozen plasma may be used instead.

Abdominal Wrap

The veterinarian will wrap your dog’s abdomen tightly with a compression bandage, which slows the blood loss while getting further diagnosis if needed.

Oxygen Therapy

If your dog is having a difficult time breathing, oxygen will be provided with a nasal cannula or muzzle mask.

Medication

Pain relief is important to reduce stress on your dog, which helps any treatment succeed. Narcotics or NSAIDs may be given until your dog is stable. Steroids may be given to decrease inflammation and also help with pain.

Surgery

Surgery to remove the spleen is only done if absolutely necessary. If the bleeding cannot be controlled with any of the above treatments, the veterinarian will perform a splenectomy (removal of the spleen). This surgery usually completely solves the problem. However, if the veterinarian finds a malignant tumor, radiation or chemotherapy will have to be done as well.

Recovery of Splenic Hemorrhage in Dogs

Your dog will most likely be kept in the hospital for several days so they can keep him under 24 hour observation while he recovers from surgery. Once you go home, your dog may be on cage rest for a few days and you will need to keep him under close observation as well.

Splenic Hemorrhage Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Kizzy
Border collie lab
8 Years
Critical condition
0 found helpful
Critical condition

Has Symptoms

wanting to eat dirt lately.

My Kizzy was an 8 year old lab/border collie mix. She was a brilliant dog who loved to run, went to agility for a few years, lots of training and she was 'my person'. I loved this girl with all my heart. She had the best of the best with me. Home cooked balanced food, a farm to run on with me, she slept on the food of my bed since she was 6 weeks old. We always took her to our vet at any sign of illness and she had her yearly check ups. A few months ago she tore her ACL in her knee, and had special braces made, which she hated and we didn't force. Lately she started going off of her food, not wanting to eat without being coaxed. But would eat. Sometimes she would vomit but not get sick. She started to slow down in her lust for life, I thought it was because of her knee. Then suddenly a few days ago she became gravely ill. Her spleen was huge, so large it was pushing her organs lower in her body. We discovered her heart was small. My vet sent us home with her with prednisone. She became severely anemic literally within a couple of days. Yesterday we had to put her down. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do and I'm crying now just typing this. I need assurance that this was not poisoning. I can't get that idea out of my head.

Kizzy,

My 12 year old dog is going through a very similar experience. Torn ACL, slow down, and yesterday he collapsed. We took him to an emergency vet and we were given the same medication and were told he is anemic. We are now waiting for him to see his regular vet. I am scared to death and very devastated.

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Cody
Black Labrador
12 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

cough

My 12 year old black Labrador just went in to surgery to pull a couple teeth but it’s turned into a nightmare. He cut off a growth on his gums and a tumor in the back of his throat as well as 3 teeth extracted. Took him home he was ok through the night but threw up gallons of water and blood in the morning and would not walk or eat. Took him to hospital where he spent the night on IV’s for fluid antibiotics and pain. This morning he walked outside drank water but won’t eat. And something’s not right with his blood levels. His spleen is too small for his 90 lbs and they want to do an ultrasound for another $500. I’m going to see him now. He was fine before surgery except his breath and coughing but he was eating walking etc. I think my vet should have taken another easier less expensive route to find out what was wrong with Cody. I told him. Don’t want him to suffer I’d rather put him to sleep. I’ve had him since he was 8 weeks old.
Any advice is welcome. I’m heartbroken of course 💙

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Scamp
Akita Chow
13 Years
Critical condition
1 found helpful
Critical condition

Has Symptoms

Tiredness, labored breathing, unste

I lost my Scamp two days ago. He was a beautiful Akita mix. He had been off his food a bit the last few weeks, but I thought it was because of the heat. He had been slowing down, but at 13 1/2 I thought he was doing pretty good, The day it happened, he was fine in the morning, but in the afternoon his legs got shaky, he was tired and his breathing was labored. I called three vets before onewould see him. I took him to Midway Aimal Hospital at 3:00. They took x rays, and found his heart, lungs, kidneys were all in good shape. Blood work showed that the veins in his paws were only getting 30% blood to them. Next they did an ultrasound, which revealed he had a bleed in his abdomen. His abdomen had been tender, and he was pale. The vet recommended I take Scamp to UFL in Gainesville right away, which was two hours away. It was now seven o'clock, and the vet had called Gainesville to let them know to expect us. He had told me they would stabilize him, and then operate to remove the tumor and maybe the spleen. The cost was established between $3500 and $5000. We are not rich people by any means, but he was our baby, so we decided to try to save him. I drove to Gainesville. The last ten minutes before we got there, he started panting, and I figured he had to go to the bathroom, so I talked to him while I was driving. We got to the er at 9:15. As I opened the back door of the van, he gave a jerk, his head fell out and he took a final breath. They tried to revive him, but my baby was dead. I am in shock that this happened do quickly, and I did not realize how sick he really was. I miss him so darn much, and the ache in my heart is unbearable.

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Elsie
Pit bull
14 Years
Critical condition
2 found helpful
Critical condition

Has Symptoms

Vomiting
Lethargy

Our 14 year old baby girl Elsie suddenly died a few days ago. She was mostly normal just the day before, ate fine, drank fine, went on a walk and generally seemed okay. She went to bed early, which was a bit odd, gave a small whine when I touched her belly and then walked up the stairs much slower than normal. I didn't think too much of it cause she's almost 14 and a half years old and had gone on a long walk earlier. This was at 10pm. When I went to get her downstairs at 9am, I noticed she had vommited in a few spots and also there was some poop nearby. SI thought she must have a virus of some sort and was sick. I went over to her, pet her, told her I was sorry she wasn't feeling well and cleaned up the vomit and poop. Upon telling my wife, she looked up the symptoms but none of it seemed correct. I went and looked at her again, she had some white foam by her mouth. She didn't want to move. I had a bad feeling, called the Vet to make sure they could see her right away. I threw some clothes on, got the car ready, got her leash and went up to get her at 9:38.....she had passed away. After a day of severe grieving I asked my Vet of 14 years what he thought happened and he said it was very likely a ruptured Spleenic Tumor. He explained that it is common in large dog breeds, especially ones that aren't in perfect shape and have had tumors before (Elsie had 2 masses removed years prior). I looked it up to double verify on my own. Wag has reinforced what my Vet said. It's a tragic, sudden thing that can happen and can be very hard to foresee or stop.

Esme had the white thick foam and her gums and tongue were white as well. Im so sorry. I am in deep heavy grieving as well. 9 years young. Just hard to accept. And her bloodwork was normal two weeks ago. Vet said the slow bleed is what caused behavior change but that the anemia was just not showing up yet. Her behavior change was so profound. She did not wanna sleep on my bed. Would not scavenge for food. Even turned down fresh cat poop. And did not wanna lay in the sun. I went to vet pronto for bloodwork. Left relieved because she snapped out of the next day. Read that they start to lose red blood cells. And get weak. And the body starts to make more and they bounce back. And then the tumors rupture whether benign or malignant.

Oh and Esme threw up twice a week ago mostly undigested food that she had eaten 12 hours before. Once paw presented a few days later thought is was nausea from pain. But apparently her organs were not getting enough blood supply to function. She had mostly quit eating since last Thursday. Ate small amounts but thought it was due to paw pain. Also because circulation was bad she was more susceptible to infection. She had been licking paws for last few weeks constantly. Attributed it to seasonal allergies since she loved being outside in the sun. But she was trying to get circulation going and the dampness ended up giving the toe an infection. So hard when have primary issue don't see and all these secondary issues that seem separate and otherwise explainable given healthy bloodwork.

This just happened to me today. She had some behavior change two weeks ago and got her checked out. Bloodwork all clear. She snapped back to herself after two days. Then a few days ago she was limping with an infected toe. Painful and I thought well that must be whats been stewing. Today. After a few days inside she wanted to go out and sunbathe. Was so relieved she was coming around. A few hours later when to check on her. She was sitting up on her cot instead of splayed out drenched in rays and told her hey know your paw hurts. Leaving door open and come in when you are ready. Moments later she walked in. Looked at me. I saw the foam and white gums and tongue. Flew out the door with her. Had a man on sidewalk pick her up cause she was so weak but trying. Vet is two blocks away. She went into cardiac arrest on arrival. Revived her long enough to get an xray and see if mass on spleen had metastasized. But she went into arrest again. I made it to the surgical suite in her last moments and praying she heard me. Its just such a shock to realize she has been slowly bleeding and making her way as almost normal for two weeks then boom it ruptures. She was a 9 year old Rhodesian Ridgeback. Esme. Missing her so much. I am told that the slow bleeding is not painful and that it just makes them weak. For which they compensate and get on with the day. If I had waited 15 more minutes to check on her she would have died alone on her cot. I know you are glad you were home. I know I am glad. I took the day off cause felt I needed a fun day with her and we were planning to head to the park and lounge and sit by the water. Im so sorry for the loss. Apparently even if had caught it early the prognosis is only at best a few months if remove the spleen. Perhaps not having the dread and them going so quickly is a blessing. Its truly living up to the last minute. I am just in shock.

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Sunny
Bichon Frise
10 Years
Critical condition
0 found helpful
Critical condition

Has Symptoms

Anemia

My 10 year old bichon frise was diagnosed with a haemorrhaging tumour of the spleen. She is very anemic and had been very lethargic and not eating much. We took her home and she has picked up slightly,had bouts of energy, inbetween sleeping, and is eating bits of food. The vet said to see how she goes. My worry and question is should we keep her going or have her euthanised? She is fine at the moment but I don't want her spleen to rupture. I know she only has a small amount of time, but am I risking her being in pain and distress if it ruptures, or should I have her put to sleep before that happens? It's hard to end her life though when she still has some in her.

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Baylee Stringer
English Springer Spaniel
10 Years
Moderate condition
2 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Pain
Swollen Abdomen
Eye Redness
Weakness
Vomiting
Lethargic
Panting
tumor
Pain When Lifted
Weak Pulse
Lost weight
Enlarged Abdomen
Bleeding from nose
Neurological imbalance

Medication Used

Steroids for inflammation
Purina NC

My 11 yr old Springer Spaniel just passed on from an enlarged spleen yesterday. She had an enlarged spleen and tumor on right kidney. Her heart was overworking to compensate. The X-rays showed it was 4X the size of a normal spleen a month ago. She wanted to eat grass a bit and there it up. The past month it grew double the size and she became lethargic, hard to climb stairs and jump onto couch. She started panting when going out to urinate and then this week she started pacing outside and became compulsive to eating dirt despite commands. She vomited up the dirt an hour later and we took her to the vet. He said she only had a few days left as her spleen was so large it was about to rupture. She displayed all the signs listed above by “wag walking”. She was very lethargic, pale, bloodshot eyes, labored breathing and panting. A month ago when this started she had some neurological signs of possible seizure or dementia. He put her on the prescription strength Purina NC and it was very helpful and she loved it. No more brain issues after that. She also bled out her nose for a few days and lots of sneezing. She stopped eating and drinking a day ago.

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Rembrandt
Standard Poodle
10 Years
Critical condition
0 found helpful
Critical condition

Has Symptoms

spladed out

"Our 10 year old standard poodle, Rembrandt, was admitted

to DeLand Animal Hospital on Saturday, 03-31-18, at

approximately 3 p.m. He was diagnosed with a ruptured

spleen and immediate surgery was recommended. We paid

the $1800 expecting the immediate surgery that they had

promised. They lied to us. They promised to save him, but

they did not give him any treatment, tests yes,

treatment no.... DeLand Hospital, their staff, their

technicians and their veterinarians let him suffer SIX

HOURS WITHOUT TREATMENT. After wasting six (6) hours,

they called and requested that we pick Rembrandt up

because they could not find a surgeon Deland Animal

Hospital denied Rembrandt an opportunity to live."

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Jensen
Miniature shnauzer
4 Years
Mild condition
1 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Lethargy, slight pain

Medication Used

Pain medication

My dog was possibly ran over. He is now showing signs of lethargy but little pain. He is still eating and drinking and no blood in the urine. His vet said he could possibly have a damaged spleen but sent him home with some pain medication and informed me to keep an eye on him until we can bring him back in for further testing. My question is, is it likely he can recover without surgery if his spleen has been damaged?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
It all depends on the severity of the injury, without examining Jensen I cannot determine the severity of the injury or whether he requires surgery or not; you should think about having further testing done to determine whether there is any injury to the spleen or not. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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