What is Twisted Spleen?
When the spleen twists or rotates, it cuts off blood flow in the veins leading to it, restricting blood drainage and resulting in painful enlargement of the spleen. Your dog may show symptoms similar to those of other conditions, which is why an exam by a veterinarian is vital for an accurate diagnosis. Splenic torsion is uncommon but requires immediate attention, as it can be life-threatening.A twisted spleen, or splenic torsion, occurs when the spleen wraps around the blood vessels near it. This condition is most common in large dogs and can be life-threatening, as it cuts off blood flow in the area. Acute splenic torsion is treated as an emergency, and the enlarged spleen must be removed as soon as possible to avoid shock.
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Symptoms of Twisted Spleen in Dogs
The symptoms of splenic torsion are not specific to the condition. A dog that is suffering from a twisted spleen may exhibit a number of signs, including:
- Abdominal pain
- Weakness or collapse
- Pale gums
- Rapid heart rate
- Abdominal distention
Causes of Twisted Spleen in Dogs
A twisted spleen is a condition where the spleen twists around blood vessels, cutting off blood flow either partially or completely and leading to enlargement of the spleen. This most commonly occurs in large breed dogs with a deep chest, such as Great Danes, German Shepherds, and Saint Bernards. Though there is no known cause for splenic torsion, it is believed to happen more frequently when the spleen moves within the body, such as during physical activity. Gastric dilation may also pull the spleen into an unusual position.
Diagnosis of Twisted Spleen in Dogs
Splenic torsion can be diagnosed by various means, including with a physical examination or with radiographs. During your initial visit, the veterinarian will take a complete medical history and perform a urinalysis or blood work. Laboratory testing will indicate conditions that may arise due to a twisted spleen, such as anemia or decreased hemoglobin concentration, which may also be visible as pale gums. These results are not specific to splenic torsion, but they may provide the veterinarian with an idea of the extent of your dog’s condition.
The veterinarian may be able to detect the enlarged spleen by palpating your dog’s abdomen. An X-ray can reveal a spleen that is out of its normal position, a C-shaped spleen, or potentially free-floating fluid in the abdomen. An ultrasound provides confirmation of an enlarged spleen and can additionally show loss of blood flow in the veins. Though a CT scan is not typically used to diagnose splenic torsion, the results may show the twisted veins as a corkscrew mass.
Treatment of Twisted Spleen in Dogs
Surgery is the standard treatment for a twisted spleen. If your dog is in acute shock, the veterinarian will first stabilize him or her with IV fluid therapy and a plasma or blood transfusion as necessary. The spleen is then removed under general anesthesia. Dogs are able to lead normal lives without their spleens, though some may develop cardiac arrhythmia following the operation.
Following surgery, your dog may be hospitalized so that the veterinarian can continue to monitor his or her blood pressure, heart rate, and other vitals over the next few days. Fluid therapy will be continued until your dog has stabilized and is recovered enough to go home. Overall, the prognosis is good for dogs with an uncomplicated case of splenic torsion, but those who have the acute form may be more severely affected due to toxins in the blood or to shock. Typically, the sooner the spleen is removed, the better your dog’s chances at a full recovery.
Recovery of Twisted Spleen in Dogs
Once your dog is home, provide a safe, quiet place for the recovery process. Inspect the surgical incision daily for signs of infection, and monitor your dog for retching, abdominal distention, diarrhea, or vomiting. Restrict your dog’s activity while the surgical site heals, and prevent your dog from worrying at the incision with an Elizabethan collar. As your dog recovers, you may need to return to the veterinarian for a follow-up exam to make sure that the healing process is progressing normally and to monitor post-operative arrhythmias if present.
Twisted Spleen Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
We were given a 5 year old german shepherd and within a week , we brought him to vet where he was diagnosed with a twisted spleen. He is well after the surgery but my question is whether it is possible to know about this problem prior to sudden overnight symptoms.
Torsion of the spleen may be acute (sudden) or chronic (long term), usually torsion of the spleen is a sudden (without warning) condition brought on by excessive rough housing / rolling / playing or gastrointestinal conditions (normally secondary to gastric dilatation and volvulus); larger dogs (especially German Shepherds) are at a higher risk of splenic torsion. Splenectomy (removal of the spleen) is the treatment for this condition. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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