4 min read


Can Dogs Live without Their Spleen?



4 min read


Can Dogs Live without Their Spleen?


It's always uncomfortable, and potentially very sad, to discuss parts of your dog's body that he or she could live without. As a dog owner, the last thing you want to do is see your pup sick, injured, or facing grave danger due to some kind of malady. That being said, though, it's always good to know your options and to know what is and isn't necessary for your dog's survival. 

To answer the question directly, your dog can live without his or her spleen. While the spleen (the largest organ in your dog's lymphatic system), serves an important purpose, it's not a necessary organ for your dog's survival, and typically, pups can lead a normal, happy, and healthy life following a total splenectomy (or spleen removal surgery). 

A ruptured or damaged spleen can be incredibly dangerous for your dog, meaning you should always be on the lookout for signs of a spleen issue. How can you tell if your pup is having a spleen issue? How can you locate your dog's spleen to see if there's an issue? What does a spleen even do? 

We've got all the information you'll ever need below in our spleen guide! Check it out! 


Signs There's Something Wrong with Your Dog's Spleen

Your dog's spleen - yours, too - is the largest organ in the lymphatic system. Located in the upper left region of your pup's abdomen (the left flank), it's attached to your pup's stomach by small, stringy blood vessels. The spleen is set up to help with circulation, destroy and preserve red blood cells selectively, and it can respond faster than any other lymph nodes to blood-borne antigens. The spleen stores about 10-20 percent of total blood volume, which, needless to say, means it's a pretty important organ. 

That being said, your dog can have spleen issues, and when things go wrong, they can lead a totally normal life without their spleen. How can you tell if your dog is struggling with spleen problems? 

For starters, if your dog's spleen has ruptured, it's likely that they'll have a swollen belly. Check your pup's underside for any strange-feeling masses or swollen areas. 

You can also expect an incredibly sleepy or lethargic dog. Your pup won't want to run around or be active, instead, he or she will want to lay down and will have a hard time getting up and moving around. More seriously, your dog could face anemia, turn pale around the gums and eyes, go into shock, collapse, or lose consciousness if they're having spleen issues.

Body Language

Signs your dog might need a splenectomy, otherwise known as a spleen removal are:

  • Weakness
  • Whimpering

Other Signs

There are other signs to look out for, too, like:

  • Anaemia
  • Extreme Tiredness
  • Swollen Belly
  • Lack Of Appetite
  • Collapse
  • Shock

The History of Spleen Issues in Dogs


Dogs' spleens are designed to help filter and protect red blood cells, circulate blood, and respond quickly to blood-borne antigens, but sometimes, these things don't go according to plan. If your dog's spleen is malfunctioning, it's likely due to one of these historical causes. 

Most commonly, your dog will have a splenic mass, which, according to the Ohio State University, of 85 dogs that underwent a splenectomy, about 20 percent were found to have nonneoplastic tumors and 50 percent had neoplastic tumors. 

It's also possible that your dog's spleen is simply a biological mishap like splenic torsion.  Because your dog's spleen is attached to their stomach, if the stomach twists, the spleen does, too. A twist in the spleen can cause the spleen to rupture, which in turn causes blood and other toxins to enter into your dog's body. This usually results in shock, collapse, and other tragic symptoms until the dog's spleen is removed or repaired.

Splenomegaly is another historic cause of spleen issues, and it's simply an unintended enlargement of the spleen. Splenic torsion can cause this issue.

The Science Behind the Spleen


In order to understand how your dog can live without his or her spleen, it's necessary to have a better understanding of the spleen's function in the first place. The spleen is the organ that is responsible for storing blood vessels and cleaning toxins from your dog's blood. It's an organ that helps your dog's body function, but it isn't totally necessary for your dog to live. 

That being said, a damaged spleen could, unfortunately, kill your dog. If your dog's spleen is damaged and left without repair, it could bleed into your pup's abdominal cavity, causing infection, edema, and other bacterial infections from the substances that the spleen holds and has sorted out from your dog's blood. Generally, dog-tors will aim to repair the spleen first, but if repair is off the table, then a spleen removal isn't out of the question.

Helping Your Dog Recover from a Splenectomy


When it comes to splenectomies and the health of your dog's spleen, you'll need to practice prevention, but it's possible that, despite your efforts, your dog will need a splenectomy. If this is the case, you'll need to teach your dog to deal with a new, healthy life sans spleen. 

For starters, you can work on splenectomy prevention by training your dog to avoid some activities that could contribute to a ruptured or injured spleen. For example, most spleen injuries (due to its location on your dog's left flank) are a result of injuries like being hit by a car or direct contact with other animals or people. 

You can help to avoid these types of spleen issues by training your dog to abide by basic commands, teaching them to walk on a leash, and training them to have proper street conduct when walking near roads. This includes teaching your dog that walking on a leash is a practiced procedure, that they shouldn't pull or tug, and that they definitely shouldn't run away when they're off the leash. 

If your dog's spleen issues are unavoidable due to internal issues, it's possible your dog will need a splenectomy. If this is the case, you'll need to train your dog to recover from a splenectomy surgery in the most painless way possible. 

First, we recommend that you crate train your dog prior to surgery. This way, when you keep your dog inside his or her crate after surgery to avoid strain, exercise, and infection, your pup will be comfortable, rather than stressed out or frightened. 

Additionally, your pup will need to take antibiotics and other medicines post surgery in order to heal correctly. Train your dog to take medicine out of your hand like a treat, mix it into their food, or implement a throw-and-catch game for your dog. 

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Safety Tips for Dogs without Spleens:

  1. Ensure your dog is resting properly and often.
  2. Make sure your dog is taking his or her antibiotic medication to prevent infection in your dog's incision.
  3. Reduce your dog's exercise significantly.
  4. Keep a careful eye on your dog during their healing process. If something seems wrong, contact your vet immediately.

Written by a Great Dane lover Hanna Marcus

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 06/05/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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