What is Splenectomy?

A splenectomy is the total removal of the spleen from the dog's body. The spleen is responsible for storing blood vessels and cleaning toxins from the blood. If damaged, it can bleed profusely into the abdominal cavity, causing edema and even infection from the substances it usually filters out of the bloodstream. Removal of the spleen is generally only performed if methods of repair are not sufficient.

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Splenectomy Procedure in Dogs

The vet will begin by placing the dog under general anesthesia and shaving a large area along the abdomen. This is because a ruptured spleen will typically require an 'open splenectomy' in order to fully remove it. Next, they will make an incision along the abdomen and move aside any intervening tissues. Next, they will cut out and remove the spleen along with any associated fragments before sealing off the connecting ducts. The final step is to clean up any possibly infected fluid and suture the incision shut. At this point, the dog can be allowed to recover from anesthesia.

Efficacy of Splenectomy in Dogs

Damage to the spleen is typically accompanied by other injuries (often serious), so it can be difficult to judge the effectiveness of the treatment by observing changes in the dog's behavior. However, the immediate danger posed by the ruptured, cancerous, or infected spleen will have been eliminated as soon as the surgeon extracts it from the body. While the effects of a splenectomy are permanent, owners should know that removal of the spleen will not have a major impact on their dog's quality of life, as its functions are shared by several other parts of the body. 

Splenectomy Recovery in Dogs

Following surgery, it can take over a month for the incision to fully heal. Because of this, the vet will provide owners with painkillers that can be administered to the dog at home. It will also be necessary for the dog to be fitted with an E-collar to prevent them from pulling out the stitches holding their abdomen closed. Additionally, due to the size of an open splenectomy incision, owners will have to dramatically reduce the amount of exercise their dog undertakes, as well as keeping a careful eye on them throughout the day. Additionally, antibiotic medication may be prescribed in order to prevent the dog from picking up an infection following the surgery (especially if the spleen itself was suffering from an infection).

Cost of Splenectomy in Dogs

The price of a splenectomy can be quite high. This is because of the diagnostic tests required in order to identify the problem in the first place, as well as the surgical knowledge required in order to perform the procedure. In all, most owners can expect to pay around $2,5000 for a splenectomy. For older dogs or ones suffering from more complex conditions, the prices for the procedure can go even higher.

Dog Splenectomy Considerations

While the splenectomy can be a lifesaving procedure for many dogs, there are some attendant risks that may cause some owners to think twice. As with all major surgeries, the dog must be placed under general anesthetic, which can cause cardiovascular failure in some dogs. Additionally, without a spleen, there is an increased susceptibility to infection and longer recovery times from illnesses can be expected. For elderly dogs, these problems may be even greater, giving their owners pause for thought.

Splenectomy Prevention in Dogs

Although many cancers and infections are unpredictable and somewhat hard to guard against, owners can do a lot to mitigate the risk of direct injury to their dog's spleen. Due to the spleen's location high on the left flank of the dog, most injuries occur not through accidents in play caused by objects on the ground (unlike, for example, stomach injuries), but by being hit by cars and direct confrontations with other animals. By properly training their pet on how to act around roads and when encountering strange dogs, owners can reduce much of the risk of injury to the spleen.

Splenectomy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Sarge
Chocolate lab
10 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

None. Diagnosed during regular check

Should I do a splenectomy on my 10 year old lab? The vet discovered it on a routine checkup, he hasn't been acting different, still eats great so it has us shocked. We did an ultrasound today and they found a baseball sized mass and nodules on the spleen and also a enlarged lymph node in his abdomen...what would you do?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
980 Recommendations

Splenectomy is the treatment of choice in these types of cases and while prognosis is variable due to many factors, splenectomy usually prolongs the lifespan in many cases; hemangiosarcomas are common in labradors over the age of eight years old. Removal of the spleen would be the best plan of action and it can then be sent for histopathology to determine whether is it an hemangiosarcoma or not. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
www.acvs.org/small-animal/splenic-masses

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rocky
staffy x
8
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

spleen removed

my 8 year old staffy cross just had his spleen removed as there was a 2kg mass growing on it. what happens now? they will send it for testing but if its not a cancerous growth and didnt spred, after recovery will he go back to his usual self? if it does come back as cancerous what should we expect?
thank you

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
980 Recommendations
Benign splenic masses are usually ‘cured’ with splenectomy (I used cured in a general sense); if the mass comes back as being malignant (especially if a hemangiosarcoma) then further treatment may be required. Depending on the histopathology report chemotherapy may be recommended, but in cases of hemangiosarcoma the overall prognosis is generally poor; again the histopathology report will cover all of this. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.acvs.org/small-animal/splenic-masses

Reading all of this has taught me a few good things but i will say when giving a rough estamate of price it should be double checked lol it says 25000 im assuming there is one extra 0 ...i just went threw a long and lengthy experience with my dog and i will continue looking into after care ...thanks for the info ...take care

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Cody
Samoyed
10 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Walking tenderly

I have a 10 year old Samoyed that was not acting himself walking slow could not jump did not like to lay down. We took him to our vet and they took a x-ray and found a big mass in him. We were sent to a vet hospital and they there thing and said he had a cantaloupe size tumor on his spleen and surgery was necessary right away. Surgery went well it was only on the spleen nothing else they removed the spleen and the tumor and took a biopsy of the liver. The tumor was benign and the surgeon said everything else look great in him. He stayed for 2 days he came home and acted like nothing had happen, they had him on Rimadyl and tramadol. Everything was going great for 12 days and then we notice his right side of his face look like he had a stroke and he walks kind of slow. I put my finger next to his right eye and it seems like he does not blink or move his right ear and has trouble eating on the right side. Also he can not bark like a dog should but we kind notice that before the surgery and we thinking he was in pain. We have had him back at the vet who did the surgery but really have any answers. Just wondering what you think or our next step should be. He is eating and drinking normal but has a hard time with his hard dog food, feeding him chicken and rice. Should we go to get a second opinion. Thank you

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
980 Recommendations

It is difficult to say what the cause of the symptoms you are describing could be attributable to; stroke, head trauma, poisoning among other causes are all possible causes. Without examining Cody, I cannot give much guidance; you could go to ask another Veterinarian their opinion on Cody’s symptoms and have them examine him but with these types of symptoms a CT scan may be required to rule out some causes which may be cost prohibitive (and if you are insured needs to be justified for coverage) or you can wait a few days to see if there is any improvement in his face and walking. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Wesley
West Highland White Terrier
13 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Lethargic, tender belly, obviously something wrong
Did not want to move.

Medication Used

Tramadol 50 mg.
Rimadyl, Docusate Sodium & Clavamox
Clavamox antibiotic- oral

My male dog was diagnosed with a large cavitated cranial mass. After making the decision to operate, the surgeon noted that the spleen was enlarged with one large, ruptured mass (6-8 cm in diameter) in the body of the spleen. The spleen and the mass were removed and a biopsy was made of the liver. Pathology tests indicated no cancer and the liver was fine. I brought him home and he was acting normal the next day. He was in excellent spirits the next four days. Movement was restricted as requested. Six days post surgery we woke up and Wesley had died while sleeping. What do you think happened when he seemed so good?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
980 Recommendations

During this distressing time after losing Wesley it is normal to look for answers to the cause of his death, Wesley was old and the surgery and anaesthesia may or may not have contributed to his death; I cannot say for sure what may have caused Wesley’s death but I would recommend a necropsy which may give you information regarding the cause of death. Common complications from splenectomy include internal haemorrhage and cardiac arrhythmias. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
www.acvs.org/small-animal/splenic-masses

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Scooby
Rottweiler
9 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

None. Diagnosed during regular check
None

We supposedly found a 2 inch benign mass on my adult dogs spleen 2 weeks ago. The vet insisted on removing it the next day. He had me believing it was cancer so I agreed. His spleen was 16 inches long. The surgery went well but 4 days later he suddenly died. Was this surgery necessary? Thank you

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
980 Recommendations

Masses on the spleen may be either benign or malignant, but the treatment of choice is to remove them either by a partial or full splenectomy. The danger is if there is a hemangiosarcoma (malignant tumour), it may rupture which would be fatal. Differentiating between splenic masses is done after surgical removal to determine the level of aftercare required. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
www.acvs.org/small-animal/splenic-masses

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Missy
Beagle
13 Years
Critical condition
0 found helpful
Critical condition

Has Symptoms

eating grass frequently

Our 13 year old beagle had an emergency splenectomy a couple of months back. I find she eats a lot more grass than she usually did post op. Can you advise what diet is recommended? We have had her on VIP chunkers alternating chicken & beef for some time now but should we now change her diet? Also should she be on any regular medication to avoid getting infections?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
980 Recommendations

Removal of the spleen doesn’t increase the risk of getting an infection but will make the body less effective at fighting an infection; so just be extra vigilant to signs of infection (fever, loss of appetite, weakness) and visit your Veterinarian early for treatment. Diet wise, no change is needed if you are feeding a palatable complete dog food; there are many theories for why dogs eat grass, non proven yet. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Pepsi
Cocker Spanial
15 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

low platelet count

Medication Used

none

Hi

My dog who is 15 yrs old has diffused hyperechogenicity of spleen with relatively hypoechoic circumscribed mass attached at mid - caudal part of spleen..she is not bleeding

Is it serious and does she need to be operated..is surgery life threatening

Is it advisable to do surgery as she is old..really confused cannot decide..kindly help

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
980 Recommendations

Surgical removal is the treatment of choice for masses on the spleen; there are risks involved with surgery and risks involved with a wait and see approach. Fifteen is an old age as Cocker Spaniels in the USA have an average lifespan of 12-14 years (this can be as low as 10 years or as high as 15 years depending on literature source); surgery in older dogs, especially dogs which have passed 75% of their life expectancy, is always more of a risk but your Veterinarian will mitigate these risks with pre anaesthetic blood tests and peri operative management. It would be best to speak with your Veterinarian as each case is different and they will make a risk - reward decision based on their finding; if surgery isn’t performed, there is in rare cases a risk of the spleen rupturing which would be life threatening. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Lilee
dachshund beagle mix
10-11 yrs
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

spleen tumor

Medication Used

Antibiotics

My beagle / dachshund mix 10 1/2 yr old has a 2" diameter tumor on her spleen and some nodules on her liver seen by doctor in ultra sound. Vet recommended removal of her spleen and would check out the nodules on her liver during surgery. I am having mixed feelings about even putting our dear little girl through any surgery. If we choose not to go through with the procedure, what should we expect for our girl if we let nature take its course? Thank you.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
980 Recommendations

Splenic tumours may be benign or malignant in nature; surgery is the treatment of choice in both cases, rupture of a splenic tumour would lead to instant death from internal bleeding. We cannot know the type of tumour unless a biopsy is taken; although nodules on the liver are not encouraging. Surgery together with chemotherapy in cases of a malignant tumour will extend life to around a year or so but wouldn’t be curative; if nature is left to take it’s course you're looking at a timeline of months, but each case is different. I would recommend the surgery so that a biopsy can be taken and a plan of management can be made. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
www.acvs.org/small-animal/splenic-masses

I received the exact same news after an ultrasound was done on my Lhasa/Maltese (also 10 1/2)). I researched online and came to the conclusion that I had to have her spleen removed to give her a fighting chance! From what I read, it seemed that it wasn't a matter of IF it would burst, but when. I opted to have the surgery done at our animal hospital so she would be monitored 24/7, in case of internal bleeding. She is doing GREAT! She actually had 2 3" tumors ( I asked to see it after removal - yuck!). The tumors were benign, and the liver was fine, thank God. I took her off the pain meds after 2 days, because she acted as if nothing had ever happened! Never even need a cone to prevent her from licking! Good luck with your baby!

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Kacie
Beagle mix
11 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

back pain
Panting/Abnoraml Breathing

I have an 11 year old beagle mix. She went in for back pain and was found to have spondylitis. She was also checked for bladder infection which was present. Started on antibiotics for both. Also found on xray was splenic mass. A follow up ultrasound showed abnormally shaped spleen with no defined mass. At this point she was also checked for Cushing's and she has it. Was started on meds for that. Several repeat xrays, blood tests and change of antibiotics later, the back is healed of the infection, but now the xray shows the splenic mass seen throughout xrays is quite a bit larger. She goes in Monday for another ultrasound. Since Cushing's increases infection risk and splenectomy does also, I am very, very hesitant to put her through this at her age. Your thoughts?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
980 Recommendations

Whilst eleven is old, it isn’t too old; there is always a risk of splenic rupture with masses in the spleen which unfortunately results in a patient bleeding out into their abdomen. There is a risk reward balance that your Veterinarian will determine before they recommend surgery; with pre anaesthetic blood tests, modern anaesthetics and care there is less to worry about, but caution is advised. If your Veterinarian recommends surgery, I would go through with it; but the decision is down to you, I can only write generally as I haven’t examined Kacie. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Jose Emmanuel
Chihuahua
14 1/2
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Not eating,

Hello....I have a 14 yr old chihuahua who has been diagnosed with a very enlarged spleen. He was not eating, so had an eray and ultrasound done at local vet. He recommended a local Vet.Hospital with better equipment to do tests to determine the cause of his enlarged spleen. That appt. is tomorrow. I have babied him and he is eating fairly well at this time. From reading others questions, mine is much the same. If they discover spleenic tumors (either inside or on the spleen) will they likely recommend a spleenectomy at his age? A chihuahua can live to be 18 or 19. Should we take that risk and hope their are no complications? They are a breed with trachea collapse issues, an it worries me to put him under for this. Will the tumors likely rupture if he doesn't have an operation? What to do?????

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
980 Recommendations
Chihuahuas indeed may have a long lifespan; whilst complications may occur during surgery, appropriate management and care mitigates risk to acceptable levels - if he doesn’t currently have issues with tracheal collapse, I wouldn’t worry about it changing with surgery. Splenic masses have a habit of rupturing due to the nature of the usual type of tumour present; splenectomy is recommended in cases of both benign and malignant tumours. Prognosis is dependent on the findings of histopathology. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.acvs.org/small-animal/splenic-masses

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Isabel
schnauzer
8
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Lethargy

My 8 year old Schnauzer collapsed and blood work showed her RBC's down to 16%. She's been on steroids and immunosuppressants for a week. Yesterday, her RBC's went up to 32 from 28% on her own...showing signs she was holding on to her last transfusion that got her to 28%. Now she's back down to 28% and the doctors are considering a splenectomy to stop her spleen from destroying her RBC's faster than she can reproduce them. She is regenerative but not fast enough...She was stung by a bee a couple of weeks ago and possibly the night before she collapsed. So they're thinking this may have triggered her immuno response...Is this a viable action?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
980 Recommendations
There are many different causes of hemolysis in dogs which may include damage caused by the spleen; with this condition, splenectomy is usually curative. However, if the cause is due to an immune response, then suppression of the immune system should slow the rate of red blood cell production; steroids or other medications can be used to suppress the immune system. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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