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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.

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.

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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. 

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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).

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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 $2,500 for a splenectomy. For older dogs or ones suffering from more complex conditions, the prices for the procedure can go even higher.

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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.

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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.

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Splenectomy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Izzie

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Shih Tzu/Maltese Mix

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9 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Anemia
Mass In Abdomen

We've discovered a large mass in my almost 10 year old shih tzu/maltese mix's abdomen. After x-rays and an ultrasound, the effected organ is still undetermined, but is thought to be either the spleen, kidney, or liver. Her labs came back clean, but showed slight anemia, and she has a fluid filled pocket in her abdomen, that they are concerned is blood. They also feel her gums are slightly pale. I'm still debating whether or not I want to move forward with additional testing and/or surgery. I'm finding a lot of information out there that even if she has the mass/organ removed, she will only have a few months left with us. Chest x-ray showed that nothing has metastasized to her heart or lungs. She is outwardly a very healthy girl, it was a pure fluke that we noticed the slight protrusion on her left side.

Aug. 20, 2018

Izzie's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

It is difficult to advise you on whether to have further testing and/or surgery, as there are many factors. She seems in good health otherwise, and the mass may be a benign tumor. She may have years left with you, and without knowing further information, it is hard to make that decision. I think if she were my dog, I would try to find out more about the mass and what it might be, but that would be the decision that I would make, and may not be the same as yours.

Aug. 20, 2018

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Chanel

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Pit bull bull dog

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5 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargic, Frequent Urinination

My pit bull/ bulldog Chanel past away almost a week ago. The past few days has been horrific for us. She’s been very lethargic, tail tuck, weak, peeing in the house, panting heavily over the weekend. I took her to the next Monday morning for X-rays and blood work, the results came back negative however the vet wanted to do an ultrasound which had to wait the next morning due to being overbooked that day. I spent the last three nights sleeping on the first floor with her since she didn’t have the energy to go up/down the stairs. We woke up Tuesday morning and basically she was unable to walk, her two back legs were sooo a weak. I took her for a 7am ultrasound and the vet pointed out the spleen area and liver area. He Indy we should do a spleen surgery to see what is going on etc..... No knowing what to do a scared for by baby girl I trusted my vet abs says Ok. A little over an hour I was notified the surgery was complete however Chanel had passed on the recovery table due to heart arrest. I was devasted, I lost me baby. The vet offered to pay for the cremation and the remaining banner of the surgery vehicle was $1500, I paid a 50% deposit. The red flag went on for me, my gut is telling me that she did during surgery perhaps bleed to death. My question is can a dog die from cardiac arrest after surgery? Abs why is the vet being so generous for taking care if the cremation and the remaining bill? Is it because of Guilt?

Aug. 20, 2018

Chanel's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Losing a loved one like this is traumatic and it is normal to have concerns and questions afterwards; since I haven’t examined Chanel or performed a necropsy I cannot give you any concrete answers, however any surgery/anaesthesia is risky and it is down to a Veterinarian to determine whether a patient is stable enough for surgery or not. Cardiac arrest may occur at any time during anaesthesia and may further be complicated by some surgeries; I cannot say whether there was any wrongdoing by your Veterinarian or if they are just being compassionate. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 20, 2018

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Cosmo

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Dachshund

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16 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Enlarged Liver
Cushings Disease
Enlarged Splene

I have a 16-year-old dachshund who was supposed to be a miniature but turned out to be more of a full size. He is about 19 pounds now but has been as much as 26 pounds when he was younger. Two years ago he Was diagnosed with an enlarged liver which was probably cancerous. At that time, due to cost and recommendations from our vet we decided not to do surgery as the dog seemed comfortable and the feeling was that this enlarged liver might have been there quite some time and he might live longer if we left alone. This was certainly the case as he still going but he was just diagnosed with an enlarged spleen after a routine physical. On the x-rays I could see that it encompassed a great deal of his abdomen. I am told he probably has the beginnings of Cushing's disease as well and there is a test that they do on the liver, I don't know the name, but a year ago it showed 400, eight months ago it was 2,000, and this week it was 7,000. My vet is still recommending surgery but I am really hesitant due to the dogs age and the chance that he will not have a good recovery. He is eating a bit less now than he is to and is moving much more slowly. Is surgery worth the risk at his age? I love him very much and just wanted to have a comfortable end to his life when the time comes and to go with dignity.

Aug. 2, 2018

Cosmo's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

I think that is a decision that you need to make, and things like his age, cost, and possible outcome certainly all have to be taken into consideration. At 16, I have to agree with you that I'm not sure that I would put Cosmo through surgery, but without seeing him I can't say for sure. Since your veterinarian knows more about his situation and the actual spleen, this would be a very good discussion to have with them, and be honest about your hesitance. There isn't anything wrong with keeping him comfortable.

Aug. 2, 2018

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Cosmo

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Dachshund

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16 Years

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Serious severity

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2 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Cancer
Enlarged Liver
Enlarged Spleen

I have a 16-year-old dachshund who was supposed to be a miniature but turned out to be more of a full size. He is about 19 pounds now but has been as much as 26 pounds when he was younger. Two years ago he Was diagnosed with an enlarged liver which was probably cancerous. At that time, due to cost and recommendations from our vet we decided not to do surgery as the dog seemed comfortable and the feeling was that this enlarged liver might have been there quite some time and he might live longer if we left alone. This was certainly the case as he still going but he was just diagnosed with an enlarged spleen after a routine physical. On the x-rays I could see that it encompassed a great deal of his abdomen. My vet is recommending surgery but I am really hesitant due to the dogs age and the chance that he will not have a good recovery. He is eating a bit less now than he is to and is moving much more slowly. Is surgery worth the risk at his age? I love him very much and just wanted to have a comfortable into his life when the time comes and to go with dignity.

Aug. 2, 2018

Cosmo's Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

2 Recommendations

I think that is a decision that you need to make, and things like his age, cost, and possible outcome certainly all have to be taken into consideration. At 16, I have to agree with you that I'm not sure that I would put Cosmo through surgery, but without seeing him I can't say for sure. Since your veterinarian knows more about his situation and the actual spleen, this would be a very good discussion to have with them, and be honest about your hesitance. There isn't anything wrong with keeping him comfortable.

Aug. 2, 2018

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Sandy

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Red heeler

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12 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Stopped Eating, Can’T Walk

My 12 yr old red heeler had a splenectomy a month ago due to ruptured tumor. We did not have it tested, so don’t know if it was cancerous, but the vet said it was localized and no other nodules he could see and blood work was good. She recovered quickly and her appetite was back threefold. Last week she stopped eating much again. I took her to the vet and got 4 meds for pain and joints due to arthritis. As of today, she won’t get up at all. She’s so weak her legs just buckle. What could be wrong now a month after the splenectomy and she went downhill in just a few days. It’s almost just like the night her spleen ruptured. Thanks for any information.

July 23, 2018

Sandy's Owner

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0 Recommendations

It is always good practice to have a mass sent for histopathology so you know whether it is benign or malignant regardless of whether there are signs of other masses on other organs. If Sandy is showing similar symptoms, it would be worth to have an x-ray or ultrasound done to check the abdomen and to ensure that there is no internal bleeding. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 24, 2018

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Tinker

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Chihuahua

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7 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargic

Took my chi mix to the vet today, she had not been eating and is very lethargic lately. They took blood which came back normal but said her gums were pale. They did an X-ray and saw she has an enlarged spleen. She is not bleeding at this time and has not vomited or had diarrhea. They are performing surgery to remove the spleen in the morning. 5 years ago she had a tumor on her spleen however surgery was not done and she was put on medication. A biopsy was performed and it was not cancerous. She has been fine for 5 years and I am praying for a positive outcome this time too. I have no idea of her age since she is a rescue.

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chole

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Maltese

dog-age-icon

10 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Yelping, Acting Strange, Restless

I just found out today my dog has a mass on her spleen she is a 10yrs old Maltese. she has been acting strange for a few days sleeping in strange places, acting real clingy so I took her to vet they did blood work fecal, and urine everything was normal days later she was yelping and still acting weird so i took her back they did an xray and discovered a mass they want to do surgery. I am on the fence about the surgery she may have cancer and may only prolong her life for a little while. Money issue along with the selfish feeling of trying to prolong her life for me or is it better to put her down, I took her home with pain meds and I am going to get her some cbd oil till i decide in a few days what to do. she has been a bundle of joy to me so if might just be her time I don't know what to do, honestly

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Bailey

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Yorkie

dog-age-icon

14 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Mass On Spleen

My dog Bailey has a tumor on her spleen. They said they can’t operate because she has fluid in her lungs and around her heart. They gave me meds to get rid of some of the water. I don’t want her to suffer. I’m so afraid her spleen will rupture and she will be in so much pain. How long should I wait to put her down?

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Kaidee

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Yorkie

dog-age-icon

13 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Lack Of Appetite

We have a precious 13 yrs old female yorkie daughter who was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma of the spleen. The vet performed blood work which came back good but x-ray showed a mass. We had ultrasound perfomed and the mass was on the spleen. Our baby girl also have nodules in the liver. She had surgery 3 days ago to remove the spleen which has a mass size of an orange. The liver nodule was biopsy and sent for histopathology test. Our girl is doing good and is eating good. We are waiting for test results to see if cancer or not. If you can afford surgery then it should be done to remove the mass from the spleen to avoid internal bleeding causing death to your pet. If your pet is still doing well and not suffering then do the surgery. We didn't want our girl to suffer bleeding from the spleen. We don't know the outcome will be but wanted to enjoy day by day with our precious girl. We gave her cannabis oil and will try the turkey tail mushroom and yunnan baiyou.

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Stella

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Golden Retriever

dog-age-icon

8 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Not Eating, Distended Hard Abdomen

My golden retriever is in surgery right now. Took her to the emergency vet and she has a large tumor in her spleen. The tumor is the size of a basketball and she is bleeding. Ultrasound did not find mets to her liver, and probably not her lungs, but as her tumor is so bog it's difficult to fully visualize. She needed a blood transfusion before the surgery. I am just praying it's not malignant. The Ultrasound/X-ray and surgery is 10K. I am not sure I can afford chemo, but I pray I get some more time with her. She is a rescue 8-9 years old. My last golden rescue died at 9 years old, after a brain tumor. With her I choose not to do surgery, as it was not curable. This time there is a 25-30% chance it's not malignant, so I m hoping for the best

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