The spleen is a very important organ for the defense of the organism which is part of the vertebrate immune system. The spleen in dogs works like in humans; in him they find the lymphocytes, that are the cells in charge to fight to the invading microorganisms.
What is the spleen for?
The spleen is in the left abdominal wall and, next to the lymph nodes, It is the main source of immune cells and has a blood filtering action:
- Prevents infections producing lymphocytes that act against microorganisms that cause disease.
- Filters blood destroying old and damaged cells.
- Store red blood cells and platelets They are involved in oxygenation and blood clotting.
Spleen problems in dogs
The most typical diseases suffered by the spleen are lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma tumors. Hemangiosarcoma is the most frequent tumor in dogs. Males are more predisposed to suffer from spleen problems, as well as certain breeds such as the German shepherd, golden retriever, labrador retriever and boxer. Normally, it affects older dogs.
It is a malignant tumor and tends to invade other tissues of the body. The exact cause is not known, but the prognosis is not favorable, and is that the treatment is intended to extend the life of the animal as much as possible while maintaining the welfare.
Hemangiosarcoma can cause blood problems such as lack of coagulation. The symptoms of this disease are not very specific, but the following usually appear:
- Swelling of the abdomen. The spleen becomes inflamed and enlarges (splenomegaly) by swelling the abdominal cavity.
- Larger lymph nodes. In the dog there are submandibular, prescapular, axillary, inguinal and popliteal nodes. When they are swollen we can feel them to the touch.
- Anorexia or loss of appetite.
- Vomiting. The spleen occupies a larger space and can put pressure on the stomach causing the animal to vomit.
- Hemorrhage. A shock Hypovolemic is a veterinary emergency situation.
- Anemia. Anemia can be detected in a blood test.
- Pale gums
- Cardiac disorders. Increase or decrease in normal pulse.
If the tumor grows a lot, it can cause the spleen to break causing acute collapse. in the circulatory system, with difficulty breathing, which will put the dog’s life in serious danger.
Treatment of spleen cancer in dogs
Diagnosis and treatment depends on the size and location of the tumor. The symptoms are also related to the latter. It is essential to rule out metastases to other organs through specific veterinary tests, such as x-rays, abdominal ultrasound and mass analysis or biopsies.
Treatment requires surgery to remove the spleen. This is known as splenectomy, but the disease is not cured with this intervention, although it helps to slow down the process.
Chemotherapy combined with surgery is used to remit cancer and extend life expectancy.. Chemotherapy in dogs – and cats – has fewer side effects than in people and can increase their quality of life. The veterinarian is the one who marks the advisable time of chemotherapy treatment, but it is the owner who decides how long to extend the treatment.
Survival with chemotherapy after surgery increases survival by a high percentage, so it is worth continuing with the treatment as long as the veterinarian stipulates.
Can a dog live without a spleen?
The answer is yes, but as long as you receive immunopotentiating treatments and all aspects of your health such as weight, activity, food and veterinary visits are taken care of. But if the problem is caused, as we have seen, in a malignant cancer, the removal of the spleen does not guarantee the cure of the disease.