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Q: Enlarged spleens in dogs- causes and treatments ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Enlarged spleens in dogs- causes and treatments
Category: Health
Asked by: smd2231-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 20 Mar 2004 17:23 PST
Expires: 19 Apr 2004 18:23 PDT
Question ID: 318777
My friend's 8 year old male neutered male beagle was rushed to the vet
yesterday. His stomach was bloated and hard to the touch, and he
couldn't seem to stop shaking. He is/was having difficulty getting up
onto furniture and is also walking quite stiffly.
The vet x-rayed and ran blood tests; expecting to find pancreatitis.
However all bloodwork came back normal, and the xrays showed only an
enlarged spleen. He has been sent home with instructions only to stay
away from feeding him any fatty food.  My friend insists she was left
with the impression to just wait it out. In the meantime, I am
watching this dog suffer- he has been able to eat today and is
drinking normal amounts of water. He has had a bowel movement and
seems to be a bit better. However he is definitely experiencing
discomfort when he needs to move- e.g get up, lay down, walk, etc. His
tummy is still somewhat distended but apparently much better than the
day prior.
His owner is about to go into labour and I am the doggysitter and I am
very concerned regarding how I can help this little guy.
Please help. What are the signs that I would need to take him to an
emergency clinic? Are there things I should be doing to help him or
relieve his discomfort?
Anyone who could respond in the next 3 hours would be an angel. It's
5:20 pm on the west coast of Canada.Thanks everyone.
Subject: Re: Enlarged spleens in dogs- causes and treatments
Answered By: pinkfreud-ga on 20 Mar 2004 18:59 PST
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Of course, we can't diagnose the doggie over the Internet. But I've
gathered some information that I hope you'll find useful in
understanding the situation.

The medical term for an enlarged spleen is "splenomegaly." An enlarged
spleen is sometimes a minor problem, sometimes a serious one. This is
one of those symptoms that can be related to so many medical
conditions that it's not possible to say much about the dog's
condition without further testing.

Here's an excerpt from a veterinary question-and-answer page, "Ask Dr. Mike":

"Lot of things make spleens enlarge, unfortunately. Splenic
enlargement occurs when pets are anesthetized with some anesthetics,
in stressful or shock inducing situations, when blood parasites are
present, if there is bruising (hematomas) affecting the spleen, if
there is splenic cancer (particularly hemangiosarcoma), when the
stomach torses (twists) and for other reasons, as well. By itself,
splenic enlargment is a pretty non-specific sign and doesn't match up
well with any particular disorder.  A lumpy enlarged spleen, or one
that obviously contains a lump in it, is a different story. In this
instance, it cancer or hematomas are much more likely. Often, the only
way to tell these apart is to biopsy the spleen or to remove it and
have a pathologist determine what the disease process is. Hematomas of
the spleen and hemangiosarcoma tumors are very hard to tell apart when
doing surgery, even after good visualization of the spleen."

Veterinary Information for Dog Owners: Spleen Problems in Dogs

This veterinary health center gives a very good explanation of canine splenomegaly:

"Splenomegaly is enlargement of the spleen. It is not a disease;
rather it is a clinical sign associated with an underlying disease
process or disorder. There are many underlying problems that may cause
splenomegaly... Systemic bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections
affecting other organs and tissues may affect the spleen as well and
cause splenic enlargement. Diseases that cause destruction of red or
white blood cells or platelets and the resulting anemia, leukopenia,
and thrombocytopenia, respectively, may, by a variety of
pathophysiologic mechanisms, cause splenomegaly. Processes that cause
portal hypertension (high blood pressure in the venous system of the
liver) and congestive heart failure may lead to splenic congestion and
enlargement. Bleeding and hematoma formation (bruising) in the spleen
can enlarge it. Tumors such as hemangioma and hemangiosarcoma, a
common malignancy, can lead to splenomegaly. Some primary problems of
the spleen, such as splenic torsion, may cause it as well."

Pet Health Center: What is splenomegaly?

Here's a vet site which gives an excellent description of various
diseases involving the spleen (there is a graphic surgical photo of a
splenic tumor about halfway down the page; if you are squeamish about
such things, you might want to stop reading when you reach the heading

Vet Surgery Central: Spleen

A discussion of splenic masses called "WHEN THE SPLEEN GROWS A MASS:

Mar Vista Animal Medical Center: Splenic Masses

Here you'll find some good info on splenic torsion and tumors of the
spleen, two of the many conditions that can cause an enlarged spleen:

Shadetree Kennels: Splenic Torsion

VetCentric: Tumors of the Spleen in Cats and Dogs

Regarding your concerns as a dog-sitter, the best you can do for the
little fellow is to keep him on his prescribed diet (no fatty foods,
no table scraps and such). If his abdominal distention becomes
noticeably worse, if he becomes extremely listless or difficult to
rouse, if he begins vomiting, if there is blood in his urine or feces,
or if he cries out while moving his bowels, seek veterinary attention.
Try to keep him from being extremely active; if he has a splenic tumor
of some sort, activity might cause tearing of the splenic capsule (the
tissue that covers the spleen).

Google search strategy:

Google Web Search: "enlarged spleen" + "dog"
Google Web Search: "splenic mass" + "canine"
Google Web Search: "splenomegaly" + "canine"

Bless you for caring so much about your friend's dog! If anything I've
said is unclear, or if a link doesn't work for you, please request
clarification; I'll be glad to offer further assistance before you
rate my answer.

Best wishes,
smd2231-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Very quick response- was able to provide helpful info and good links.

Subject: Re: Enlarged spleens in dogs- causes and treatments
From: stressedmum-ga on 21 Mar 2004 01:12 PST
Pinkfreud mentioned splenic torsion; another form of torsion to be
aware of is 'bloat' or gastric torsion. If any of the symptoms recur
be sure to rush this pup to a vet. A dog breeding friend whose
champion dog died of this terrible condition advises that it's a very
astute vet who will identify and diagnose bloat. She says that it
would be worth a phonecall to your vet to confirm that this diagnosis
was considered then discarded. In other words, be sure and ask the
question and get some very definite reason why it *isn't* bloat. The
symptoms are certainly conducive to it. Here's some background.

Hope it all works out well.
Subject: Re: Enlarged spleens in dogs- causes and treatments
From: stressedmum-ga on 21 Mar 2004 15:07 PST
Forgot to mention that the "Pet Centre" website contains some pictures
taken during an operation on a doggie with bloat. They're not *that*
bad, but if you're squeamish, you might not want to view it.

Let us know how your four-legged friend fares, won't you :)

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