Understanding your dogs’ spleen
Splenomegaly is simply described as spleen enlargement. Enlargement of the spleen may be due to a disease (biological insult) or injury (traumatic insult). Cats appear to be more susceptible to splenomegaly (if it is due to a disease) than dogs. This is something I discussed in my last article.
According to Amy Breton, CVT, VTS (ECC) who wrote the article “The Spleen: Anatomy and Common Complications” for the VetFolio website, splenic masses, splenic torsion, and splenomegaly are the three types of biological insults. In this article, we will focus on splenomegaly (with a bonus brief discussion on cases of traumatic insults).
Due to a variety of diseases, including tumors (both neoplastic and non-neoplastic) and splenic torsion, the spleen can grow enlarged. It is a widespread problem that can afflict dogs of different ages, sizes, breeds, and genders, says Breton. It is, however, more usually identified in middle-aged dogs.
Breton claims that while evaluating a patient, it may not always be feasible to palpate the spleen; nevertheless, this does not indicate that it is not enlarged. Palpale means “to examine by touch especially medically,” according to https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary.
Even though the spleen is not enlarged, it can sometimes be palpated. As a result, palpation should not be the only approach used to evaluate whether a spleen is enlarged. Some canine breeds, such as German shepherds and Scottish terriers, have a larger spleen than others. In deep-chested dogs and obese individuals, it is frequently impossible to palpate an enlarged spleen.
Types and Causes
Breton classifies splenomegaly into four types: the first type is inflammatory splenomegaly, which happens when the spleen becomes inflamed as a result of a disease. Both viral and bacterial infections can cause broad or localized splenitis (inflammation of the spleen)
Definition of SPLEEN
a highly vascular ductless organ that is located in the left abdominal region near the stomach or intestine of m…
Hyperplastic splenomegaly, the second type, is uncommon. With this type of splenomegaly, the spleen frequently reacts to stimulation caused by hyperplasia, an “abnormal or unusual increase in the elements composing a part (such as cells composing a tissue),” says Merriam-Webster.
Hyperplasia is caused by the breakdown of red blood cells. Infections and autoimmune disorders, such as immune-mediated hemolytic anemia and Heinz body hemolysis, are also associated with hyperplasia.
The third type is congestive splenomegaly of which develops when the portal or splenic vein (the spleen’s major veins) gets obstructed. Certain medicines, such as barbiturates, can induce increased blood pooling and, as a result, a little “back up” of blood to the spleen. Patients with this condition may have lower PCV because their blood cannot filter adequately. Congestive splenomegaly can be caused by right-sided congestive heart failure, blockage of the caudal vena cava (as in heartworm disease), or splenic torsion.
Finally, infiltrative splenomegaly, which is one of the most prevalent causes of splenomegaly, arises when the spleen enlarges due to invasion by a biological source. (e.g., neoplasia). According to Breton, there is no distinction between infiltrative splenomegaly and cellular causes in veterinary medicine (unlike in human medicine); hence, tumors are listed as a cause of infiltrative splenomegaly. Splenic tumors, leukemia, malignant lymphoma (lymphosarcoma), and multiple myeloma are some of the causes of infiltrative splenomegaly.
The symptoms of an enlarged spleen in dogs vary depending on the size of the spleen. Weight loss, inappetence (loss or lack of appetite), vomiting, diarrhea, polyuria and polydipsia, and fever are signs that may be reported by owners.
If the spleen is ruptured and bleeding, how much, how quickly, and how long has the spleen been bleeding, all of these things will have a huge influence on how unwell your dog seems. The following are symptoms of a severely ruptured and actively bleeding spleen: lethargy that appears suddenly, gums that are pale, loss of appetite, abdominal enlargement, potbelly, unexpected weakness or collapse, the pulse rate is racing, and panting.
When the spleen swells, it causes a condition known as the big spleen syndrome. According to Breton, the main component that causes this condition is yet unclear.
Breton says if the spleen can get enlarged, this organ can also shrink. This phenomenon, however, happens only seldom in people and animals. Typically, therapies such as radiation therapy and spleen surgery are the major reasons for the organ shrinking.
With Injury Cases
Breton tells us of two (2) types of splenic injuries: the blunt trauma and the penetrating trauma.
When an animal is assaulted at fast speed and/or by significant weight, such as being hit by a car, falling out of a building, or being hit purposely with an item, blunt trauma occurs. Regardless of how the animal appears (the animal may seem normal to its owner), it is critical to encourage the client to bring the animal to the clinic for examination. Internal splenic injuries can sometimes go undetected for hours. The spleen might have burst, resulting in a gradual hemorrhage into the abdomen. Even if the owner claims that his or her pet is “fine,” it is critical that all trauma sufferers receive a thorough examination.
Patients with a sluggish bleed are not always rushed to surgery. To assist the animal, provide pressure to the bleeding location, and put an abdominal wrap. Close monitoring of the patient’s vital signs and blood testing can aid in determining if the bleeding has ceased.
Penetrating splenic trauma (e.g., bullet, stick pierced abdomen, coyote attack) is less prevalent than blunt trauma. When penetrating damage does occur, however, owners usually respond immediately because the pet has a visible wound. The pet frequently has profuse bleeding. If feasible, apply pressure or a bandage to the region to stop the bleeding.
Treatment for Splenomegaly
The appropriate treatment choices will be determined by the underlying reasons of the enlarged spleen. Because an enlarged spleen is usually a symptom of some underlying medical disease, it is critical to determine the reason before determining the best therapy for your dog. In extreme circumstances, splenectomy (removal of the spleen) may be advised.
Many common underlying medical problems can be treated with prescription medications. If the spleen is removed, your dog will need rehabilitation and its activities should be restricted.
About the Author: Mariana Burgos is a freelance artist. She is a solo parent for 16 years now because she is wife to a desaparecido. She and her daughter are animal lovers and are active in advocating not only human rights but the rights of animals as well.