The spleen has several functions: blood storage; blood filtration and processing of particles such as bacteria, parasites, damaged or old red blood cells. It contributes to the immune defenses, plays a role in hematopoesis and iron metabolism. Both dogs and cats can live very normal lives without their spleens. The spleens contribution to immune system and hematopoesis is small in the adult animal.
There are many reasons a dog may require a splenectomy but there are two very common reasons. The first is a benign splenic nodule or mass called a hematoma. This may be found in routine geriatric screening radiographs or more likely an ultrasound. It is possible the mass is so large it has caused an anemia or can be found on abdominal palpation. The other common reason is due to acute blood loss secondary to rupture of a hematoma or hemangiosarcoma. In this case splenectomy is required to stop life threatening bleeding or hemorrhage. The only way to diagnose the kind of mass is with histpathological review of the tissue once it is removed. There are screening tests that should be done to rule out metastatic disease to the best of our ability, they are chest radigraphs and abdominal ultrasound. It is important to know that disease at the cellular level cannot be seen on radiographs and liver nodules do not always appear to be as a result of a malignancy. While screening tests are important and do help they are not perfect and there is always a chance the surgeon can find more advanced disease than anticipated.
It may be the case that dogs with acute blood loss require hospitalization and the care of a 24 hours facility. I perform surgery regularly at Veterinary Care Specialists. This facility offers the advantage of 24 hours supervision, the ability to do transfusions and many other benefits required in a critical case.
If you have a nonemergent case that can be supervised in your office I would love to help you with this case.
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