Spleen tumor in dogsSpleen tumors mainly affect older dogs from the age of nine onwards. Some breeds of dogs are genetically more prone to the disease than others, including golden retrievers, Rottweilers, Great Danes, boxers, German shepherds and shepherd dog mixes. Large dogs tend to be more susceptible than small ones, males are more likely to get the disease than females, but it can affect everyone.
How do dogs get a spleen tumor?
The causes of the proliferation in the spleen are not yet sufficiently known; veterinarians suspect a variety of factors, for example environmental influences, dietary habits, obesity and previous illnesses. Probably also plays a role that our current four-legged friends thanks to good care and medical care significantly older than originally intended by nature. Nearly 40% of all dogs over the age of ten develop a splenic tumor, which fortunately is not malicious in every case. Tumor tie is found exclusively in the spleen. Does not spread to other organs. A benign splenic tumor leads to an enlargement of the spleen and can cause the following symptoms:
In most cases, the harmless growths grow only slowly and can exist for several years without causing any complaints. But if, exceptionally, a benign tumor grows quickly, becomes very large and bursts open, it can also become painful and even life-threatening, which is why every splenic tumor must be treated, as early as possible.
In a surgical procedure, only the tumor is removed so that it cannot grow further and impair the spleen in its function as a blood filter. Many dogs can continue to live healthily and happily for several years after the operation.
The most malignant tumor: hemangiosarcoma
If, on the other hand, the tumor is malignant, the dog's chance of survival depends decisively on the stage at which it is discovered.
43% of all canine splenic tumors are hemangiosarcomas, a particularly aggressive, fast-growing, and highly disseminated tumor.
If this ulcer has lodged in the spleen, it destroys the healthy cell tie of the organ and forms metastases. Individual cells of the original tumor separate and travel through the bloodstream to other organs, where they divide uncontrollably and continue to grow as new nodules.
The liver, lungs, heart and lymph nodes are often affected, but metastases can also occur in more distant parts of the body, such as the brain. In the worst case, the cancer forms hematomas that become so large that they burst, causing bleeding in the abdominal cavity and distribution of cancer cells in the abdominal cavity.
If a dog that is already suffering from internal bleeding is still brought to the vet in time, in some cases emergency surgery can still prolong its life by weeks or months. However, the best thing will be to spare the dog further agony and rather let it fall asleep peacefully. Because with tumors that have already burst, the dog's life expectancy is only a few months at most, and most often the animal dies from the metastases after just six to eight weeks.
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Diagnosis by blood count, X-ray, ultrasound
In the earlier stages of the disease, a veterinarian can detect the ulcer by x-ray or ultrasound. X-rays, however, only show silhouettes of internal organs and can only image a tumor when it has already reached a certain size.
Only very large splenic tumors in dogs are palpable externally. Ultrasound allows the doctor to get a better look at the inside of the organ. Detect even small structural changes. Since the body is not exposed to radiation, this method is particularly gentle for the animal.
In addition, the blood count already shows altered blood values and blood loss, even if there has only been minor bleeding in the spleen. Therefore, the most reliable diagnosis of a splenic tumor in dogs allows the combination of blood analysis and ultrasound examination.
You can recognize a splenic tumor by these symptoms
In the early stages, splenic tumors can remain completely asymptomatic for a long time, which makes them particularly difficult to detect. Clear signs usually only become apparent when the tumor has grown considerably or has already burst. Typical symptoms then are:
– Fatigue – general weakness
Especially in dogs of advanced age, it is difficult to recognize these signs as symptoms of a splenic tumor, as the aging process could also be responsible for them.
Often, however sudden nosebleed added, and if the tumor in the abdominal cavity is already larger, the dog has abdominal pain and occasionally vomits. Depending on the extent of the tumor, a swelling of the abdomen may then also be visible.
Spleen tumor treatment with traditional cancer therapies
Veterinary medicine relies on surgical removal of the entire spleen (splenectomy) to treat malignant splenic tumors in dogs. The dog can do without its spleen without difficulty. Theoretically live on for years without it. However, surgery alone does not promise long-term success if the tumor has already metastasized.
Therefore, survival time after surgery is only three to six months in most dogs, and only 10% of operated animals live more than a year afterwards.
If metastases are already present, chemotherapy can be considered after the operation. However, the advantages can hardly outweigh the disadvantages. Because this treatment puts a lot of stress on the dog and weakens it, but it can only slow down the growth of the tumors and thus prolong the life of the animal a little bit.