Blood loss for any reason is bad news. With external bleeding, at least you see it. When your dog is bleeding internally, how can you tell?
Think about what blood does–it caries nutrients and oxygen to all tissues in the body. Symptoms of blood loss, then, reflect the lack of oxygen and include:
- pale mucus membranes (e.g. gums)
If the bleeding is in the abdomen, the belly might become swollen.
In older dogs, one of the common causes of internal abdominal bleeding are splenic tumors. The good news is, that they are not always malignant. The bad news is, that if you don’t catch them early, they can still kill your dog nonetheless.
Lucy was a 14-year-old West Highland Terrier. She had a happy life and a devoted mom but has already gone through other life-threatening health issues. Lucy survived mammary cancer and a severe infection. She made it through both ordeals and was quite healthy otherwise.
Lucy gets ill
The first signs that something was wrong cropped up during Lucy’s morning walk. Lucy loved her walks. This time, however, she walked for a few minutes and flopped down on the ground. Her mom could not convince her to get up. Lucy was panting heavily as if she couldn’t get enough air.
Her mom picked Lucy up and rushed her to a veterinarian.
At the veterinary clinic
It was the veterinarian who noticed that Lucy’s gums were pale. That raised an immediate concern about blood loss. There was no visible bleeding but Lucy’s belly felt swollen. The veterinarian took Lucy for x-rays.
The x-rays revealed a substantial lump. Given Lucy’s age and symptoms, the veterinarian suspected a splenic tumor. Benign or otherwise, splenic tumors like to bleed; sometimes severily.
The most productive course of action is to remove the spleen. With a benign tumor, that solves the problem. If the tumor is cancerous, it buys a couple more weeks of life. There is, however, always risk the dog might not survive the procedure.
The veterinarian explained the situation and options to Lucy’s mom. Splenic tumors bleed off and on. He gave Lucy pain medication to make her more comfortable. If Lucy kept getting worse, she’d need surgery or they’d need to consider euthanasia.
Lucy’s mom needed some time to think about what she felt would be best for Lucy.
As it often happens with these tumors, Lucy felt better the next morning, excited for her walk. Her mom kept her quiet and then returned to the clinic for more diagnostics. Based on ultrasound imaging, Lucy’s cancer remained localized only to her spleen. That was a good news.
Lucy’s mom decided to take the risk with surgery.
The surgery went well. Lucy already felt better the next day. When they received results from the lab, they learned that Lucy’s tumor was benign. Which meant that not only Lucy made it through this challenge but she still had future in front of her.
Lucy the 14-year-old West Highland Terrier
Early Signs of Splenic Tumors: What You Probably Didn’t Know about Splenic Tumors in Dogs
Types of Canine Splenic Tumors: Are Splenic Tumors Always Malignant?
Canine Immune System: Spleen – Why Does The Spleen Get No Respect?