Splenic Tumors in Dogs: Buddy’s Distended Abdomen

Splenic tumors in dogs are not always malignant but are always life-threatening.

Splenic Tumors in Dogs: Buddy's Distended Abdomen.

Buddy is a fierce, brave Jack Russel Terrier; a true representative of his breed. He is in charge of his world.

Buddy’s parents observed no red flags about his health except for his belly.

Buddy’s belly seemed to be growing in front of their eyes. How could that be? Buddy was active, and his diet didn’t change. Could he be gaining weight like that?

An acutely distended abdomen can be a life-threatening emergency.

If you have a large, deep-chested breed dog with a suddenly distended belly, acting restless and distressed, you need to head to a veterinarian immediately. Because you might be looking at a dog suffering from gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). GDV can kill your dog so quickly that hours, even minutes, can be the difference between life and death.

Buddy, however, is a small dog and his belly was expanding over the course of days, not hours.

What else can cause a rapidly growing belly in a dog?

There are three possible explanation to a rapid abdominal distention.

  • leaking fluid or blood
  • expanding gas
  • an enlarging organ or a growing mass

If you think that none of these sound good, you’re correct. In other words, you need to see a vet–right away or as soon as possible.

A physical examination can give your veterinarian some ideas about what is going on. However, to get a solid diagnosis, your dog will need x-rays or abdominal ultrasound.

Buddy’s x-rays revealed an enlarged, lumpy spleen.

Although splenic tumors can be either benign or malignant, either can cause rapid bleeding into the abdomen. At any rate, your dog can suffer and die of internal bleeding. So what can you do?

Regardless of the type of tumor, unless cancer has spread, the spleen ought to go. After that, have the tissue evaluated by a pathologist. If the problem is non-cancerous, you saved your dog’s life. Even though the spleen has its purpose, a dog can live without one. They cannot, however, live with one that is bleeding.

Buddy’s spleen wasn’t bleeding yet.

If it wasn’t for Buddy’s belly growing, nobody would be any wiser. Buddy was still his rambunctious self.

Dogs whose spleen has been bleeding become lethargic–both from the blood loss and pain. They are likely to have pale gums, unable to move or get up. Quite often the signs of bleeding splenic tumors can mimic signs of arthritis that waxes and vanes. One way or another, a dog with internal bleeding looks and acts like a very sick dog.

With benign splenic tumors, surgery is curable.

Even if it turns out your dog does have cancer, removing the spleen can give them extra time. That was the case with my brother-in-law’s dog. She was very ill but splenectomy gave them an additional two weeks even without further treatment. More importantly, she felt so much better without that bleeding monster in her belly.

Buddy’s spleen was of gigantic proportions.

It’s amazing that Buddy was still acting like everything was fine.

The most common presentation of dogs in need of a splenectomy are weak, lethargic, pale, internally bleeding, and teetering on the brink of death.

Dr. Krista magnifico, DVM

Buddy’s surgery went without a glitch and by the next day, he was back to being his normal self.

Source article:
Canine with Distended Belly; Splenectomy. Costs, Advice, Tips, and Why Immediate Surgical Intervention Is Critical.

Related articles:
Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: Swollen Abdomen
What Your Probably Didn’t Know about Splenic Tumors
Are Splenic Tumors Always Malignant?

Further reading:
Splenic Masses in Dogs

Categories: Acute weight gainConditionsDistended abdomenDog health advocacyReal-life StoriesSpleenSplenic tumorsSymptoms

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

11 Comments
  1. I’m glad that Buddy ‘s humans were able to get him to the vet in time! My sister’s dog also had her spleen removed and that surgery has added years to her life.

  2. Very disturbing how many things can go wrong. Our lap Cookie got a very slightly distended belly when she was nearly 14 and there was a small mass. Buddy was so lucky they caught it in time and the surgery went well. I check Kilo the Pug for lumps and swelling all the time.

  3. Marjorie Dawson

    Wow, I would have been worried if Buddy was my pup. Thank heavens they were able to locate the problem. I confess that a swollen ANYthing would have me at the vet fast. Swollen means something is wrong!

  4. dachshundstation

    This is good information to know. My German Shepard had a cancerous tumor on his spleen (called HSA), and he wasn’t so lucky. He gained a little extra weight, but didn’t exhibit a noticeable distended belly. I’m glad that the surgery went well for Buddy and that it was caught early enough.

  5. Wow I hadn’t heard of gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) before. I’m happy that Buddy’s surgery went well and felling back to normal. That must be so traumatic for the dog and parents to see such rapid changes.

  6. Oh wow, good thing Buddy’s parents took him in when they noticed his belly growing, especially since he didn’t show any other signs of being sick. Glad they got his spleen out and he was ok.

  7. I’m so glad that Buddy’s procedure went well. It would be really scary to see that kind of growth happening in a pet. I would definitely be very worried about my pet!

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