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Understanding Splenectomy for Pets 

Image by Krista Mangulsone

Why Removal of the Spleen May Be Necessary

The spleen, a multifunctional organ, plays several vital roles: it stores blood, filters it, and aids in fighting infections. Both pets and humans can live without a spleen. Removal may be necessary due to injury, the presence of a tumor, or torsion. In the absence of a spleen, the lymph nodes compensate for most of its critical functions.

Identifying Splenic Issues

Splenic masses can grow undetected for some time. They are highly vascular and may cause internal bleeding, leading to abdominal swelling or sudden fainting due to rapid blood pressure changes. Often, by the time symptoms like swelling or fainting occur, the mass is significantly large. Veterinarians can detect an enlarged spleen through palpation, X-rays, or ultrasound.

Symptoms of splenic issues are often subtle and varied, including weight loss, swollen abdomen, lethargy, decreased appetite, fainting, or a general sense of unwellness. Prompt veterinary consultation is crucial for accurate diagnosis, as these signs could indicate various health issues.

Prognosis and Pre-Surgical Assessments

If splenectomy is due to trauma or torsion, the prognosis is generally favorable. However, if a mass necessitates removal, there's a concern about potential spread to other body parts. Chest X-rays and abdominal ultrasounds can assess for such spread before surgery. If extensive spread is evident, surgery may not be advisable. In dogs, approximately 2/3 (66%) of tumors are malignant and 1/3 (33%) are benign. Average life expectancy after surgical removal of malignant tumors is 1-3 months. Splenectomy combined with chemotherapy increases survival times to approximately 5-7 months. In cases of benign splenic tumors, splenectomy can be curative.

Post-Operative Concerns and Long-Term Outlook

While rare, immediate concerns post-splenectomy include internal bleeding, blood clots leading to stroke, heart arrhythmias, or infection. The long-term concern mainly involves a heightened risk for infections.

Splenectomy is a high-risk surgery. If your pet requires a blood transfusion, this should be arranged through your regular veterinarian or an emergency hospital as we do not provide this service.

Outpatient Procedure and Post-Op Care Recommendations

As an outpatient facility, pets are discharged the same day. While many clients opt to take their pets home post-surgery, we strongly recommend discussing overnight monitoring at an emergency hospital.

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