Dusty’s Keen Spleen



Dusty is a 5 year-old male, neutered Skye Terrier who presented to the Rt 516 Animal Hospital for lethargy of couple days duration. Dusty had also vomited bile a few days prior, and his tongue appeared white to the owner. A physical exam revealed that Dusty’s gums were slightly pale, his abdomen was very tense when palpated, and he had a fever of 103.3. In-house bloodwork confirmed that Dusty had a decreased red blood cell count (anemia) and a low platelet count (thrombocytopenia). Radiographs (x-rays) were taken and revealed a very large tumor in Dusty’s abdomen. In order to determine the origin of Dusty’s mass, an ultrasound was performed. It showed that the tumor was on his spleen and that there was some free floating blood in his belly. This means that the tumor was leaking and Dusty was slowly bleeding internally. The ultrasound also showed no evidence of metastasis (cancer spreading to other organs) anywhere else.

The role of the spleen in the body is to act as a filter for red blood cells (the cells which transport oxygen in the bloodstream) and as a red cell reservoir. It also aids in the production of some types of white blood cells (the cells that fight infection and inflammation in the body). Tumors on the spleen can vary greatly in nature. The worst type of splenic mass is the hemangiosarcoma. This type of tumor is malignant and tends to spread quickly through the body. Other types of malignant splenic tumors include mast cells tumors and lymphosarcoma. Some splenic tumors are benign, such as the hematoma. Although they can grow very large in size, hematomas do not metastasize to other organs. Their danger lies in the fact that they can leak internally and excessive blood loss can be fatal. There is no way to know which type of tumor a patient has until it is removed and a biopsy is read by a pathologist.


Dusty’s owners agreed to take him to surgery for a splenectomy (removal of the spleen and the tumor). Because spleens are so vascular, splenectomies tend to be bloody surgeries which can require blood transfusions. The tumor was on the tail of the spleen, was very large (8 cm), and friable in nature. The free blood was flushed out and suctioned after the abdomen was explored for any abnormalities. Dusty?s surgery went very smoothly and a transfusion was not needed. He recovered well and went home with pain medication and instructions to rest quietly. The good news from the pathologist came a few days later: his tumor was a hematoma. This means Dusty’s mass was benign and he can now live a normal life without his spleen.

If your pet has decreased energy levels or weakness, pale gums, or its belly looks distended, call your veterinarian immediately to have it examined.