The spleen is one of those organs in dogs that lives in the shadow. Many people are not even aware that their dogs have a spleen, and unfortunately some get a scary, wake-up call of its presence when complications with this organ arise. Because a dog’s spleen is on the mushy side, it cannot be surgically repaired as other body parts and therefore it must often be removed when it starts bleeding. Yet, a dog’s spleen carries out many important functions. So today, let’s learn more about a dog’s spleen, what it does, where it’s located and the problematic complications that arise when a dog’s spleen is in trouble.
Introducing Your Dog’s Spleen
Hello, it’s your dog’s spleen talking! I am a vascular organ which means I carry lots of vessels, and since I am sort of spongy, I can easily store lots of blood I am not that great looking, being a red, mushy blob, but looks aren’t really important after all when you are tucked away, out of sight. I am located in the left side of your dog’s body in an area well protected from his ribs. Your dog’s stomach is my neighbor to which I attach courtesy of the“gastrosplenic ligament.” I might be small in size, but I do quite a whole lot!
Did you know? In ancient times the spleen was thought to be the physical source of hot temper, hence the reason for the saying “”venting spleen” meaning to let out anger.”
I Act as a Filter
I work as a filter, removing old blood cells your dog’s body no longer needs. Yes, blood cells get old too after a while, so I filter all those worn-out or damaged red and white blood cells, and platelets from your dog’s blood. You may find my quality control process quite interesting, here’s an example of how I sort them out: I have all the blood cells pass through a maze of narrow passages. The healthy blood cells that pass through the maze with no problems are sent to the dog’s bloodstream, while those who can’t pass the test will be broken down. It’s survival of the fittest at best! Not everything that doesn’t pass my test is to toss though. I sort through the old and damaged red blood cells and recycle the iron so new healthy red blood cells can be made and I can dispose of the rest as waste. How’s that for an economical solution?
I Help with Immunity
It might not seem like it, but I play a role in helping your dog’s immune system. You see, I am on the “front line” and when I detect the presence of a foreign invader, such as a virus, bacteria or parasite, I make special lymphocytes and send them out to fight them.
I Act as a Reservoir
Remember when I said I am spongy and store lots of blood? Well, there’s a good reason why I do that. Generosity, is my second name. I keep a reservoir of blood that can be used in case of emergencies. Yup, I can provide a quick “transfusion” before going through the hassle of finding a donor with the correct blood type. But that’s not all, I also store platelets which helps your dog’s blood clot which comes handy when there is too much blood loss.
When Things Go Wrong
Sadly, I am prone to some problems and some can be quite serious! I am prone to developing tumors, and the worst one is a nasty malignant cancer that goes by the name of hemangiosarcoma. This malignant cancer can quickly spread to other organs such as the heart, lungs or liver, and, remember when I said that I am vascular? Well, that means I am prone to bleeding easily, and as such, I can cause a dog to become quickly weak and anemic and I can even cause a dog to bleed to death too.
In the best case scenario, I may have a benign tumor known as a hemangioma. The only way to tell whether I am affected by a nasty cancer or not is by taking a needle biopsy to be sent out to a pathologist which can can be done while doing an ultrasound. While having a hemangioma may sound like good news, the problem with this type of tumor is that it can cause me to rupture and bleed. Yes, imagine it as being “blood blister” on your dog’s spleen. When this happens, you won’t see any bleeding as it’s internal, but affected dogs may become weak, lethargic, thirsty, they may develop pale gums, fluid in the belly and may even collapse. If it is more gradual, you might see just weakness and wobbliness, with an increase in drinking. So in this case, surgery is warranted, but the the best part is that surgery is in most cases curative.
As other internal organs, I can be prone to injury as it can happen with car accidents, a kick from a horse or a bite wound. If the injury causes laceration to my major splenic vessels things can get life threatening, as I can hemorrhage profusely.
Did you know? Yunnan Paiyo, also known as Yunnan Baiyao, is a supplement that is getting more and more popular these days for spleen problems in dogs. This herbal product comes in capsule form and can help to stop bleeding, explains veterinarian Dr. Fiona.
As seen, I am quite important! While I may be an important organ that plays some important functions, I want to be honest: dogs and people can live without me. They sure may be missing out a helpful organ that helps fight infections, but they can still do well without me. I hope you now know more about me, best regards,
Your dog’s spleen
Disclaimer: this article is not meant to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog is sick, please see your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.
DVM360, Surgery of the spleen (Proceedings), retrieved from the web on September 12th, 2016