In dogs, red blood cells are the actual source of spleen cancer. The cellular lining of the blood vessels play an important role in the development of splenic masses.
There are two main types of canine spleen cancer, hemangiomas and hemangiosarcomas.
- Hemangiomas; This is a benign
form of dog spleen cancer. Red blood cells
and the cellular content of the blood vessels accumulate in between the
vascular supply to the spleen and gradually grow larger. It may not be
termed hyperplasia, or initially form a mass. Once it grows to a
certain level, cellular developments turn it into a benign form of
made from the blood cells, called hemangiomas.
They can be life threatening to affected dogs, if the mass becomes ruptured. This condition bleeds and causes severe undetectable anemia, along with other signs of a splenic abnormality, causing abdominal pain as a major sign of the illness.
- Hemangiosarcomas; These are
the malignant or more dangerous form of canine spleen cancer.
It originates from the soft tissues of the blood vessels and commonly
as a result of abnormalities
within the vascular supply of the spleen. It may
be a single mass or several in number, distributed throughout the
These are more common in middle aged to older dogs, and some breeds such as retrievers and shepherds are more susceptible to it genetically.
Symptoms of dog spleen cancer are nonspecific; which means that diagnosis depends upon the location, type and status of the cancer. Common symptoms in affected dogs include abdominal pain, subnormal temperature, anorexia (appetite loss) and acute weakness.
If tumors rupture in the canine spleen, it will cause hemorrhages, which are life threatening in most cases. They require an immediate response by your veterinarian. Once detected, it should be treated as a “Medical Emergency”. Severe abdominal pain and gradual accumulation of hemorrhagic blood in the abdominal cavity can lead to acute shock and death.
Diagnosis is initiated by a physical examination. Abdominal pain, a distended belly, paleness in the gums, weight loss, weakness and anorexia are some signs which may help. Hardness in the abdomen can be felt on palpation. In cases where bleeding has occurred, the dog belly may protrude acutely and feel soft.
For confirmation, laboratory profiles of the blood are required. Abnormal growths and the level of different blood components should be closely monitored. Detecting and monitoring of packed cell volume (PCV) levels is very important, as shock is one important symptom usually caused due to illogical anemia.
Radiography can help to confirm the status of the spleen, cancerous development and the degree of hemorrhage if any cancerous mass ruptures. Malignancy or spread of spleen cancer is possible to confirm through radiography, by studying the status of adjoining organs, especially the chest.
Once confirmed, treatment should be initiated at once. Benign tumors are easy to treat. Usually, a splenectomy i.e. surgical removal of the spleen is a curative treatment. Dogs that have undergone a splenectomy often require a blood transfusion during and after surgery. Therefore monitoring of PCV is necessary and blood for transfusion should be arranged prior to surgery.
It should also be noted that, dogs confirmed with benign tumors in spleen should be operated as soon as possible, since if the spleen unfortunately ruptures, it not only complicates the condition but also reduces the chances of survival for the affected dog.
The Malignant form of canine spleen cancer on the other hand not only requires surgical removal of the spleen, but also additional chemotherapy and radiation therapy is a must. Though none of the treatment plans for malignant cancer are curative, it can only improve the quality of the dog's life and prolong it.
Some newer research in anti–cancer drugs have recently shown this approach to be very effective in treating hemangiosarcomas, but still it is very hard to cure it. Doxorubicin if combined with L-MTP-PE (anti – Cancerous agent) and supportive supplements, preferably natural remedies such as C-Caps Formula. can help to prolong the life of the affected dog