Canine Spleen Cancer - Bubba's Story

by Heather Jagiello
(Milwaukee, WI)

Our 7 year old, male, American Bulldog recently died from spleen cancer (12/15/09). Bubba had not been feeling well for about 4 days, only eating his food twice in two days and drinking large amounts of water. He was also very lethargic and seemed to tire out very quickly and his belly seemed to be rather puffy given he hadn't been eating regularly. We were able to take him into our vet to get a first look. Our vet performed an exam and confirmed there seemed to be something in his belly area. She ran some blood tests that confirmed Bubba was bleeding internally and sent us to the emergency clinic right away.

We arrived at the emergency clinic and they did an exam confirming he was bleeding internally. Our vet faxed over the tests they ran so the emergency clinic had those records as well. An ultrasound was done to see if there was anything in the stomach area. The ultrasound confirmed there was a mass about the size of a basketball in his spleen. Blood tests came back and showed the mass had spread and Bubba had cancer in his blood cells. An EKG was ran and showed he had fluid around his heart.

We were faced with a very bleak outlook - surgery to remove the mass could be done but Bubba would only live for a maximum of six months at the most. The fluid around his heart complicated matters as did the spreading of the mass, surgery would not have done
much at this time. We chose to stop any suffering Bubba may have been in. This was one of the most difficult things my husband and I ever had to do - we are still in a bit of shock but I know we did the right thing. To choose surgery and go though chemo for a few months when the cancer had spread would have been selfish on our part.

Looking back, Bubba seemed to have shown some minor symptoms a few months before - he would have days where his tummy seemed to hurt and he would seem to be contracting his stomach in some minor pain. We did contact the vet and they asked some questions and thought it was most likely a gastrointestinal issue. Bubba also seemed to have days when he didn't do much - we didn't think much of it because of his size and age - he weighed 120 and was 7 yrs. old, really a senior dog, given his "big guy" size. Researching on the web and seeing we made the right choice has given some minor comfort but we miss Bubba so much.

I hope this story can possibly help others and wish no one has to face the same decisions we did. We loved Bubba and will forever miss him.

Comment from Dog Health Handbook Editor

Thank you for sharing this story. There is no better way to honor Bubba than to help other dog owners who could possibly catch this very difficult to detect disease earlier.

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Dog Spleen Cancer Diagnosis and Story

by Pat

This is a retrospective look:

We put our 9 year old yellow lab down last week due to canine spleen cancer. It appeared over the last few months as she was a little more sluggish, but was still able to go for walks and runs.

Then one day she stopped eating and just laid around. We took her into the vet because we thought it had something to do with a heart murmur the vet heard months ago. It turned out that an ultrasound showed cancer in her spleen and a platelet count of 33K. The vet said she was inoperable because she would not survive the surgery. We took her home and put her on Prednisone.

Over the next few days she became worse and was barely able to stand, did not eat, threw up and had black stools. Our hope was the Prednisone would increase her platelete count enough for surgery but that did not work.

Is this a normal course for this disease or were there other things we could tried. We do not believe in just keeping a dog alive if their quality of life would be poor.

Thoughts from our Vet on Dog Spleen Cancer

Dear Pat,

I’m so sorry to hear about Hoover’s passing.

I am afraid that you are right. No diagnostic test, including blood work, can completely eliminate the possibility that something serious is going on.

The canine spleen is especially tough. Unlike the liver, kidneys and some other organs, there are no specific parameters on blood work that can point to a problem with the spleen.

I don’t know if it will help you with your grieving, but canine malignant splenic cancer is very tough to treat. Even with early and very aggressive treatment, most dogs succumb fairly quickly to the disease.

My thoughts are with you.

Jennifer Coates, DVM

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