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Splenectomy is the medical term for removal of the spleen. While this organ has blood filtering and immune functions, it is not necessary for an animal's survival. Pet health problems that are treated by removing the spleen include tumors of the spleen, splenic torsion, immune-mediated anemia, splenic abscesses and trauma to the spleen. While both dogs and cats sometimes require splenectomies, this surgery is much more commonly performed on dogs.

How Splenectomy Affects Your Pet

In many cases, pets need splenectomies to control hemorrhage. These pets frequently need to be stabilized with fluids and blood products before surgery. Once the pet is sufficiently stable, it is placed under anesthesia for the procedure. A splenectomy is a fairly straightforward procedure. The surgeon makes a midline abdominal incision, visualizes the spleen, locates and ties off the blood vessels that supply the organ and removes the spleen. Since the spleen is a blood-rich organ, the most common complication of of this surgery is excessive bleeding. Depending on the reason for the surgery, the surgeon may also need to address other issues while the abdomen is open. If the splenectomy is being done as a result of trauma or a tumor, the veterinarian will examine the other abdominal organs for evidence of damage or metastasis. If the pet has a splenic torsion due to gastric dilation volvulus (GDV), the surgeon will correct the GDV in addition to performing the splenectomy and assessing the intestines and other organs for damage. If the spleen contains a mass, is enlarged or appears suspicious at the time of surgery, the surgeon will send a sample to be evaluated by a veterinary pathologist. A pathologist can tell if the tissue is benign or malignant and if it is malignant, how aggressive it is. Samples of other organs or lymph nodes may also be collected and evaluated at the surgeon's discretion. 

Common Symptoms of Splenectomy

Following this condition, pets often need one to two weeks to recover. Signs that a pet might have a post-operative problem requiring veterinary attention include the following: Crying in pain, Hunched posture, Excessive redness at the incision site, Bleeding from the incision site, Fever, Pale gums, Collapse and Loss of appetite.

Treatments for Splenectomy

Post-operative treatment often includes pain medication and antibiotics. Other treatments, such as fluid therapy and iron supplements, may also be necessary depending on the condition of the affected pet. In addition, pets with certain conditions require specific follow-up treatments. For example, a pet that has a splenectomy to remove a malignant mass may require chemotherapy after surgery.

Breeds Affected

There are various dog and cat health conditions that necessitate removal of the spleen. Each of these conditions has its own list of at-risk canine and feline breeds. For example, members of the following dog breeds are at increased risk for developing hemangiosarcoma, a common canine splenic cancer: Boxer, German Shepherd, Great Dane, Pointer breeds, English Setter and Golden Retriever.

Pet Insurance

When adding a dog or cat to your family you want to make sure your pet is happy, healthy and protected. During its lifetime your pet is exposed to many illnesses and diseases and some breeds are affected by a congenital disease which is a condition existing at birth. At these moments when your pet is ill or maybe needs surgery, you want to be protected for the unexpected and high veterinarian costs.

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