A diagnosis of spleen cancer is devastating for any pet owner. Your vet will talk through your options with you and be able to suggest a course of treatment that is right for your dog. Spleen cancer can be very aggressive and there is a risk that it could spread to other organs in your dog's body. Therefore, you need to treat it quickly in order to give your dog the best chance of survival.
Spleen cancer is difficult to diagnose without proper blood tests. Symptoms can include feeling cold, pale gums and weakness. If your vet identifies a lump growing on your dog's spleen, he will usually recommend surgery to remove it. Without this, there is a risk of the lump growing and rupturing the spleen, which could kill your pet. Once he has removed the spleen, your vet will recommend further treatment options depending on whether the lump was benign or cancerous.
Spleen cancer, also known as spleen hemangiosarcoma, is an aggressive form of this disease. The American College of Veterinary Surgeons advises that the cancer metastasises (spreads) to other organs quickly. Therefore, even if the spleen is removed, there is a chance that your dog might develop cancer in other organs, such as the lungs or the kidneys. Chemotherapy can help prolong the dog's life, although it can cause nasty side effects and doesn't guarantee that the dog will survive.
The main method of treatment for spleen cancer in dogs is a splenectomy, the complete removal of the spleen. This procedure comes with several risks, including internal hemorrhaging and pancreatitis. According to the Pet Cancer Center, 24 per cent of dogs undergoing splenectomies suffer from an irregular heartbeat for 24 to 48 hours after the operation. After surgery, your vet might recommend chemotherapy to reduce the risk of the cancer spreading to other parts of the body. According to the Pet Cancer Center, scientists are currently investigating a new drug called L-MTP-PE, which might be effective when combined with surgery and chemotherapy.
The prognosis for dogs with spleen cancer is not good. Survival rates are very low, with less than 10 per cent of dogs living for longer than a year after the splenectomy. Data from the Pet Cancer Center shows that with surgery alone, dogs survive between 19 days and three months, and with chemotherapy, the average lifespan rises to between 141 and 179 days. The majority of deaths are the result of the cancer spreading to other organs of the body.
Radiotherapy can treat spleen cancer but chemotherapy is more common due to the spleen's position in the body. It sits just below the stomach, so drugs that work internally are more effective. If your pet is in recovery from spleen cancer, it might need pain medication to counteract the discomfort caused by the cancer itself and by the procedures and treatments it is undergoing.