A Bleeding Malignancy: Painful and Life-Ending

Question:
My 17 year-old beagle was diagnosed with a splenic tumor last week. She has arthritis in her hips and knees. She is too old for surgery. What is her life-expectancy? I’m assuming the tumor is malignant and aggressive since it wasn’t palpable in June and her hematocrit has dropped 12 points, which means it is hemorrhaging. She is eating well and ambulating without assistance. I think my girl is in some discomfort. She doesn’t vocalize much, but groans sometimes when she gets up and down. I’m giving her tramadol and Previcox.

Dr. Nichol:
I am sad to learn of your beagle’s struggles. She could only have reached her advanced age with your excellent care. You are giving her a couple of reliable medications for her joint pain. But considering that this girl has a  rapidly growing tumor on her spleen, that is already ruptured and leaking blood into her abdomen, I fear that her time with you is growling short.

Dr. Amanda Tallant, a staff surgeon at the Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Centers of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, was kind enough to comment. “The distention of the splenic capsule from a tumor would stimulate C-pain fibers. I recommend adding amantadine as an additional pain medication. This works by blocking the wind-up phenomenon in the spinal cord. Cerenia, an anti-nausea medication, would also be a consideration if a decrease in appetite is noted.”

I agree with your decision not to have surgery. At age 17 your dog would be unlikely to recover well. She may do OK for another few weeks but I would not hope for anything beyond that. The mass on her spleen will grow even faster. It may burst suddenly, causing her to bleed-out internally. If this occurs she would become suddenly weaker until she loses consciousness and passes away.

This may not be a painless death. When you notice your girl getting more uncomfortable (certain to occur) or if she is unable to stand you will know that it’s time for humane euthanasia. I’m sorry for such sobering news. We are all sad that our pets live such short lives. It will be hard to let your excellent dog go. Even preparing yourself for it won’t make it easy.