Media – Cancer of a Dog’s Spleen


A Bleeding Malignancy: Painful and Life-Ending

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 a few months ago and her hematocrit has dropped 12 points, which means it is hemorrhaging. She is eating well and walking without assistance. I think she has discomfort. She doesn’t cry much, but groans sometimes when she gets up and down. I’m giving her tramadol and Previcox.

Dr. Nichol:
I am sad for your beagle’s struggles. She could only have reached her advanced age with your excellent care. The medications you are giving her can reduce her joint pain. But considering that she 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 short.

A growing tumor causes distention of the capsule that surrounds the spleen, stimulating specialized nerves called C-pain fibers. Your veterinarian can add amantadine to help your dog feel better. This works by blocking the wind-up phenomenon in the spinal cord. Cerenia, an anti-nausea medication, would also be helpful if your dog’s appetite starts to suffer.

I agree with your decision not to have surgery. At age 17 your beagle would be unlikely to recover well. As her tumor advances she may do OK for another few weeks but I would not hope for anything beyond that. The mass on her spleen is likely to grow even faster. It may burst suddenly, causing your girl 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. As your dog gets 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. It’s hard for all of us that our pets live such short lives. It will be difficult. Your veterinarian can help your dog gently pass on with you at her side.

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