Kaiser, a lovely 9 year old German Shepherd dog, recently had a check-up appointment with Dr Ben Trotter at Vetwest Clarkson. Kaiser’s attentive owner had noticed he had been a bit quiet recently, his appetite was reduced and he also seemed to be generally uncomfortable with episodes of stretching and holding different legs up.
Dr Ben performed a full physical examination on Kaiser. The most worrying finding was that Kaiser’s abdominal region was being distended by a large internal mass. A blood test was performed to assess the overall health of Kaiser’s internal organs. Fortunately no significant changes were detected on the blood test, and the red blood cell parameters indicated that the mass had not started bleeding internally. These results were important as it meant that if we could treat the mass so Kaiser would have a better chance of making a full recovery.
The most important thing now was to assess the mass and other internal organs so a treatment plan could be decided upon. To assist with this process, Dr Ben called upon the ultrasound skills of Dr Chad Marriot at Vetwest Currambine. Dr Chad performed a complete abdominal ultrasound on Kaiser and incredibly found that the mass was the size of a basketball! It appeared to originate in the spleen and was full of blood-filled cavities. This meant the mass could rupture and bleed internally at any time, which might prove fatal. The remainder of the abdominal ultrasound gave the all-clear that the mass hadn’t visibly spread to other organs, as by this stage we were concerned that Kaiser might have a cancer of the spleen.
The same afternoon we organised for Kaiser to have surgery at Vetwest Clarkson with Dr Ben. In order to treat splenic masses a splenectomy is performed, which removes the entire spleen as well as the mass which is attached to it. Dogs are able to live normal lives after this procedure. The surgery was lengthy at 2 hours and the mass was difficult to manipulate as it weighed 6.5 kg but eventually Kaiser’s operation was complete and had gone well. Kaiser was provided with ongoing pain relief medication and intravenous fluids and his recovery was monitored by experienced veterinary nursing staff. He was well enough to return home the following day.
Biopsy sections of the basketball size splenic mass were sent to an external veterinary laboratory for histopathology. This is where sections of the tissue are fixed and prepared for examination under a microscope by a pathologist. The aim of sending samples for histopathology is to gain an accurate diagnosis of the mass, which then helps to determine prognosis for the patient. One form of splenic tumour, a haemangiosarcoma, tends to act aggressively and by the time of surgery has generally spread microscopically to other regions in the body. Chemotherapy can then sometimes be helpful follow up treatment after surgery.
Fortunately for Kaiser, his results came back as a splenic haemangioma. This is a benign process which can be triggered by trauma or problems with venous drainage within the spleen. While Dr Ben can’t say for sure what caused Kaiser to develop a splenic haematoma, he is confident that without an attentive owner, and prompt veterinary treatment, the outcome for Kaiser might not have been as happy.