Twisted Spleen in Dogs: A Silent Threat to Canine Health

When it comes to canine health, there are certain conditions that may not be on every dog owner’s radar. One such condition is splenic torsion, also known as twisted spleen. The spleen serves as a vital filter for red blood cells and plays a crucial role in supporting the immune system. Unfortunately, splenic torsion is a rare but potentially life-threatening condition in dogs, especially in large-breed and deep-chested breeds like German shepherds, standard poodles, and great Danes.

Recognizing the Signs

Symptoms of splenic torsion can vary, making it challenging to diagnose. Keep an eye out for the following red flags:

  • Intermittent lack of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Red to brown-colored urine
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pale gums
  • Increased heart rate
  • Abdominal mass that can be felt

Understanding the Causes

While the exact cause of splenic torsion remains a mystery, certain factors increase the risk. Genetic predisposition, such as being a large-breed or deep-chested dog, plays a significant role. Additionally, prior gastric dilatation and volvulus (twisting of the intestines or stomach) can contribute to this condition. Excessive exercise, rolling, and retching may also be contributing factors. Interestingly, nervousness and anxiety have been associated with an increased risk of gastric dilatation-volvulus.

Seeking a Diagnosis

If you suspect your dog may be experiencing splenic torsion, it’s crucial to seek veterinary assistance promptly. Your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination and may recommend various tests, including a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, a urinalysis, and an electrolyte panel. Additionally, an abdominal x-ray or ultrasound may be necessary to visualize any abnormalities. In some cases, an electrocardiogram may be used to assess blood flow and detect potential heart irregularities.

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Treating Splenic Torsion

Once diagnosed with splenic torsion, dogs should be treated as a surgical emergency. Fluid therapy and medical treatment are typically administered before proceeding with a splenectomy, the surgical removal of the spleen. During the procedure, it’s crucial to secure the stomach to prevent future twisting. A sample of the spleen will also be sent for histopathologic examination to gather more information. After surgery, close monitoring and fluid support will be provided to ensure a successful recovery.

Post-Surgery Care and Management

Following the splenectomy, regular follow-up appointments with your veterinarian are essential to monitor your dog’s progress. Infections at the surgical site are a common concern, so it’s crucial to keep the area clean and follow your veterinarian’s instructions for wound care. Without the spleen’s presence, there is an increased risk of infection. Discuss potential ways to strengthen your dog’s immune system and protect them from injury and illness with your veterinarian.

If your dog ever displays symptoms of gastric dilatation-volvulus again, it’s imperative to contact your veterinarian immediately for guidance.

Remember, as a responsible dog owner, it’s important to stay vigilant and educated about potential health conditions that may affect your beloved furry friend. By staying informed and seeking prompt veterinary care, you can ensure a long and healthy life for your canine companion.

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