Enlarged spleens are scary, especially for older dogs

Q: My sweet Airedale, Dexter, had an ultrasound to check for bladder stones. During the ultrasound, the vet also found a “midly enlarged spleen.” Dexter is scheduled for a recheck ultrasound and consultation next week. Meanwhile, I’m really scared. What does this mean for him?

T.R., Farragut

A: I understand your feelings — enlarged spleens can be scary. Not only is the size of the spleen important, but also its appearance on ultrasound. In middle-aged and older dogs, we do have a concern about the possibility of splenic tumors. Unfortunately, the majority of splenic tumors are cancerous, with hemangiosarcoma being most common. Splenic tumors can be primary, meaning that is where the cancer started. They can also be secondary, meaning they have metastasized (spread) from another tumor somewhere else in the body.

On the bright side, it is estimated that somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of splenic tumors are benign (non-cancerous), the most common being hemangioma. I have had two such cases in the last six months, so don’t give up hope.

Your veterinarian will be able to guide you at your appointment next week. He/she will likely also recommend blood tests, as the spleen stores not only red blood cells, but platelets, too. If you veterinarian finds a tumor in the spleen, he/she will talk to you about surgery. Benign or malignant, splenic tumors will continue to grow, creating more problems. Best of luck to both you and Dexter.

If you have questions about your pet, you may e-mail Dr. Myers ar lenoircityac@gmail.com