Twisted Spleen in Dogs

The spleen works as a filter to destroy excess red blood cells and as a reservoir for blood.  It is very important in the immune system.  Splenic torsion, or twisting of the spleen, might happen by itself or when the dog has gastric dilation volvulus (bloat).  It can occur suddenly or gradually twist over time.

Dogs do not have splenic torsion very often.  When it does happen, it happens in the same type of dog bloat occurs in:  large breed, deep chested dogs, like German shepherds, standard poodles, and great Danes.

Dogs with splenic torsion may show the following symptoms:  intermittent lack of appetite, vomiting, weight loss, red to brown colored urine, abdominal pain, pale gums, an increased heart rate, and an abdominal mass that can be felt by the owner.

Splenic torsion can be caused by several things.  Some breeds are prone to it, as mentioned above.  If the dog has ever bloated, it is more at risk of splenic torsion.  If the dog exercises excessively, rolling around a lot, it may cause the torsion.  Retching may contribute.  Finally, nervousness and anxiety have been associated with an increase in bloat, which is a risk factor in splenic torsion.

When you take your dog to the veterinarian, he will perform a complete physical, including blood work and a urinalysis.  He will also take a complete history of the dog and the onset of symptoms.

A coagulation test may show prolonged bleeding times, which would indicate clotting within multiple veins throughout the system, a serious end stage disease of the cardiovascular system.  Abdominal x-rays may show a mass in the abdomen or an abnormally located spleen.  An abdominal ultrasound may be used for a better view of the spleen.  The veterinarian may also use an electrocardiogram to trace blood flow because a blockage in the flow may show arrhythmias of the heart.

Dogs with a twisted spleen should be considered in grave danger.  They must have surgery immediately to remove the spleen.  The veterinarian will give the dog fluids and medication, then remove the spleen.  At the same time, the veterinarian will surgically affix the stomach to the  abdominal wall to prevent any bloat from occurring.

Dogs who have had a spleen removed will be followed up by your veterinarian at regular intervals.  Because of the spleen’s place in the immune system, post surgical infection is a major concern.  You will need to monitor the surgical site for cleanliness.  The veterinarian will tell you how to clean the area post surgery.  If you see any redness, swelling, itching, or oozing at the site, contact your veterinarian immediately.

The dog may be at an increased risk of infection for the rest of his life.  You may wish to talk to your veterinarian about what you need to do to keep the dog from getting infections, strengthening the immune system and protecting the dog from injury and illness.

If your dog shows signs of bloat again, call your veterinarian immediately.