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  • Case of the month - October 2013

October's case of the month goes to Dharma.  Thanks to her observant owners she is still with us and survived surgery to have a massive splenic tumour removed that weighed an entire kilogram!  Not bad when you consider Dharma only weighs 13kg!  For those of you who are not squeamish look further to see the amazing photographs of her surgery and learn more.

Dharma is a very happy dog who loves to have her belly rubbed. Lucky for her as enjoying her usual 'belly massage' her owners noticed that she had a large bulge on one side of her abdomen.  Despite the fact that she seemed perfectly well and not showing any signs of illness they decided to get her checked over at the surgery.

On examination an enormous solid lump could be felt in her abdomen. Thankfully she seemed completely unaware of this!  Her gums were nice and pink and she was not showing any signs of blood loss.  She was scheduled for a scan and blood testing straight away.  Her ultrasound scan revealed an enormous lump attached to her spleen.  The liver and other abdominal organs were normal.  Most importantly there was no sign of free fluid within the abdomen.

In the adult dog the spleen is effectively a big filter for the blood system.  It removes any debris and diseased old blood cells, breaks them down and recycles them. Unfortunately it also tends to be a very common place for cancerous masses to develop.  These are life threatening due to the spleen being such a vascular organ.  If a tumour suddenly ruptures often sadly patients will die from the blood loss.  Even if they do receive prompt treatment for a bleeding splenic mass there is also a concern that within that blood loss tiny cancerous cells can be seeded throughout the abdominal cavity.

Given Dharma had a normal blood test results and no sign of any cancerous spread or bleeding she was an excellent candidate for surgery so after discussing with her owners she underwent a general anaesthetic and had her spleen and the lump removed.  You can see a photo gallery of this operation below but be warned there are pictures of abdominal surgery and some blood loss so if you are squeamish it's probably best not to look!

We are pleased to report that Dharma sailed through her surgery.  Fully expecting her to be feeling sore and sorry for herself after such a big op we were expecting her to be hospitalised overnight for continuation of pain relief and treatment.  However by 5.30pm the same day as the surgery she was up and about, had eaten and was barking away wanting to go home!  Not bad when you consider that she is 13 years old and didn't come out of theatre till 3pm!!!

After a nervous week waiting for laboratory analysis of the tumour it has come back as a benign type of blood vessel cancer.  As it has been completely removed there is no risk of it returning and is the best result we could have hoped for!  Dharma's stitches have been removed and she is back to her usual jolly self, especially if she is having her belly rubbed!