Splenic Masses in Dogs: What You Need to Know

These blood-filled tumors tend to be fragile - and there is no more critical health emergency than when one ruptures.

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The dog’s spleen is a highly vascular organ that sits behind the stomach. The spleen’s function is a red blood cell processing plant. It filters red blood cells, getting rid of old, damaged, or infected cells. It also stores healthy red blood cells, ready to contract and release these into circulation in the case of emergent need. The spleen is a very helpful organ! Unfortunately, in dogs, the spleen is also a common site for the development of tumors or masses. 

Not all tumors or masses are cancerous (malignant); some are benign (noncancerous). The prognosis for a dog with a malignant splenic mass is not good, but surgery to remove a benign mass is curative. 

Unfortunately, it’s exceedingly difficult to tell if a splenic mass is benign or malignant until the spleen is removed and submitted for biopsy. If your veterinarian detects a mass in your dog’s spleen, it’s likely that you will have to decide whether to go ahead with surgery to remove the spleen before you know whether the surgery can prolong your dog’s life.

BEST-CASE SCENARIO WITH A SPLENIC MASS

The most fortuitous scenario involving a splenic mass occurs when the tumor is discovered by palpation on a routine veterinary physical examination. Benign tumors tend to grow to large sizes without otherwise causing problems, increasing the likelihood they’ll be picked up on physical exam. (This should  underline the importance of annual or, even better, twice-annual physical exams for middle-aged and senior dogs.)

Discovering a splenic mass in this way, before it ruptures, gives you the opportunity to have an abdominal ultrasound performed. Ultrasound can confirm the mass is in the spleen and can be used to look for any evidence of metastasis (cancer spread) in the abdomen.

Chest x-rays may also be recommended to make sure there is no metastasis to the lungs. If the chest x-ray and abdominal ultrasound show no obvious cancer spread, surgery to remove the spleen should be considered.

If the mass proves to be benign, the surgery will have extended your dog’s life. (While benign masses won’t spread to other organs, they can still rupture and cause your dog to bleed internally, so their removal is necessary for your dog’s survival.) A study published in 2018 in the Journal of Veterinary Science found that the two-year survival rate for of dogs who underwent a splenectomy for a benign mass was nearly 78%.

If that number doesn’t make it clear, I’ll clarify: Yes, your dog can live without a spleen. She may be more prone to certain infections and less effective at rapidly replacing red blood cells in a crisis, but for the most part, her other organs will step up and take over for the missing spleen.

MALIGNANT SPLENIC MASSES

Let’s go back a step. Say your veterinarian has detected a splenic mass in the course of a physical exam, follows up with an ultrasound, and finds that the mass has metastasized. 

Malignant splenic masses frequently metastasize to the liver or heart. Either one is bad news, but you may find comfort in the certainty of the knowledge that your dog’s prognosis is poor. Most dogs with malignant splenic masses succumb to their disease within a few months, sometimes even weeks, of surgery. Chemotherapy, used alone or in conjunction with surgery to remove the splenic mass, may slightly improve a dog’s prognosis, depending on the type of malignancy. 

There are tools (biopsy, fine-needle aspirate) that, theoretically, could be used in an attempt to determine whether a splenic mass that has not metastasized is malignant, but they are typically inconclusive and the risk of hemorrhage during and after the procedure is high. 

MOST EXCRUCIATING SCENARIO FOR DOG OWNERS

Unfortunately, many splenic masses are not detected in the course of a routine exam, but are discovered while diagnosing a dog in the midst of an out-of-the-blue medical crisis. 

Here is an all-too-common scenario: Your happy and seemingly healthy 10-year-old Golden Retriever is out in the yard chasing balls with the kids, when she suddenly collapses. She looks confused, and though she is alert and responds to you, she is too weak to get up, and she is breathing faster than usual. 

You rush her to the emergency veterinary hospital, where the attending vet has a pretty good idea what’s going on as soon as she looks at her gums, which are ghostly white, and feels her abdomen, which has fluid in it. Bloodwork (showing decreased circulating red blood cells) and abdominal x-rays confirm the original clinical suspicion: Your dog has a splenic mass that has ruptured. She is bleeding internally, and without immediate surgery and blood transfusions, she is going to die.

In this scenario, there isn’t time to wait for the results of any tests that may determine whether the mass is malignant (with a poor prognosis) or benign (in which case, surgery may save your dog’s life); you will have to decide on the spot whether to give your veterinarian the go-ahead for emergency surgery to try to stop the bleeding and to remove the dog’s spleen, or to euthanize your dog. It’s a wrenching decision. 

A Potentially Helpful Tool

Researchers are working on ways to better determine whether a splenic tumor is likely to be malignant or not before surgery. A recent article published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association  by Kristine E Burgess, et al., discussed an online calculator that your veterinarian can use to help predict the outcome for your dog. 

“Development and validation of a multivariable model and online decision-making support calculator to aid in preoperative discrimination of benign and malignant splenic masses in dogs,” described a model that uses several parameters including blood test values, ultrasound findings, size of the mass, and how much fluid is present in the abdomen to help predict how likely a tumor is to be malignant, thereby helping owners make the decision whether or not to operate. This online calculator can be found at T-STAT.org.

HINTS, BUT NO CERTAINTY

Knowing if a tumor is malignant or benign before surgery would help a lot, given the grave prognosis associated with malignant tumors of the spleen. Unfortunately, at this time, there is no definitive way to answer that question preoperatively, although we may be getting closer (see “A Potentially Helpful Tool,” above). This leaves you facing a difficult decision for your dog, and makes one wonder – and fear – how many dogs with benign tumors are euthanized, when they might have been cured.

There are some generalizations that may help you make the decision to give your veterinarian the go-ahead for surgery or to euthanize your dog in order to prevent a traumatic death:

*Large, non-ruptured splenic masses found on routine physical exam have the best chance of being benign. 

*Small-breed dogs with splenic masses have a better prognosis in general than the larger breeds.

*About two-thirds of all splenic masses in dogs are malignant. 

*If you have an older large-breed dog with a splenic mass that has ruptured, the likelihood of this being a benign situation is very low.

*Heritability contributes to the risk of malignant splenic masses; hemangiosarcoma is common in certain breeds, including Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Portuguese Water Dogs. If a dog who is closely related to your dog has had a malignant mass, the chances are higher that your dog will, too. 

41 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for this helpful article. Though it brought me to tears, as the two scenarios you shared were ours exactly for two of our bichons, one in 2008 in ER, and our other this August through unexpected ultrasound findings, it helped explain the trauma we experienced in 2008. It also helped to affirm the extremely difficult decision we made to euthanize our beautiful boy this August, to prevent him from experiencing the unexpected, very imminent, traumatic ruptures of both his spleen and gallbladder. The outcome was handed to us. But he passed peacefully in our home with MN PETS compassionate assistance, versus the trauma of ruptures. It was extra confusing at the time because both our boys had had good recent exams and senior bloodwork results. If we had known about the masses, and could have had them successfully removed, we would have, so I appreciate you mentioning that surgery is a possible option if the circumstances allow.

  2. Thank you for this article. My experience was 16 years ago when our mixed breed part Scottish Terrier 25 pound dog had the a tumor on his spleen that burst ad was similar to the experience of one of the dogs described in the article. Buddy was 12 years old and acted fine with no symptoms of illness. He was running around the yard with my son and husband and suddenly collapsed. He was in pain and hid under a bush. I took him to our normal vet who noticed the pale gums but found it hard to believe that he had been fine just an hour ago. The regular vet told me that my dog was likely bleeding internally and sent me to an overnight emergency vet who was 20 miles away. By the time we made it to the emergency vet, it was late, and the vet took him into the back and said it would be a few hours before she operated and suggested that I go home. She called around midnight, and said that a tumor on his spleen has burst. She said she could repair the spleen but that there were other tumors on other organs, and she asked if she should continue the operation or euthanize him. I asked her what she thought since I had no idea of what to do. She said that he may live another 9 months or so, but that if it was cancer, it could be painful for him. I asked what she would do if it were her dog and she said she would euthanize. I did not want my sweet boy to be in pain so I made the decision to euthanize him. I’ve often wondered if I made the right decision, and of course I’ll never know, but with the information in your article, it sounds probable that he did have cancer. He ran and played and lived a good life for 12 years, and he was loved and greatly missed.

  3. I read this article when my latest edition of Whole Dog Journal arrived. I thought how scary this must be for us dog parents! Yesterday my mixed breed girl Ava went for her routine exam & vaccinations the veterinarian found some upsetting problems. Today Ava went back for more thorough tests and she has a mass in her spleen, low blood platelets, tick worms and is on her way home. My husband was told she could not have surgery until her blood platelets increased but recommended a sonogram. I’m scared & also upset that we didn’t notice any problems.

  4. I experienced this same nightmare scenario with my 8 and a half year old black lab eighteen months ago. She was fine in the morning but by early afternoon she was very lethargic and refusing food. When a lab isn’t hungry it is not a good sign. The sides of her abdomen looked distended and her gums were very pale. I had to lift her into the car to get to the vet. This was at the beginning of the pandemic so I was left to sit outside while she was examined. The vet said they were keeping her and I was told to go home and wait for a phone call. They called to say she had free fluid in her abdomen and a mass on her spleen that had ruptured. She would need emergency surgery and they couldn’t say if it was malignant until they opened her up. So I agreed to surgery because I couldn’t put her down without knowing for certain. The pathology report showed hemangiosarcoma. And I made the most difficult decision to put down my heart dog. She never made it to her suture removal appointment. I had never heard of hemangiosarcoma. Now it is a word and diagnosis I dread to hear. She seemed deceivingly fine following the surgery and that made putting her down that much harder. I did a lot of research before I arrived at that ultimate decision. Everyone who had been in my position said their only regret was waiting too long and wishing they had let their dogs go sooner. That was the deciding factor for me. My dog was gravely I’ll but looked healthy. Her death shattered my heart. I now have another black lab puppy. I pray that she (or I) doesn’t suffer the same fate.

  5. Hello all and may I extend my deepest condolences to you all. Just yesterday, 7 Nov my 9 year Beagle, Jake passed away from a bursting tumor on his spleen. He just had a clean bill of health six months checkup and d dental cleaning the day before, 6 Nov. Jake came home from his checkup and dental just as lively and spirited as he always is. Played and ran with his toys the next 21 hours. Then just out of the blue Jake can in from outside, collapsed on the floor, breathing very bad and couldn’t get back up. This is on Sunday, so no vet was open, rush him 25 minutes to an Vet ER where he stopped breathing as I pulled in. They rush him to CPR with some adrenaline and other injections to get him revived. After 15 to 20 minutes of CPR to jump start him, my Beagle never came back. I feel like someone reached in and has torn my heart out. I was just told the day before my Jake was in great shape by the Vet when I picked him up. Then he passed away less then 24 hours later. I beg all you pet owners, have your lovable 4 legged friend check regularly for possible growths and tumors because these type of tumors dont show symptoms until it’s to late.

  6. My deepest sympathies to all who have lost their canine friends to this terrible cancer…I feel very deeply for all of your losses. I lost my Basset Bella to this yesterday, after a month and a half of lethargy, laying down on short walks and a big loss in weight, diarrhea and general malaise. Even with a special diet, she continued to fail, and I knew something else was going on beside pancreatitis, which was what they first thought it was. I could feel a hard “edge” in her tummy, so off to the vet yesterday and I had a gut feeling the news would not be good. Exploratory surgery was offered, but in my heart I knew this would only cause more unnecessary pain, so I put my heart aside and chose to do the kindest thing I could, let her go. Our family was present to give her treats and lots of love and comfort, but once she fell asleep, everyone’s heart broke. I will never have another dog, because no other dog can ever take her place, nor do I ever want to go through this again. She was the sweetest companion, my dearest confident, my daily joy and constant mischief maker. She was 9 1/2 years and had a great life with me…pictures, videos and memories are all I have left.

    • My Aussie/Queensland mix was diagnosed 8/5/2022 with a spleen tumor. She is almost 15 & I have had her since she was 8 weeks old. Losing a dog is part of being a dog lover. Everybody knows that they do not live as long as us. There are so many dogs out there who could use a loving home, such as yours. I’m 65 and have had dogs my entire life & lost many over the years after they lived long healthy lives. You never forget any of them, can never be replaced since they all have unique personalities and always have a special place in your heart. But, getting another dog after the mourning period is the way to go! Loss of a dog is part of loving a dog and should not keep you from getting another one. You will be surprised how fast you grow to love your new dog & can at times see things in your new dog that remind you of other dogs you have had. Watch the movies: “A Dogs Life” & “A Dogs Purpose.” These 2 movies gave me a whole new perspective on a dogs life & dealing with their eventual loss.

  7. Vets give conflicting information which makes it SO MUCH HARDER for people to make the best decision for their beloved four-legged family member! I asked for an abdominal ultrasound for my JRT who was showing some ascites. The ultrasound showed a tiny mass (measured in minimal centimeters). I agreed to what the vet called a “fine needle aspirate” taken under sedation and the vet stated categorically that the cells taken would “determine once and for all if it was cancer.” However, everywhere I read about this including in WDJ says the ONLY way to determine malignancy is to move ahead with splenectomy and submit it for another biopsy. My dog didn’t tolerate the FNA well and took nearly 48 hours to fully recover. Now the vet says I have to IMMEDIATELY have my dog’s spleen removed and that will cure her. But everything I read and the surgeon’s consult says dogs with hemangiosarcoma die ANYWAY within just a few months of splenectomy! It is SO HARD to know what to do. I am sitting here shaking in terrible fear and sorrow and don’t know what to do.

    • I am so sorry to read your comments.
      Our dog was just diagnosed today with a spleen tumor with metastasis. It’s such a difficult decision on what to do next. I guess You love your dog for as long as you can and be prepared for any emergency and what you’ll do when it happens. Best of luck Sarah

    • My dog has metastatic adenocarcinoma and has been treated for it since June 2021. Last week, I realized she was being uncomfortable when I was lifting her up from the floor. I asked my vet about her discomfort, and the vet wanted to do an ultrasound. It turns out she has a mass in her spleen. My vet said that most of the time, tumors in the spleen are malignant but they can’t know until they operate if it is malign or benign. Still, there is a 50 percent chance that my dog may die during the surgery because spleen is in essence a big artery and when you cut it, there is a very high chance of my dog bleeding out. At least that’s what he said. He said if this is a malign tumor, it’s best to wait for it to rupture and not risk my dog’s life now -because we already had three operations since June and my dog has already a heart condition so it’s not worth the risk. So currently, I feel like I am waiting for a time bomb to blow. It’s so hard. And I don’t know when it is gonna rupture, and if I will be able to bring her to a vet on time when it happens. I can never euthanize my dog. Because I see that she is so full of life and so happy now. It kills me to know that I have to say good bye to her sooner than I expected.

  8. My princess was diagnosed today with this horrible cancer. It has spread to her lung and liver. They said maybe a few weeks at best. Surgery was not even a option. She is 14 and has had a great life. She was my husbands constant companion until he passed away almost 3 years ago. Guess I’ll get a bucket li
    st together for her and make her as comfortable as I can.

  9. This is heartbreaking for me now. My daughters beautiful dog was just diagnosed with a tumor in the spleen. The vet gave steroids to try to shrink the tumor. Today my daughter was told that Maxi only has 2-6 months. She looks healthy and happy. I refuse to think she only has a short life left. My daughter is refusing to talk about it and that breaks my heart. Sight

  10. My beloved baby 9 yr old Ibizan hound just had his spleen removed after it got raptured. My vet suspects it’s malignant. Now 3 days after his surgery he is back home and would not stop whining. It breaks my heart. Sometimes he randomly screams in pain. I hope that is not due remote metastatic tumours. I hope to try him on iamyunity. I have also asked my vet to reach out to university of Minnesota to see if the can try him on their experimental drug called EBAT. Long shot but I have nothing else to try.

  11. My poor Bentley was doing fine, even had his senior check up about a month ago along with labs, everything was great. This past Wednesday I came home on my lunch real quick and walked it and he couldn’t move, was so confused, and weak, I took him to the ER Vet and he had a mass on his spleen that had ruptured. I was devastated I could barely even talk to the vet to ask all the right questions. I knew the facts and that most are malignant and that the surgery was kinda risky…because of COVID I wasn’t allowed in at first…but I asked the vet if I could see Bentley before making my decision, and after walking in and seeing how miserable he was I couldn’t put him through that surgery with the potential of more issues further on…I decided I wanted him to have a peaceful death with no suffering. It was the hardest decision I ever had to make especially knowing he was completely normal that morning. This was all so sudden but I know my baby didn’t suffer and when I walked in he just looked like he was ready to go 🥺

    • I cried when I was reading your story. I don’t know how I will face that decision. After the surgery to remove the spleen my baby boy is doing better every day. But I know that this will not last long. The vet says in about 2 month there will be a metastatic event with another internal bleeding but at that time there will be no organs to remove to help him. It will be slow death or he will go to sleep.

  12. My dog recently had a large tumor removed. The vet told us years ago the lump was just fat and not to bother with surgery. It got bigger then ruptured and started bleeding. We had no choice to do surgery. The biopsy came back and it was grade 3 soft tissue sarcoma. He was recovering well and then wasn’t acting like himself. He stopped eating so we took him to the vet and he had a fever. Thru prescribed antibiotics and the fever broke, all to just come back weeks later. They would give him fluids to bandage the problem but we wanted an answer as to why he kept having fevers and wasn’t as spunky as his normal self. His bloodwork and urine came back fine. Eventually they did an xray and saw a mass but couldn’t determine if it was on his spleen or liver. Vet said best case would be spleen bc it can be taken out, if its liver u can’t do anything. We then did an ultrasound and were told its a large splenic mass with some fluids on the abdomen. I asked what we can do next and was told they believe its malignant but won’t know for sure unless we remove the spleen and biopsy it. I’ve been crying since as my baby has been through so much the last few months and has been a fighter. Do we put him through another surgery and pray its benign or is this risky and may come back malignant and spread within 2 months. I’m so stuck. We don’t want to give up but don’t want to put him through any trauma or pain..help

  13. I’m sitting here with my 11 yr old lab mix and his third or fourth rupture. He recovered from all the previous ruptures ands it’s been 10 months since the first one. This article and comments are spot on. Being 10+ and a larger dog we were leaning towards probably cancer and an operation at this age would be too traumatic. Our vet is amazed he has made it 10 months and through at least 3 or 4 bleed outs that we know of. I guess it can stop bleeding but no telling if it will or will not. Maybe because he has made it 10 months it’s not cancer. Maybe he will survive tonight and this rupture. Maybe we operate if he does and maybe he survives the operation. I went through this with my dad for a year and right now this feels just as bad. I’m doubting myself, I should have operated earlier (maybe), I should euthanize now as he is suffering (maybe) or maybe he will recover again. I’m crying, no maybe.

  14. Thank you doctor for this article. If you were my vet you would hate me repeatedly asking you what you would do because I know from multiple vet responses that there is no right answer and no crystal ball. Clearly we are all on this article because we all love our furballs and try to educate ourselves as much as possible. hope is normal but not scientific. I have moved on to asking strangers, my horse and goat vet, and beekeeping friends what they would do to no avail. My dog has defied the odds we opted no surgery back in March when he had 4 bleeds and found the tumor. We were thinking quality of life versus surgery (his dislike of vet stays from his bout with leptospirosis a few years back and recovery challenges of keeping a lab/border collie cross mellow on a hobby farm) so since March he seemed recovered albeit ultrasound showed huge tumor on spleen and they don’t just go away I know. Now he’s bleeding again since last night and I’m second guessing myself all over again! Heartbreaking and frustrating. I thought he was going to die (again) abdomen distended, white gums,he was cold couldn’t get up, and very thirsty. but after 12 hours He’s coming around again vet said must have clotted he’s on pain meds for arthritis. Back in April they didn’t want to operate on his hematoma on his ear then he was so stable in December vet suggested operation (he was surprised he was still alive my daughter works there) and here I sit thinking I missed the window or was this time a gift maybe it wasn’t malignant because he lasted so long and now I’ve let the time bomb get bigger when I could have done something? Just venting great article and that website tool looks useful I’ll share with vets if they don’t already know. one of our vets just lost her dog a week after surgery to this so I know they love and care as much as we do. Vets are my favorite people even when it’s tough stuff like this.

  15. I just came home from the vet with my 11-year-old Giant Schnauzer. After a clean bill of health at his check-up in September, he had some vomiting and diarrhea symptoms over the past month and then a small black liquid diarrhea last night that led to X-rays today and the discovery of a large splenic tumor. I am heartbroken and already grieving as I cannot imagine life without him. He is my soul dog.

    My question is to those that have gone through this… is the kinder more humane thing to do to put him down before he suffers a rupture? How much pain are they in when that happens? I can’t fathom putting him down, but also absolutely do not want him to suffer and be in pain.

    We’re going to get an ultrasound as soon as possible this week with a specialist, but because of his age, the vet didn’t seem to think putting him through the surgery would make sense – regardless of whether it is a cancerous tumor or not. (Average life span is 10-12 years).

    Please let me know your thoughts if you have any insights from your experiences. I am so sorry for everyone who has had this experience with their dog💔

  16. May I just say I am deeply sorry for anyone who has experienced this…I am 8 weeks out from losing the love of my life fur baby however I will say, I believe her illness was caused by Bravecto, an oral flea and tick preventative. I have had several dogs over the last 30 years all who have lived well into their senior years, 15, 16….. I attribute their longevity to ignoring prescriptions and being very holistic with their diet and care. Our last dog died within one year of being given two doses of Bravecto, a flea and tick oral preventative medication. I believe in my heart of hearts which is now forever broken that the medication was responsible for her early demise at 9 years young…within weeks of taking her second dose she started having neurologic symptoms, tremors and skin problems and stopped eating. They found a large mass in her abdomen which turned out to be spleen cancer and she died two days post surgery to remove. Massive vet bills aside, I still believe Bravecto was the root cause that took our baby – be aware, it is a pestiside DO NOT GIVE to your fur babies.

  17. Thank you for this article. We helped our 14 year old morkie cross the rainbow bridge today after being diagnosed just yesterday with a large irregular mass in his spleen. He had a normal day on Sunday and Monday morning awoke with no appetite and severely lethargic. He would drink water when presented with it, but refused to eat even his favorite food. On Tuesday when he showed no signs of improvement, I decide to take him into the vet to investigate what was going on. After doing bloodwork we realized that he was severely anemic and not a viable candidate for surgery especially with the fact that he has a stage 5 heart murmur. We took him home not sure if he would make it through the night, but he did. It was very hard to reconcile in my brain that on Sunday he had a normal day and today, Wednesday, I was having to help ease his suffering. Reading this article and the fellow pet owners’ stories has helped me realize that there was nothing I could have done different. Thank you for sharing your stories and for my fellow grievers, I pray you find peace and remember all the good times you shared with your dog.

  18. I have drawn great sadness but also some comfort reading all your sad and difficult stories about your experiences with your lovely furry companions. I went through exactly this awful unexpected situation with my 11 year old crossbreed Patterdale terrier/Portuguese waterdog, last Sunday: 9th January. Mollie was my loyal, loving, energetic, crazy, companion for nearly 12 years: her birthday was in February. She was a healthy dog but 3 weeks ago she developed a UTI and was checked over by the vet, given a course of antibiotics. The visit did also confirm my suspicion that she had lost weight. I had thought she looked thinner but it’s harder to see in a dog with a rough haired furry coat like hers and earlier this year I had changed to a better quality, less fattening food. Her weight had dropped from 18kg to 15 kg. The vet was not unduly alarmed but this was my 1st return vet visit to that practice in many years, so they had not seen her regularly over the years. My daughter being a vet, and having moved nearer after qualifying, tended to do her yearly check ups. The UTI cleared but returned a few days after stopping the anti biotic. She was given a second course which also seemed to clear it but again she appeared restless, uncomfortable a few days after. She was then booked in for bloods and a scan on Monday. On Saturday she joined me and friends in a lovely long walk, she loved walking with a group. Sunday she was listless, refused her most favourite foods and treats and was not interested in going out. We did a brief walk for ‘business’ but she was glad to get back. Continued to refuse favourite snacks and didn’t even get up to greet some friends who called in. Not like her at all. I rang my vet daughter who suggested I bring her over so she could do some checks. She told me she needed to see a vet ASAP at my local practice: my daughter just having left her practice couldn’t do more complex checks. She was seen by the local vet. Bloods showed discrepancies in red/ white blood cells. She then did a ‘rapid scan’ and discovered a large splenic bleeding tumour. Quite a lot of blood sloshing around her abdomen. I was given two awful choices: an immediate major operation remove the spleen and tumour or to put her to sleep. There was no guarantee that she would survive the operation and checking for cancer could only be done after removal. The most awful decision to make for my darling loyal Mollie dog. My close companion. She had seemed fine on a decent long walk the previous day, she was not suffering majorly other than some signs of possible returning of the UTI. My daughter was with me and explained about the tumour and the risks. She told me to think of Mollie, of her age and her fear of any vet intervention which had always been with her from when she came into my life. The first 6 months of her life she had been passed back and forth between 2 or 3 families. When I found her she was a very insecure young dog who did not appear to have bonded with anyone person. After an agonising 15 or 20 minutes I decided I couldn’t put her through a horrible and risky op with a possible malignant tumour result and further suffering. She was nearly 12 and that age was against her in my decision, as was the weight loss. The cancer of malignancy or not were more than 50/50 in her case. More like 70/30. So I let her go..so awful so heartbreaking. I have been crying every day since but I think it was the right decision for her. The attending vet said afterwards that she thought so too, considering Mollie’s age etc. My daughter was absolutely wonderful, putting no pressure on me in either direction though she said afterwards that she thought I made the kindest choice for my much loved and very loving loyal companion. Gutted..it will take me quite a long time to get over this. I feel so sorry for all of you having similar experiences..but I drew some comfort from knowing that this is not an uncommon experience with dogs, though I had not heard of it. My daughter did know that of course, had dealt with similar cases as a vet, but had never wanted to tell me about such awful situations. Thank you all for sharing your experiences. I think it’s important. Shelley: think of your dogs age..and the risks..

  19. Oh my heart. My Aussie who is almost 7 was just diagnosed with a splenic tumor. I’m supposed to take him in on March 1 to have an ultrasound and bloodwork, though now after doing some reading, I’m wondering if we should just skip right to surgery. If it is benign but could rupture and kill him, is that a chance I should even take? He seems so young to be having this, compared to the ages of your doggos. But I knew something was wrong, when about a week ago he wouldn’t lay down and was hesitant to walk. I palpated his tummy and he yelped. It has seemed to come and go over the last week, but I decided to have the vet take a look. Sure enough, there’s a mass. This is agonizing and I’m sending my sympathy and love to all of you, because we all understand this pain and anguish as we try to make the best decisions for our furry soulmates.

    • Please share your experience and outcome as my almost 9 year old Aussie just got diagnosed with a spleen mass and we’re waiting on blood work results now so we’re agonizing over our options now. Obviously I want to what’s best for my girl so putting her through surgery only to loose her a few weeks later is unthinkable. From all the research I’ve been doing, with or without surgery, whether the mass is malignant or benign, she’s a ticking time bomb.

      Thank you in advance

  20. I hope I give you some hope by sharing my story. Last May 2021 my 12 year old black lab was also diagnosed with a splenic tumor after under going an ultra sound for a heart murmur. She had been unwell for a few weeks, not eating, losing weight so I asked the specialist vet to give her the once over whilst doing the ultra sound. Although I was pleased to know what the issue was I also had to make a decision. We went with the surgery, the tumor weighed 1.2kg apparently and looked nasty. However, she is still alive 10 months later and periodically bounces around like a puppy. She will be 13 in November and maybe she won’t last until then but I am so pleased we took the surgery option, we have had her so much longer than even the vet predicted.

  21. Thank you, Dr. Fatcheric, for writing this article about splenic masses. It was the clearest, most helpful thing that I read when looking for information. My little companion (chihuahua mix) was diagnosed with one on Friday, and is facing surgery tomorrow. My thanks also to everyone who shared their heartbreaking as well as hopeful experiences here. My heart is with you all.

  22. My pup is a small shih tzu. He weighs 11lbs. and is 9 years old. He is very brachycephalic, has breathing issues, and the vet said there is a 10-20% chance he could not survive anesthesia. They found a small mass on his spleen while doing an ultra sound. I do not think I should put him through the surgery to have it removed, since the procedure could either kill him, or severely impact his breathing, with a slow or horrible recovery that doesn’t end well. While under, he would also get his long palete fixed, maybe widen the nostrils, but again- she said his larngyx could be on verge of collapse, or already collapsed, and they have no way to fix that. Not really sure what to do.
    Somehow, I think it best to leave him be and enjoy his life, as he is eating, playing, happy.
    He does on occasion pass out at night from breathing issues, but it’s only a few times a year if it’s hot.

    I just feel too scared risking surgery, even though it could have a good outcome, I would hate myself for putting him through it because from what they said it would be very difficult.

  23. Our 9 year old Shih Tzu has had digestion problems (occasional diarrhea) starting in 2020. At that time we did X-rays, ultrasound, Cushings test , Addisons test – all negative. Started him on a low fat diet which seemed to be the answer. Earlier this year it started again and the Rx probiotic didn’t do the trick – so more X-rays and bloodwork no definitive answers. So we went for another ultrasound 2 & 1/2 weeks ago and they found 2 masses in his spleen. Radiologist said they were concerning and 3 options-recheck in a few months, do needle biopsy, or do surgery. Worst case if he survived the surgery 6 months to a year. Avoided researching as I didn’t want to drive myself over the edge until now. We opted for the surgery, which was done 10 days ago and got the pathology report back last Wednesday they were benign. He is now approaching his old spoiled self. We have been blessed.

    • Thank you Steve for your story, my 7 year old Pom-poodle is going for surgery in 2 weeks after finding a large 4cm mass on his spleen. I am hopeful it is benign.

      Sending love everyone who lost their best friend.

  24. My aussiedoodle was found to have a mass on her spleen, we had the surgery, splenectomies are common enough, and luckily was benign, and 2 years later at 13 has been doing fine. I am just saying have the splenectomy done, it may not be cancer, and there is no knowing until it is removed and biopsied. That is if caught before rupture, luckily again to have a vet, who pushed me to get an ultrasound done.

  25. As I read all the stories, I realize my decision to have my dog Gadget Euthanized today. He went for removal of his spleen and they couldn’t perform the surgery as he was full of cancer! Came home long enough for me to completely spoil him for a few days! I’m devastated. I rescued him a little over a year ago! He is only 6 1\2! I just don’t get it? Sounds like this is common in dogs! So many missing their best friend! I’m sorry that anyone has to go through this with their best friend. I’m sorry my Gadget didn’t get to chase a rabbit! I miss him terribly.

    • Hi Sondra, I’m so sorry for your loss. I am going through the same thing. Where were all the cancers? How long did the vet say he had? I’m searching all over the internet for answers. I want the best, most comfortable life for him as long as possible before the rupture. My Charlie has tumours on his spleen, his liver, and other places, but he’s still running around and eating, soaking up all the love from all our friends and family members. I’m so torn on when to euthanize him. Any advice or more information helps

      • I am in the same boat you are. I feel your pain. Our Corgi was just diagnosed with tumors in spleen, liver, and pancreas. We took him home instead of having him euthanized right away because he is still eating, wagging his tail, and able to walk and go to the bathroom outside. I’m hoping that we will know when it’s time. The vet said it could be days, weeks, or even a month or two. I’m dreading the day we have to make that decision to have him put down.

  26. I have a 12 year old Bichon, Jake, he has a mass in his spleen. My daughter noticed he had a lump in his belly years ago and the vet said it was just a fatty tumor and not to worry. Now I wonder did we miss something. He has horrible diarrhea now bc the mass is pressing on his intestines. Nothing shows metastasis on his X-rays and I won’t to do everything I can to save my little guy but I don’t want him to suffer. My first thought of course is to do the surgery. The scary thing is his main love is my daughter who is headed back to college this weekend (12 hours away) and I’m so scared she won’t get to see him again. This is the worst time ever. This Is my first dog and I am so lost on what to do. 😢😢😢

  27. Thank you for this article and all of your comments. We are here broken hearted after losing our 11 year old Border Collie with the exact scenario experienced by many of you here. Our girl was a little off her food. A month ago all blood tests were perfect. She had been a little quiet, but collapsed and I took her to the vet. Blood tests, X-ray and ultra sound revealed a ruptured tumour in spleen and fluid and fluffiness in her lungs. Any treatment was not an option. We had no idea that this insidious silent condition was about to cause such devastation to our lives in the space of a few hours. Our beautiful girl 💕

  28. I wish I had seen this blog before I found myself in the situation of having my 11 yr old blue heeler at the vet with a ruptured tumor on her spleen. She was fine that morning and very low on blood by the time we got to the vet. We opted for euthanasia, for fear of prolonging her suffering. It comes on so suddenly and you do not have enough information to make a good decision. Her x rays showed a big mass on the spleen but nothing bad in the chest. She had blood in her stomach shown by an ultrasound. The vet didn’t seem to think she would make it through the surgery, I’m guessing due to loss of blood, and seemed to assume it was cancerous. In retrospect I suspect it was benign because I think she must have had it for a long time since she used to growl when picked up, and she was always fussed at for being overweight at the vet even though she was not over fed. I’m wondering since this is so common, why are dogs not periodically x rayed for these tumors? Had we found this tumor before it ruptured we definitely would have done the surgery. This is a hard loss to overcome, made harder by the suddenness of the situation and lack of information.

    • My vet found a mass which was in/on my german shepherds spleen on sept. 15. She is 15 1/2 years old. I watched her father die from hemangiosarcoma that has spread to lungs and heart. He didnt last one day after it was discovered because it had already ruptured. Since her bloodwork was good and there wasnt signs it had spread to the heart/lungs, i was adamant that we remove the spleen with the hopes it would be benign. even if it wasnt, it might give her some more time, but she would ultimately die of the cancer because almost all splenic tumors that are malignant have already spread to some degree. Surgery was sept. 21 and she was eating and moving well agter 1 1/2 days. The biopsy came back benign so it was the best of news. Staples came out today. She is clearly feeling better and more energetic than before. even though the mass was benign it was big and certainly causing pain/lethargy. 10 years old isnt that old for a Pomeranian. If there is no sign it has spread, I would absolutely have that spleen removed ASAP.

      • I lost my boy yesterday 3/10/2022 Rottweiler x at 8 years of age. Misdiagnosed by the first vet and then taken back to another vet almost 5 weeks later to find a large mass on his spleen, ultrasound and x rays showed no further spread and I opted for surgery and hoped it was benign. Unfortunately it wasn’t and had already spread through his liver and into other parts of his body. I was devastated to have to make the choice not to wake him up. I just wish I had got a second opinion 5 weeks ago and been able to get his spleen out sooner in the hopes of giving him more time. They certainly leave a hole in your heart once they go.
        I am glad to read your dog was one of the lucky ones.