Hairy is a 10 year old Labrador Cross who presented to us this month to have his teeth cleaned. During the pre surgical examination, we found Hairy to have moderate dental tartar. The owner had suggested that he had possibly been losing weight over the past year, and he did look thinner. Abdominal palpation revealed a possible mass in the cranial abdomen. Since we are in the middle of our Cancer Screening Campaign, we suggested running the diagnostic tests before proceeding with the dental work the owner had come in for. Our screening campaign consists of radiographs (x-rays) of the chest and abdomen along with abdominal ultrasound. These combined modalities give us the best chance of early detection of tumors.

Hairy’s chest radiographs were free of any abnormalities. The abdominal radiographs, however, showed a suspicious mass in the mid abdomen, probably associated with the spleen.

Normal Lateral view of the Chest

Notice the round mass in the center of the abdomen

Ultrasound examination revealed the mass associated with the spleen. The mass measured approximately 3×3 inches in diameter. We did not see evidence of metastasis on the ultrasound.

Based on these findings, we recommended taking Hairy to surgery to remove the mass. The owners consented to surgery and we performed an exploratory laparotomy. Opening the abdomen, we found the splenic mass just as we had seen on the ultrasound and radiographs. We looked throughout the abdomen for signs of metastasis. We found one irregular nodule on one of the liver lobes, but it did not look very aggressive. We removed the entire spleen and took the liver nodule as well and sent them to the lab for analysis. We closed the abdomen and performed the dental prophy that the owner came in for originally.

Ultrasound image of the splenic mass

This is the Spleen with the giant tumor in the center

Hairy recovered uneventfully and we discharged him two days after surgery. A few days later we were pleased to get the report back from the laboratory indicating that the tumor in the spleen was benign and the liver nodule was just an old age change called a regenerative nodule.
Looking at all splenic tumors in dogs, the odds of a tumor being benign vs. malignant are about 50:50. Unfortunately, even the benign tumors tend to be fragile and can rupture easily and the dog can bleed to death if that happens. Therefore, we always recommend removing these tumors as early as possible. In Hairy’s case, the removal of his spleen probably saved his life. He has a normal life expectancy and when we saw him at suture removal, he and the owner were doing great!

This case underscores the usefulness of screening for cancer with diagnostic imaging. We encourage all of our clients to take advantage of our spring Cancer Screening Campaign and have your pets screened at significant savings.