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What Is Twisted Spleen In Dogs?

Written by: Adri Sandoval
Adri Sandoval is the Special Projects Manager for iHeartDogs and iHeartCats. Her work has deepened her love for animals, fostering a strong passion for rescue and animal advocacy.Read more
| Published on November 28, 2017

What is Twisted Spleen?

It may be hard to imagine, but it’s possible for your dog’s spleen to wrap around the blood vessels near it – this is what’s known as splenic torsion, or, more commonly, twisted spleen. The spleen can then become painfully enlarged, cutting off blood flow in the area where it occurs. It’s more common in large dogs, and can be life-threatening. It should be considered an emergency, and the twisted, enlarged spleen will need to be removed as soon as possible, or it could cause shock.

The symptoms of twisted spleen can be mistaken for another condition, so it’s necessary to have a veterinarian check your dog out to properly diagnose it.

Symptoms of Twisted Spleen in Dogs

The symptoms of a twisted spleen aren’t specific to only that condition. Your dog may be suffering from any of the following:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness or collapse
  • Pale gums
  • Retching
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Abdominal distention
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness

Causes of Twisted Spleen in Dogs

Large breed dogs with deep chests like German Shepherds, Saint Bernards and Great Danes are more likely to suffer from a twisted spleen. What causes the spleen to twist and rotate remains unknown, but it’s believed to happen more often when the spleen moves around, like during physical activity. Gastric dilation might also move it into an unusual position.

Diagnosis of Twisted Spleen in Dogs

Your vet may choose to do either a physical exam or a radiograph or both if they suspect a twisted spleen. An exam may include a urinalysis or blood work as well as taking a complete medical history. Lab testing can show conditions that might be caused by a twisted spleen, like anemia or decreased hemoglobin concentration (which may cause your dog’s gums to be pale.) Although they aren’t specific to twisted spleen, they’ll help your vet determine the extent of the condition.

Your vet may be able to feel the enlarged spleen by through your dog’s abdomen. An x-ray will show if the spleen is out of it’s usual position, is C-shaped, or if there may be free-floating fluid in your dog’s abdomen. An ultrasound can confirm an enlarged spleen and show if there has been any loss of blood flow in the nearby veins.

Treatment of Twisted Spleen in Dogs

Twisted spleen is usually treated with surgery. If your dog has gone into acute shock, your vet will need to stabilize him first with the use of IV fluids and a plasma or blood transfusion. The spleen can then be removed. Your dog doesn’t need his spleen to live a normal life, but some may develop an irregular heartbeat after the operation.

After surgery your dog may need to be hospitalized so that he can be monitored by his vet. They’ll make note of his blood pressure, heart rate, and other vitals for a few days. Fluid therapy will continue for dogs who were in shock until they’re stabilized and can go home. The prognosis is generally good for dogs with simple cases, but those who had acute splenic torsion might have been affected due to toxins in the blood or shock. The outcome is usually better the sooner the spleen is removed.


Recovery of Twisted Spleen in Dogs

When your dog can come home he’ll need a safe, quiet place to recover. Inspect his surgical incision daily to make sure it doesn’t become infected, and keep an eye out for retching, abdominal distension, diarrhea, or vomiting. His activity should be restricted while he heals, and he may need an E-collar to keep him from bothering his wound. Your vet may request a follow up to make sure he’s healing normally and to check for the development of any irregular heartbeats.


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