I do not envy the veterinarians who work emergency. It costs a lot of money to keep a hospital open and fully staffed 24 hrs a day. They see a lot of terrible diseases and give out a lot of bad news. I, on the other hand, see a lot of wellness appointments and I don’t have to pay to keep a hospital open 24/7 so overall, I tend to be pretty optimistic and error toward the side of giving the dog a chance to live in this situation and can charge less than an ER or specialty hospital. I am a general practitioner with many years of experience in soft tissue surgery but I am not a board-certified surgeon.
When I find a mass on the spleen on a physical exam or because there are a few abnormalities on their bloodwork and I perform an ultrasound to look for one, I’m always asked the question, “what would you do if he was your dog?”. To me, this is overall an easy decision. I take it out. Obviously, you have to make sure that the dog can handle anesthesia, doesn’t have any signs of metastasis or other severe concurrent diseases, but overall, I take it out. No matter the age of the dog. Age is just a number, not a disease. I have performed splenectomies on 14-year-old dogs who have gone to live for another two years and died of old age.
I really hope Jake’s tumor is benign. And there are a couple of prognostic factors that give me hope that it could be benign. Jake’s tumor was not actively bleeding when it was found. Jake was not anemic and had a normal platelet count. Jake did not have signs of metastasis to his lungs or liver. And if it’s not benign, then I will have that tough conversation with his mom and go over the herbs we will use to slow down the growth of the tumor and I can give her some expectations for the next 3-10 months of his life. But at least, for now, Jake is home with his mom, he is feeling much better since taking his spleen out, and his mom can take a little time to come to terms with his diagnosis if it is not what we expect.
So yes, I would take out my dog’s spleen if I could afford $1500 and my dog was otherwise in good shape. I’ll take those odds that her mass would be benign. And if the pathology report said otherwise, then at least I was able to hug on my dog for many more months before I had to say goodbye.
Dr. Carrie Uehlein