Splenic Hemorrhage in Dogs

Overview of Splenic Hemorrhages in Dogs

Splenic hemorrhage occurs when tumors of the spleen rupture, slowly bleed or invade into a blood vessel causing blood to enter the abdominal cavity. The spleen can also bleed when it is fractured or lacerated due to trauma. Splenic tumors can be either hematomas (an organized, local collection of blood) benign hemangiomas or malignant hemangiosarcomas. All forms have the potential to rupture and bleed. Depending on the degree of blood loss, and how rapidly the blood is lost, a splenic hemorrhage may be an emergency situation.

What to Watch For

Other signs that might indicate a more chronic (longer term or gradual) blood loss include: anorexia, lethargy, intermittent weakness, and weight loss.

Diagnosis of Splenic Hemorrhages in Dogs

A thorough history and physical exam is critical for prompt and accurate diagnosis. Tests may include:

Depending on the animal’s condition and initial test results, additional tests that may be required include:

Treatment of Splenic Hemorrhages in Dogs

The general approach to treatment varies on the clinical condition of the patient and the cause of the splenic hemorrhage. Treatment may include:

Home Care

A splenic hemorrhage may be an emergency situation. Veterinary care should be given as soon as possible.

Keep your pet calm and comfortable. Minimize stress and keep your pet warm. If a traumatic injury is suspected, be careful moving your pet, as fractures may be present.

In-depth Information on Splenic Hemorrhage in Dogs

Splenic hemorrhage is a potentially life threatening situation. The abdominal cavity is a potential significant space that could contain a significant amount of blood. If a large amount of blood is lost into this space, the abdominal wall musculature is stretched and abdominal distension will be noted. Abdominal distension also may cause discomfort and pain, leading to increased agitation and stress. The rapid expansion of the abdomen may also cause pressure on the diaphragm, and thus, a decreased ability to breath comfortably.

Rapid blood loss into the abdomen will also lead to a decrease in blood pressure and tissue perfusion. This may lead to shock. As continued blood is lost, the decrease in circulating red blood cells may lead to acute (sudden) anemia. Pale mucus membranes are commonly observed. If veterinary care is not immediately available, rapid blood loss may lead to death. A slower blood loss is more common and will allow for more time to seek veterinary care.

Chronic (long standing) or intermittent blood loss generally occurs more slowly, and more subtle clinical signs might be present. If the blood loss is slow, the body can reabsorb the free blood. Thus, animals may only have a small amount of blood present in the abdominal cavity. These animals may not present as an emergency, but they still may have a serious underlying disease process. Making the diagnosis of a splenic hemorrhage is critical in establishing an underling cause.

If the animal has normal clotting parameters, the bleeding into the abdomen will often stop on it’s own. Blood clots form and stop the bleeding. Sometimes an animal will collapse due to the acute blood loss and then slowly recover due to clot formation and the body’s own compensatory mechanisms. These animals appear pale and weak initially, but with time, they slowly become stronger and their mucus membranes again become pink. Owners may describe intermittent episodes of weakness followed by spontaneous recovery. Blood clots can, however, be dislodged especially with increased movement or manipulations. If blood clots are dislodged, the bleeding may start again.

Causes of a Bleeding Spleen in Dogs

Diagnosis In-depth

The order of diagnostic tests depends on the clinical condition of the pet. In an emergency situation, the pet would be stabilized prior to significant diagnostic procedures. A rapid but thorough veterinary evaluation is critical to prioritizing appropriate diagnostic procedures.

Treatment In-depth

One or more diagnostic tests may be recommended by your veterinarian, but in the meantime, treatment of the symptoms might be needed, especially if the problem is severe. The following nonspecific (symptomatic) treatments may be applicable to some pets with splenic hemorrhage. These treatments may reduce severity of symptoms or provide relief for your pet. However, nonspecific therapy is not a substitute for treatment of the underlying disease responsible for your pet’s condition.