When Barney, a senior Labrador comes to us it’s normally a case of watch out here comes the whirlwind! That may be the result of all the fuss and attention he gets from the nursing team at the front desk. However, over the years Barney has learnt that more fuss usually equates to more treats after he’s done the boring bit with the Vet in the consultation room. Barney is pretty good at getting fuss as a result… so, when he was booked in due to being a bit quiet and out of sorts we were a bit concerned. He had been sick a few times after food as well so, there was every suspicion that he had scavenged something he ought not to have, as we call it a “sampling error”! Of course, Barney came bounding through the door as usual and hurtled around for his treats and attention. Only he wasn’t quite on the top line and was puffing and panting a bit more than we expected. Oh yes, and there was a big hard lump in the front of his belly. The nursing team agreed that Barney wasn’t quite himself, although being Barney he wasn’t about to refuse any treats that might be on offer, and he does like his fuss.
The problem we are often presented with can be a mixed and sometimes unclear picture. That applies to us both, here at Riverside Veterinary Centre, and you as owners at home. The signs we were given with Barney were pretty vague, but central to it all was Barney’s owner’s feeling that things were just not quite right. Often an owner’s gut instinct is correct, as it turned out in this case (no pun intended!). Don’t ever feel that you are wasting the veterinary team’s time with an enquiry. A chat can help us to open up a range of questions that might help decide whether to make an appointment or not.
If we fast forward to the operation that was inevitably coming for Barney, the cause turned out to be a splenic tumour. For mid-aged dogs, these tumours are surprisingly common. The spleen is a very handy organ to have when you are young, regulating the production and function of red blood cells. As a dog gets older though, the spleen tends to lose it’s way a bit and in some circumstances (Barney’s being a case in point) it turns “rogue”, becomes tumorous and starts to expand, devouring red cells at a pretty hefty rate. Because of its position in the body, close up against the stomach, a rogue spleen that is getting bigger can press against the stomach making some dogs less than interested in their food (or in Barney’s cause causing him to be sick). The rogue spleen is also destroying red cells faster than they can be replaced meaning that Barney was running out of these rather important oxygen-carrying cells. So he was getting a bit quiet….for Barney! A blood sample gives a pretty good indication of what is going on with a plummeting red cell count giving us a good clue, along with the big hard mass in the front of his abdomen. The key here is to act quickly to get the offending spleen out. Sadly, some of these tumours don’t just stay in the spleen but can spread to other organs locally, like the liver. If this has occurred then the prospects are very poor for a dog.
Recovery after an operation like this is usually very quick. For Barney that meant he was breaking all records at getting to his treats on his next visit to us for stitches out!