What causes enlarged spleen in older dogs

What causes enlarged spleen in older dogs

Key Takeaway:

  • An enlarged spleen in older dogs can be caused by a variety of factors, including cancer, infection, inflammation, trauma, immune-mediated disease, blood disorders, and congenital abnormalities.
  • Symptoms of an enlarged spleen in dogs may include abdominal pain or swelling, decreased appetite, lethargy, and vomiting. It is important to monitor your dog’s condition and seek veterinary care if you notice any of these symptoms.
  • Treatment options for an enlarged spleen in dogs may include surgery, chemotherapy, antibiotics, and supportive care. Prognosis and follow-up care will depend on the underlying cause and severity of the condition.


Introduction: Enlarged spleen in older dogs is a common condition. It can cause health concerns. The spleen filters blood and helps the immune system. Splenomegaly can have various causes such as infections, cancer, or chronic diseases. In older dogs, it is usually linked to other illnesses like liver disease, heart disease, or cancer. Treatment depends on the underlying cause. Consult a vet to get the right treatment.

A balanced diet and exercise can help older dogs’ organ functions. Supplements that support immunity and general well-being may be beneficial. Regular check-ups with a vet can detect any health problems early. This includes an enlarged spleen. Early detection and treatment can improve life quality for older dogs.

Understanding the Spleen in Dogs

The spleen is a crucial organ in a dog’s body that performs various functions. In this section, let’s understand the anatomy and function of the spleen, and how it enlarges. By exploring these sub-sections, we can gain insight into possible causes of an enlarged spleen in older dogs and its implications.

Anatomy and Function of the Spleen

The spleen is a crucial part of the body’s immune system and blood filtration processes. It stores white blood cells, which fight infections. It also filters out old or damaged red blood cells and stores iron.

The spleen has two parts: the red pulp, which filters red blood cells, and the white pulp, which contains lymphoid tissues that make antibodies. A protective capsule made of connective tissue shields the spleen from injuries.

The spleen has the special ability to remove bacteria from the blood. It can also produce new red blood cells in emergencies. Studies show that adding certain cytokines or growth factors can stimulate stem cells in the spleen and increase the production of new immune cells.

Overall, understanding the spleen is key to having a healthy immune system and proper blood filtration.

How the Spleen Enlarges

The spleen is an essential organ in a dog’s body. It can become enlarged for a few different causes, including blood accumulation inside it. If this happens, the spleen swells and increases in size. Inflammation or infection can also cause the spleen to grow bigger.

Inflamed or infected, the spleen must work harder to remove bad substances from the dog’s blood. This extra effort can lead to an increased spleen size, as it does its job.

It is important to keep in mind that an enlarged spleen might be a sign of a hidden condition, but not always. Lots of dogs have benignly enlarged spleens that do not need treatment. Nevertheless, if your dog shows other symptoms, such as vomiting or loss of appetite, it’s advisable to talk to a vet.

If you think your dog has an enlarged spleen, it is essential to get veterinary help right away. An enlarged spleen could mean a severe underlying condition like cancer or infection. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are vital to keep your dog healthy.

Symptoms of Enlarged Spleen in Dogs

Enlarged spleens in dogs can cause a host of symptoms. These range from infections and diseases to cancer. Common symptoms include lethargy, weakness, loss of appetite, nausea, anemia, and pale gums. Abdominal distension can be present too, causing pain and discomfort. Severe cases may even experience breathing difficulties due to the pressure on the diaphragm.

It’s important to note that an enlarged spleen can be life-threatening if it ruptures. So, if any symptoms are observed, seek veterinary help quickly. This will both diagnose and treat the underlying cause, as well as prevent any potential problems in older canines.

Causes of Enlarged Spleen in Dogs

An enlarged spleen can be a tell-tale sign of underlying health issues in older dogs. In this section, we will explore the different causes of enlarged spleens in dogs. From cancer to immune-mediated diseases, we will uncover the various culprits behind this common condition.


Cancer in dogs can lead to an enlarged spleen. Cancer cells may come from different places, like lymph nodes, the liver, or pancreas, and can move to the spleen through the blood. Hemangiosarcoma is a cancer that affects the spleen, coming from the blood vessels of an organ.

Symptoms of an enlarged spleen caused by cancer can include: lethargy, not eating, throwing up, having diarrhea, losing weight, and having pale gums due to anemia. A mass on exam or abnormal bloodwork may also be found.

The Merck Veterinary Manual states Hemangiosarcoma is 5-7% of all tumors in dogs. It is more common in older ones than younger dogs. It is important to talk to a vet if you notice any symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment can help the dog’s chances of recovery.


Dogs have a vital organ known as the spleen. Sadly, it can become enlarged due to a few conditions, one of them being infection.

Microbes enter the body, triggering an immune system response which causes inflammation in the spleen. Without early treatment, the infection can spread to other organs. This is extremely dangerous.

Vets can identify infection-caused spleen enlargement with blood tests and imaging scans, such as ultrasound and X-ray. Timely diagnosis is essential for improving the prognosis and therapy outcomes for dogs with an enlarged spleen due to infection.


Inflammation can occur when the body has an infection or injury. White blood cells are sent by the immune system to attack and heal the area. But if this response lasts too long, it can lead to chronic inflammation and bigger organs, like the spleen. Sometimes, this is due to autoimmune diseases.

Certain diseases, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease, may cause spleen inflammation as well. To treat it properly, it’s important to know the cause of the inflammation.

If your dog has an enlarged spleen due to inflammation or something else, seek help from a vet immediately. Quick diagnosis and treatment can give your pup the best chance for recovery. Don’t wait – take action quickly for your pet’s health and happiness.


Blows to the chest or abdomen can cause trauma to the spleen. This trauma can lead to a ruptured spleen, which is dangerous and needs medical care. Lacerations of the spleen are also common with trauma, causing bleeding in the abdominal cavity. Symptoms may not appear immediately, but blood can slowly build up, pressing on other organs.

Apart from trauma, spleen enlargement can be caused by cancer, infection, inflammation, immune-mediated diseases, blood disorders, and congenital abnormalities. As owners, be aware of signs of enlarged spleen and get veterinary help. Timely treatment can improve your pet’s outcome.

Immune-Mediated Disease

Dogs can sometimes suffer from immune-mediated disease when their immune system attacks healthy cells. This causes destruction of vital body tissues. It can also enlarge the spleen, causing symptoms like weight loss, lethargy, anemia, fever, and increased thirst and urination. IMHA is a common form of this disease.

If your dog has any of these signs, take them to the vet quickly. Don’t delay, as this could lead to serious issues. Early detection and treatment are key to achieving the best result.

Blood Disorders

Blood disorders in dogs may cause an enlarged spleen. This organ is responsible for filtering out old, or abnormal red blood cells from the bloodstream. Conditions like autoimmune hemolytic anemia and thrombocytopenia can lead to anemia and bleeding.

These can manifest in symptoms such as:

Pale gums
Increased thirst
Rapid breathing

It’s important to get the right diagnosis to ensure the condition leading to the enlarged spleen is managed. A genetic cause may be the reason for your dog’s oversized spleen. If you think your dog has a blood disorder, take it to a veterinarian.

Congenital Abnormalities

Dogs can suffer from an enlarged spleen for a variety of reasons, including Congenital Abnormalities. Sometimes during development, a puppy’s spleen may not grow correctly; this can cause it to become larger than normal. Splenic cysts or accessory spleens may also lead to a larger spleen.

It’s essential to note that not all congenital abnormalities cause an enlarged spleen. If your dog has symptoms, seek veterinary help immediately. Medication or surgery may be needed to treat the problem.

Your vet may have to investigate to find out the cause of your dog’s swollen spleen. But with the right care, your pup can get back to good health and joyfulness.

Diagnosis of Enlarged Spleen in Dogs

An enlarged spleen in older dogs can pose various underlying health complications. In this section, we will explore how veterinarians diagnose an enlarged spleen in dogs through diagnostic tests and how to monitor your dog’s condition.

Understanding the diagnosis process is crucial in providing proper healthcare for our furry friends.

Diagnostic Tests

Diagnostic tests are essential for figuring out the cause of an enlarged spleen in dogs. Examinations and imaging procedures are used to get a precise diagnosis. Vets do blood tests, ultrasounds, X-rays, MRI scans, and needle aspiration biopsy.

Blood tests detect abnormal blood cell counts or infection markers. Ultrasound reveals the size and condition of the spleen, and can find tumors or masses. X-rays show changes to the shape and size of organs in the abdomen. MRI scans give information about organ tissues. Needle aspiration biopsy gets cells from the spleen to look at under a microscope.

Monitoring is important before these tests because they can be invasive and have risks. So vets must watch carefully.

Monitoring your Dog’s Condition

Canines with an expanded spleen must be watched carefully to stop their health from worsening. Blood tests are needed to monitor red & white cells, platelets, and other markers. Check-ups with a vet can help track any changes in behavior and appetite.

To keep an eye on your pet, you must know the cause of the enlarged spleen. Treatments vary depending on the cause. E.g., chemotherapy or surgery for cancer, antibiotics for infections, and immunosuppressive therapy for immune-mediated diseases. Stick to the vet’s treatment plan & make adjustments if needed.

Keep a record of any changes in behavior or appetite, and physical symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea. Share this info with the vet when discussing treatments.

Tracking your dog’s condition can help detect any changes early & prevent further problems. With the help of the veterinary team, you can give your pup the best possible outcome. Treatments for an enlarged spleen may include surgery, chemotherapy, antibiotics, or supportive care.

Treatment Options for Enlarged Spleen in Dogs

Enlarged spleen in older dogs can lead to a variety of health concerns, and it’s important to consider effective treatment options. In this section, we will discuss various treatment options available for enlarged spleen in dogs, including:

  1. Surgery
  2. Chemotherapy
  3. Antibiotics
  4. Supportive care

These treatment options can help in making informed decisions about how to best support your furry friend’s health.


A splenectomy for a dog requires general anesthesia. An incision is made in the abdomen to access the spleen. Before removal, the vessels supplying the spleen are tied off to prevent bleeding. Partial splenectomies are an option if only part of the spleen has cancer or trauma. This keeps some healthy tissue for the immune system.

Following surgery, dogs need intensive care. Pain management and close monitoring for infection/bleeding is necessary. Vet appointments must happen for effective treatment and continued well-being. In some cases, chemotherapy might be recommended as part of the cancer treatment plan. It can be just as miserable for dogs as humans.


When undergoing chemo, dogs may suffer from a range of symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss and weakness. Vets keep a close eye on them to make sure everything’s under control.

Other solutions for an enlarged spleen can be surgery, antibiotics or just supportive care. It depends on the cause and the dog’s health.

One pup-parent said their pup had cancer in the spleen and got surgery followed by chemo. The vet kept check for months after, but no signs of it coming back.

Antibiotics can help fight infection, but won’t make your pooch’s spleen magically grow back.


It is vital to understand that antibiotics should only be prescribed by a vet after a diagnosis. This is because not all enlarged spleen cases need antibiotics and it’s important to avoid overusing these medications to prevent antibiotic resistance.

Moreover, it can be hard to decide the most successful treatment as some bacteria may be resistant to certain antibiotics. Thus, it may take some trial and error to find the right course of action. Other factors that can affect the decision to use antibiotics include the intensity and length of symptoms, and any potential side effects or interactions with other medicines.

It’s incredible to know that antibiotics were first detected by Sir Alexander Fleming in 1928. He found mold accidentally contaminating one of his petri dishes and killing off surrounding bacteria. This discovery eventually led to the development of penicillin and marked the start of a new age in modern medicine.

Supportive Care

When a pup has an enlarged spleen, supportive care is key. Non-invasive treatments, such as diet and rest, can help the dog’s health. Sometimes, surgery and chemo must treat the cause of the enlargement.

Supportive care reduces symptoms and helps healing. Meds can ease pain and discomfort. Supplements and vitamins can give the pup’s immune system a boost.

Various causes of enlarged spleens exist in pups, such as cancer or infection. With proper treatment, the condition may go away on its own. Check-ups at the vet can detect any issues.

For example, one boxer pup was lethargic and vomited every morning for 3 days every 2 weeks. With meds and supportive care, the condition improved.

It’s important to take care of a pup’s spleen. Neglect may lead to severe problems. Pet owners should prioritize their pup’s health and use supportive care when needed.

Prognosis and Follow-up Care for Enlarged Spleen in Dogs

Enlarged spleen in older dogs can have many results. So, it is vital to be watchful with aftercare. We advise regular checkups with a vet and to stick to a treatment plan that works for the pup. Aftercare and prognosis for enlarged spleen in dogs is essential for their wellbeing.

Also, note their symptoms closely and tell the vet of any changes. The spleen is very important in the immune system. An enlarged spleen could cause more health problems if not treated. Quick diagnosis and treatment are necessary to keep away complications.

Moreover, feed the dog a healthy diet and give them exercise. This will help their overall health and probably stop other health problems. A healthy lifestyle and the right care will help dogs with an enlarged spleen recover.

One senior dog did have an enlarged spleen and had surgery to remove it. But, with proper follow-up and monitoring, it made a full recovery and lives a healthy life. This shows how important it is to diagnose and treat an enlarged spleen in older dogs quickly.


Splenomegaly, or the enlargement of the spleen, is widespread in dogs, particularly older ones. Its causes may vary. Cancer, infections, injury, and immune system disorders are some of the most common reasons for an enlarged spleen in old dogs. This article focuses on these causes and how to manage them.

Cancer is a frequent culprit of splenomegaly in older pooches. Lymphoma is the most typical type of cancer that affects the spleen. Hemangiosarcoma and mast cell tumors can also cause it. Viral, bacterial, and fungal infections can result in an enlarged spleen, as can trauma and immune system disorders.

The management of splenomegaly in older dogs depends on the root cause. Once identified, treatment will address it. Surgery may be necessary in some cases. Regular check-ups and monitoring are vital for the dog’s overall health and wellbeing.

Multiple factors may lead to an enlarged spleen. Accurate diagnosis is essential to provide the correct and effective treatment. If left unattended, serious consequences and even death can be the result.

In summary, causes of an enlarged spleen in senior dogs can be diverse, varying from cancers to infections and immune system issues. Management involves identifying the cause and providing suitable treatment, potentially including surgery. Regular check-ups are key to safeguarding the pooch’s health and well-being.

Five Facts About Enlarged Spleen in Older Dogs:

  • ✅ The spleen is a long, reddish organ that stores 10-20% of a dog’s blood volume and produces red and white blood cells and platelets. (Source: Toegrips)
  • ✅ Enlarged spleens in dogs can be caused by cancer, infection, inflammation, trauma, immune-mediated disease, blood disorders, and congenital abnormalities. (Source: Toegrips)
  • ✅ Symptoms of an enlarged spleen in older dogs can include vomiting, inappetence, weight loss, low energy, pale mucus membranes, or abdominal enlargement. (Source: Ethos Veterinary Health)
  • ✅ Diagnostic tools used by veterinarians to evaluate enlarged spleens in dogs may include blood work, ultrasounds, biopsies, x-rays, CT, or MRI. (Source: Ethos Veterinary Health, Dog Health Guide)
  • ✅ Treatment of an enlarged spleen in dogs depend on the underlying cause and may include surgery, chemotherapy, antibiotics, or supportive care. (Source: Toegrips, Hill’s Pet Nutrition)

FAQs about What Causes Enlarged Spleen In Older Dogs

What is an enlarged spleen in dogs and what are its main functions?

An enlarged spleen, also known as splenomegaly, is a medical condition where the spleen grows beyond its normal size. The spleen is an important organ that acts as a blood reservoir and filters circulating blood. It removes old red blood cells and helps the immune system fight off infections.

What are the top causes of an enlarged spleen in older dogs?

The top seven causes of an enlarged spleen in dogs are cancer, infection, inflammation, trauma, immune-mediated disease, blood disorders, and congenital abnormalities. These causes can affect dogs of all ages, sizes, breeds, and genders, but splenomegaly is more commonly diagnosed in middle-aged dogs.

How is an enlarged spleen diagnosed in dogs and what tests are used?

An enlarged spleen in dogs can be diagnosed through a physical exam, blood work, abdominal ultrasound, CT, and MRI. These diagnostic tests can help determine the cause of the enlargement, such as infection, inflammation, tumors, or abdominal injuries. If a mass is present, tissue analysis histopathology is required to determine its nature.

Is an enlarged spleen dangerous for older dogs and what are the risks of complications?

An enlarged spleen can pose a danger to older dogs because it is at an increased risk for injury and rupture, which can cause potentially life-threatening abdominal bleeding. Symptoms of an enlarged spleen may include vomiting, inappetence, weight loss, low energy, pale mucus membranes, or abdominal enlargement. If left untreated, the loss of circulating blood can lead to shock and organ failure.

What is the treatment for an enlarged spleen in older dogs?

Treatment options for an enlarged spleen in older dogs depend on the underlying cause. If cancer is the cause, canine spleenectomy (removal of the spleen) is often recommended to remove tumors. Prognosis varies depending on the cause, with non-cancerous tumors having a better prognosis than cancerous ones. Dogs tend to recover well after surgery for non-cancerous tumors, while those with cancer may only survive for 6 to 8 weeks.

How can we prevent or manage an enlarged spleen in older dogs?

It is essential to monitor your older dog’s condition and follow up with your veterinarian regularly to ensure proper management of an enlarged spleen. Regular health checkups can help detect any abnormalities before they become dangerous. Preventive measures include ensuring a healthy diet, proper exercise, and avoiding exposure to toxins or infectious agents that may cause spleen enlargement.

Joe Inglis
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