Time is flying by and I am experiencing life in a whole new dimension. For the past couple of weeks, I have been through some tough times. I am feeling very homesick especially because I know I am missing out on a huge family reunion. My adorable nephew is visiting his grandparents and is being smothered with attention.
To make matters even more dramatic, I was pretty sick and had to be worked up to the nine by a mob of great doctors.
Feeling so unwell simply gave me a rude awakening and pushed me to embrace a healthier lifestyle. Even though I am a vegetarian and exercise regularly, my eating habits could do with a bit of improving. Anyhow I’ll quit boring you with gory details of why I have been unable to blog regularly in these past few weeks.
I finally went back to work last Friday and was so excited about seeing my patient ‘Tenzing’. He did not share the same sentiment because he is a shy fellow that hates the vet clinic. He had not left my mind for all the time I was off work. I kept thinking: ‘I wonder how he is going. I hope he pulled through.
‘Tenzing’ is one of the most remarkable dogs I have ever met. His will to live and conquer his illness was beyond belief.
He was admitted afterhours by my colleague Dr. Bruce for collapse. He had pale gums and required an immediate blood transfusion. The next morning I had to operate on him immediately to stop the bleeding. He had a ruptured splenic tumour. These tumours can be benign (don’t spread) or metastatic (ones that spread). When I opened his abdomen up, I was greeted with so much blood. It was pretty challenging trying to visualise all the vessels that I needed to ligate to safely remove his spleen. Brace yourselves, below is a photo of his x-spleen:
Unfortunately it did not end there.
‘Tenzing’ had lost so much blood during the surgery and so he needed another blood transfusion.
You can always get away with giving a dog the first blood transfusion without cross matching. However, in theory, should you need to give another transfusion in very close proximity to the first, you must always cross match to prevent a reaction. The reality of the situation was I did not have much choice in the matter. We did not have the gear to cross match and ‘Tenzing’ was in dire need for more blood. I simply had to take a leap of faith and give him a second blind blood transfusion and hope for the best.
Thankfully it paid off and he did not have a transfusion reaction! He was stable but still not eating when I took time off work. It was just crazy to see how great he looked 2 weeks after his massive surgery. He needed two holders to restrain him while we took his sutures out!
So I know what you are all thinking? My god, how will I know if my dog has a tumour in his/her spleen? What can I do to check and so forth…
Splenic tumours are common in middle to geriatric aged canines.
What happens is a tumour (benign or metastatic) starts to grow in the spleen and it may occasionally cause small bleeds. The subtle symptoms owners usually pick up on in the early stage of the disease process are that their dogs have suddenly gotten very quiet, are hesitant to jump up and seem generally uncomfortable. Sometimes a veterinarian can palpate an enlarged spleen during a health check and will recommend further workup (x-rays + ultrasound) to confirm the diagnosis. It is obviously far better prognosis to remove the spleen before it ruptures and leads to a massive bleed.
The tricky thing is the early symptoms of splenic disease are similar to arthritis. The crucial details to pay attention to are how quickly these pooches suddenly slow down and not want to jump up. Arthritis is usually a commulative process and so patients rarely present to us for suddenly getting stiff! Most patients guard their abdomen and make it very difficult for vets to palpate the enlarged spleen.
We often diagnose splenic tumours when they have ruptured and the patient’s life is hanging in the balance.
This brings me to the importance of blood testing middle-aged to geriatric patients. We can easily pick up on an anaemia and if the patient is guarding its abdomen, we can take radiographs to rule in/out an enlarged spleen.
I could keep going on and on about this but I think it is enough details for now. Fire away any questions you may have.