Should she have detected retriever’s tumor?
Dear Dr. Amy,
My 6-year-old golden retriever, Maddie, was just diagnosed with a splenic tumor by her regular veterinarian. This tumor is grapefruit sized, and Maddie had been showing no signs or symptoms up to this point. The scary thing was that my vet told me it could have ruptured and caused a life-threatening bleed into her abdomen. Is there something I missed or a way I could have discovered this sooner? She just had senior blood work done three months ago, and there were no warning signs. Feeling like a bad mom and wondering what to do.
Jackie in Wesley Chapel
Please do not feel bad. This is very common with goldens, and there usually are no symptoms at home. Kudos to your vet for finding this mass. These can often grow large while undetected or are never found until the emergency hemorrhage has begun. Also, there are no specific blood enzyme indicators for spleen that elevate on senior blood work.
The facts are that 50 percent of splenic tumors in dogs are malignant, and 50 percent are benign (non-cancerous). In either scenario, a splenectomy (surgical removal of the spleen) may be a good option for you. It will prevent a life-threatening hemorrhage in the future and cure benign forms. If it is malignant, it may remove the source of the cancer before spreading to other locations (i.e. liver, abdominal lymph nodes or the right side of the heart). Considering she is a golden, I strongly recommend ultrasound to evaluate the rest of the abdomen closely and perhaps the right side of the heart. If widespread changes are evident, then surgery may not be as favorable an option.
Unfortunately, new studies show that one in five golden retrievers will develop a malignant cancer called hemangiosarcoma, and the spleen is a predominant site. Thus, a new push for preventative ultrasound for high-risk breeds such as golden retrievers starting around age 5 annually may be a life-saving step. Ultrasound is non-invasive, well-tolerated and safe for repetitive screenings. It is more sensitive and preferred for evaluating subtle changes of the spleen vs. radiographs that only show general spleen enlargement.
I hope that Maddie breezes through her process.
What are the benefits of spaying for Hokie?
Dear Dr. Amy,
As part of my routine puppy care for my gorgeous new bulldog puppy, Hokie, my vet recommended spaying at 6 months of age. I was too embarrassed to ask what this procedure really involves, as people use the term “spay and neuter” all the time. What are they actually doing, and what are the benefits for Hokie?
Excellent question and never feel shy to speak up about things you feel you “should” already know. I agree about the benefits of spaying and personally advocate it for my patients as well.
Spaying is another term for ovariohysterectomy. This is the surgical removal of the entire uterus and both ovaries. This usually takes about 30 to 45 minutes under general anesthesia and is usually performed around 6 months. This age allows time for kidney and liver development for good anesthetic drug metabolism. It is early enough to target patients before their first heat cycle, usually around 8 to 10 months of age. Why is this important?
In addition to preventing unwanted pregnancies and controlling pet overpopulation in shelters nationwide, it will protect Hokie – up to 98 percent – from the risk of developing malignant breast (mammary) cancer later in life. Yes, dogs get breast cancer, too. There is a strong hormonal link in dogs, and after the first heat cycle, the protection drops to 75 percent. After the second, the surgery offers no protection.
Additional benefits include preventing heat cycles, pregnancy, roaming behavior and vehicular accidents, cystic ovarian disease and pyometra. Cystic ovarian disease can occur in older dogs, creating abnormal heat cycles and hormone patterns that affect the uterus, and can lead to a life-threatening condition called pyometra. Pyometra is a severe infection of the uterus that leads to infectious discharge from the vulva, fever, decreased appetite and even septicemia (bacteria in the bloodstream) or uterine rupture.
When scheduling Hokie’s spay, please consider pre-anesthetic blood work to screen for liver or kidney problems that could increase risk of anesthesia. Also, ask your vet about the type of the anesthesia (injectible only vs. preferred injectible and gas anesthesia with a breathing tube) used and what variables are monitored (i.e. oxygen levels, EKG, heart rate, temperature, breathing rate, blood pressure, etc.)
Lastly, what is the hospital policy on pain management before, during and after surgery? My personal preference is a combo approach of injectible anti-inflammatory and narcotic (i.e. morphine) drugs before and during to “stay ahead” of the pain, local incisional anesthetics for a comfortable recovery and anti-inflammatory meds by mouth for three to five days afterward.