Black and white longhaired dog sitting for picture

Learning that your pet needs surgery can be an overwhelming experience, especially if you are unsure of what the procedure entails. At Anicira, we work with pet parents to ensure you are well-informed before your pet’s surgery. Our veterinary team provides compassionate care before, during, and after surgery to ensure your pet is safe and comfortable.

What is a splenectomy? Why does my pet need it?

A splenectomy is surgery to remove the spleen from your pet’s body. The spleen is located just below your pet’s stomach and is about the size of your pet’s forearm. It is part of your pet’s immune system, and it helps your pet fight diseases and infections. It also stores blood and removes red blood cells that are no longer functional or that are infected.

The most common reason a pet would require splenectomy is a mass or tumor on the spleen that may or may not have ruptured. Because the spleen is a highly vascular organ, any type of tumor, even a benign one, could lead to rupture and severe hemorrhage within the abdomen. This is life-threatening and would require emergency surgery.

Unfortunately, if your pet has a mass on their spleen, there is a 60-70% chance that it is cancerous. If it is cancerous, the most likely cancer is hemangiosarcoma which has a very high metastatic potential. This means that it is likely that once hemangiosarcoma on a spleen is diagnosed, it has already spread to other organs, and survival is only a few months.

How will spleen removal surgery impact my pet’s life?

Although it performs many functions, the spleen is an organ that your pet can live a completely normal life without. Thus, we can remove it in its entirety.

Pre-Surgical Instructions

Admission Time – Bring your pet to Anicira at 7 am.
Food – You may feed your pet a quarter of their normal breakfast no later than 6 am.
Water – Your pet may have water until the surgery.
Pre-surgical exam – Your pet must be in good health and show no signs of sickness such as coughing, sneezing, or diarrhea.
Medical records – Please bring proof of rabies vaccination if you have not already provided this. If your cat or dog has not been previously vaccinated or lacks proof of vaccination, we will administer a rabies vaccine on the day of surgery. If you have not already sent your medical records, please bring all relevant medical records.

Splenectomy Surgery

Splenectomy is surgery that removes the spleen from a pet’s body.

Before surgery, our veterinary team will perform a thorough pre-surgical examination to ensure your pet is a good candidate for anesthesia. It is strongly recommended that your pet receives pre-anesthetic blood work to ensure that no health concerns go undetected.

Your pet will be under general anesthesia. The surgical team will prepare the surgical site by shaving and then cleaning the abdomen to remove bacteria and decrease the risk of potential infection.

The veterinarian will make an incision into your pet’s abdomen and remove the spleen. During surgery, they will also examine all other abdominal organs to assess for any additional disease. The veterinarian will then close the abdomen.

Caring for Your Pet After Splenectomy Surgery

Anesthesia may take 24 to 48 hours to wear off.

  • Your pet may be groggy or whiny during this time.
  • Keep your pet confined in a secure, quiet, and comfortable space. We recommend a crate or a small room.
  • Isolate them from other pets and children while recovering.

Make sure your pet wears their Elizabethan Collar (E Collar / Cone)

  • Your pet’s surgical site will take 10 to 14 days to heal. During this period, they should wear an e-collar at all times.
  • Allowing your pet to lick their incision can lead to infection or dehiscence (opening of the incision).

Offer food & water after surgery

  • When your pet returns home, offer them food and water
  • Anesthesia may cause nausea, so your pet may not be interested in food
  • If vomiting occurs, wait 12 hours before offering more food.
  • Resume regular feeding the day after surgery. Your pet’s appetite should be back to normal within 24 hours.
  • If your pet refuses to eat, you may try offering a bland diet such as white rice and lean protein (for example, boiled chicken breast) while they regain a normal appetite.
  • Please do not feed your pet junk food, table scraps, or milk.

Give all medications as directed

  • Your pet will be sent home with oral pain medication. Please follow the instructions on the label.
  • If possible, please give the pain medication with food. If your pet has no appetite, please ensure they still take the pain medication.
  • OTC pain relievers such as Tylenol and Advil are toxic to pets. Please do not give these to your pet.

Check surgical incision daily for the first week

  • Your pet’s surgical site will be healing for 10-14 days.
  • What you see on the day of surgery is what we consider normal
  • Monitor for increased redness, swelling, discharge or pulling apart of the incision.

Other shaved areas

  • Your pet may have shaved areas on one or more legs from where an IV catheter was placed.
  • These areas may be irritated or bruised. If your pet is excessively licking, please use a taste deterrent spray or e-collar to prevent self-trauma.
  • If your pet went home with a brightly colored wrap on their leg, this should be removed 30 minutes after returning home.

Limit your pet’s activity and keep them clean, dry, and warm for 10 days after surgery.

  • Ensure your pet is supervised around all potential hazards (including stairs)
  • Pets should be kept indoors so they can stay clean, dry, and warm.
  • Dogs should be walked outside on a leash to urinate and defecate. No off-leash activity during the entire recovery period.
  • No running, jumping, playing, swimming, or other strenuous activity.
  • Do not bathe your pet or have it groomed during the recovery period.

If your pet has external sutures or staples, schedule an appointment for removal in 10-14 days

  • Your pet may need to be sedated for the removal procedure, so please plan accordingly.

Rare, but serious surgical complications

Complications from splenectomy are rare. If your pet experiences these issues after surgery, please contact Anicira.

  • Bleeding – it’s important to monitor gum color after surgery and ensure that it is pink and not white or grey
  • Blood clots – these can lead to pain, lameness, difficulty breathing or even death
  • Infection – either of the incision or within the abdomen
  • Development of Pancreatitis – inflammation of the pancreas that can cause abdominal pain and/or vomiting
  • Dehiscence of the surgical site – both sides of the surgical site should be touching. Watch for any gapping.
  • Arrhythmia – rarely, dogs can develop an abnormal heart rhythm after a splenectomy this is usually resolved within 24-48, but if there are any concerns while your pet is at Anicira, we may strongly recommend further monitoring at 24-hour facility.

Please contact Anicira, your primary care veterinarian, or an emergency clinic if any of the following occur:

  • Severe pain, depression, or weakness
  • Vomiting or Diarrhea
  • Labored breathing
  • Decreased appetite for more than 24 hours
  • Lethargy lasting more than 24 hours