Jim, also known as ‘Slim Jim’, is a Lurcher who was found 7 years ago tied to a tree in a wood in the middle of winter. He was severely malnourished and it was touch and go whether he survived or not. Happily, he was successfully nursed back to health by a Rescue Centre and was then adopted by Jo Graham. After demolishing 2 doors and a settee, he eventually became calmer and settled well into the family.
Jim came to us at Wigmore Vets just before Christmas, as he had gone off his food and started vomiting. Despite medication his condition deteriorated so the next day our vet, Duncan Ross, advised that we take some X-rays to investigate. The X-rays showed that he had a large mass inside his abdomen, which appeared to be part of his spleen, and was most likely a tumour.
In the adult dog, the spleen has 2 main functions. Firstly, it stores red blood cells – these can be released into the blood stream if needed. Secondly, the spleen is part of the body’s immune system filtering toxins and waste products from the blood. These functions are not essential for life and adult dogs can live happily without a spleen. Therefore, removal of the organ – splenectomy – can be done for serious diseases of the spleen.
Tumours are quite common in the spleen. Many are benign - called haemangioma - but some are malignant - called haemangiosarcoma. In the case of a haemangioma, which doesn’t usually spread elsewhere, then splenectomy is normally a successful treatment, resulting in complete cure. The malignant form, haemangiosarcoma, is a very aggressive cancer and by the time it is diagnosed has usually already spread. Therefore, removing the spleen in these cases usually only buys some time before the secondary growths eat away at other organs.
After discussion with Duncan, Mrs Graham agreed that Jim should undergo an Exploratory Laparotomy to open up his abdomen and examine all the contents.
During the anaesthesia and surgery, Duncan confirmed that there was a large mass present on the spleen, but happily there was no evidence of any spread to other parts of the abdomen, so a tentative diagnosis of benign haemangioma was made. Duncan then removed the whole spleen, being very careful to thoroughly ligate (tie-off) all the multiple large blood vessels to prevent haemorrhage. After the spleen was removed, his abdomen was flushed with warm fluids to reduce development of adhesions and then the abdomen was closed with layers of sutures. This is major surgery and there are many possible complications, but all went well.
It took Jim a few days to recover from his illness and the surgery, but within a week he was back to his normal cheeky self. He loves to steal anything, but especially food that is not his own! He loves to run although he is not as fast these days. He has been described as a '100 mile an hour couch potato' as he spends a lot of the day sleeping.
Here is another beautiful photo of Jim enjoying the bluebells, and a picture of his very enlarged spleen (look away if you're squeamish!)