last we "spoke," our subject was Annie, a
9-year-old yellow Labrador retriever who had presented
to our veterinary hospital for an annual physical
examination. She was her normal happy self, always
wanting to please as we went through the examination.
Annie had a problem. No one could realize she had a
life-threatening condition, as she appeared completely
normal to her caretakers and to us, as well. It was only
because of the physical exam that we were able to find
the time bomb ticking in her abdomen.
was taken to emergency surgery to remove her spleen,
which contained a large hemorrhaging mass. Without
timely removal, she likely would have bled to death.
that was not the case, as she recovered beautifully from
surgery and was sent home awaiting the most important
information of all: the results of the biopsy of her
received Annie’s biopsy results two days after she was
discharged from the hospital, and the news was fabulous.
She did have a tumor in her spleen, but it was benign.
was not cancer, and removal of the tumor provided a
total cure. The tumor is called a hemangioma and though
it is benign, these tumors can be fatal.
is because as they grow, they stretch the capsule of the
spleen to the point where it can no longer stretch and
it ruptures. This leads to bleeding into the abdomen,
precisely what was beginning to occur in Annie’s case.
this bleeding occurs, the dog becomes anemic and weak as
a result. Sometimes the bleeding will stop and the dog
can reabsorb the lost blood and the weakness will
is only temporary, however, as the tumor continues to
grow and bleeding again recurs.
cycle can continue for a while as the dog roller
coasters up and down until the point where the bleeding
can no longer be stopped and the patient bleeds to
for Annie this was not the case.
case is an excellent example of how important it is to
have our companions examined on a regular basis.
they age, there are more potential health issues that
can develop and some of them, like Annie’s tumor, are
silent until they become very serious.
middle- to older-age companions, it is a good practice
not only to have regular physical examinations as all
patients should, but also to have some diagnostic tests
to take a look on the inside.
can include blood testing to screen for possible
metabolic changes that could reflect early onset of a
particular disease as well as radiology of the abdomen
and thorax to check for possible abnormalities such as
the tumor growing in Annie.
my years as a veterinarian, I have been rewarded many
times over with cases such as Annie’s by being
progressive in trying to prevent disease before it
becomes a major health issue.
all know the old cliché, an ounce of prevention is
worth a pound of cure, and like many clichés, it speaks