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Tucker is a beautiful, ten year old Kelpie X. She has been the perfect companion to her owners and even at 10 year old she has never really needed much veterinary attention over the years. A few weeks ago however, Tucker's owners noticed that Tucker didn't seem herself and 'just wasn't quite right'. Over a 4 day period she had one unexplained vomit and some periods of being a bit more tired that usual but was still reasonably bright. In the midst of very cold winter, many might assume that it's expected for a 10 year old dog to be a 'bit slower' that normal but even when she was bouncing around the consultation room, Tucker's Dad knew that something 'wasn't quite right'.

So we started trying to put the pieces together. She had not been eating properly for 4 days prior but had eaten again that morning. Her examination was quite unexciting. Great coat, good muscle mass, healthy heart, healthy lungs, normal lymph nodes...she was ticking all the boxes for a boringly healthy patient! But when it came to assessing her abdomen, Tucker quickly stopped bouncing around the room and was quite resistant. Palpation of the abdomen can be very informative. Sometimes fluid or masses are very obviously palpated. Sometimes pain is evident and that also gives us information. Sometimes a patient just won’t relax enough for a thorough palpation to be performed. Given her history and the obvious resentment of tummy palpation we decided it was best for Tucker to have some tests.

Tucker had a small blood sample taken and tests were run during the consultation so that Dad and Dr Kristin could decide on a treatment plan that same morning. Overall her blood results were good with some minor changes in her liver enzymes. This could have been a new problem and might explain why she was unwell or in some older dogs this could represent a gradual, long term change, a bit like scar tissue which is often not problematic. So where to from here?


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As Tucker was nervous in hospital and she had willingly started eating again it was reasonable to offer her family more time to observe her at home before any more invasive tests or treatment but the resentment to her abdomen being palpated was worrying to Dr Kristin. Further evaluation was recommended, and Tucker’s doting dad was willing to do whatever was necessary for Tucker.  

The next step was imaging of the abdomen. A specialist ultrasound was arranged for the following day and this showed that there was an 8cm (tennis ball size) mass on Tucker’s spleen! Now it was all making sense. The liver changes in her blood were probably because the liver and spleen are so close to each other and the liver was a bit upset by the mass. Tucker was probably not eating because the mass was stretching the capsule of the spleen which causes pain. The spleen is a highly vascular organ and filters blood and the mass had been bleeding. This resulted in a drop in blood pressure with subsequent vomiting and lethargy, in some patients even collapse.


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That very same afternoon Tucker returned to our clinic for major abdominal surgery with Dr Liam and Dr Milad to remove her spleen. The spleen was sent to the laboratory for testing. Tucker was a wonderful patient and with the incredible care of her family and our dedicated nurses she bounced back remarkably well from surgery. Meanwhile we all waited nervously on the histopathology. Histopathology results take multiple days because of how the sample is processed. Days can feel like an eternity to staff and family when we are all waiting to find out if surgery has been successful and the patient has been cured.

Seventy two, very long hours later Tucker’s immediately family and now us, her extended family, were informed that the removal of the spleen was completely curative! Phew! Without surgery the mass would have resulted in fatal bleeding but due to Tucker’s Dads awareness that she ‘just wasn’t quite right’, early and rapid intervention led to a fantastic outcome. Now this golden oldie can go back to comfortably enjoying the life of leisure she deserves.

GO TEAM TUCKER!


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