Dog: Splenic Rupture

General information

Other common/scientific names: trauma to the spleen

The spleen is an oblong organ which is attached to the stomach. It is highly vascularized meaning there are several blood vessels which carry blood to and from the spleen. While a dog can live perfectly well without a spleen, it does perform many functions involving the circulatory and immune systems. The spleen stores blood which can be used by the body in times of hemorrhage or blood loss. It can also produce red blood cells when needed. The spleen filters the blood by removing injured and abnormal blood cells. It also recycles iron from destroyed red blood cells. The spleen is part of the immune system by producing antibodies and white blood cells which help to fight infections.


The two most common causes of splenic rupture in the dog is blunt trauma (usually a hit by car accident) or an enlarged spleen due to a tumor. The spleen can also rupture in other cases of splenomegaly (an enlarged spleen) but this is more uncommon.

Cardinal symptom



Because the spleen is highly vascularized, a dog which has a ruptured spleen is bleeding internally. This can be a slow bleed into the abdomen or it can be a more rapid type of hemorrhage. Dogs which are experiencing a slow bleed may show no clinical signs. However, most dogs with a ruptured spleen show signs of weakness, pale gums, abdominal pain, abdominal distention or bloated appearance, increased heart and respiratory rates, collapse and shock. In the case of an automobile accident, other injuries such as a ruptured liver, broken bones and head trauma may be present.


A ruptured spleen should be suspected in any dog which has been hit by a car. Diagnosis can be made from physical examination and ultrasonography. Radiographs can also aid in the diagnosis. Bloodwork in the form of a complete blood count (CBC) is needed to monitor suspected blood loss.


A ruptured spleen is a medical emergency due to the internal bleeding. Treatment consists of intravenous fluids and medications for shock. A blood transfusion may be necessary. An abdominal wrap to apply pressure to stop bleeding can be used. Surgical removal of the spleen (splenectomy) may be necessary to stop the internal bleeding.


If the ruptured spleen is diagnosed and treated promptly, the dog can make a full recovery if the blood loss is not severe and the dog has not sustained multiple injuries. However, because this condition can be life-threatening, the prognosis should always be guarded until known otherwise.


All dogs which are hit by a car or vehicle should be examined by a veterinarian immediately even if they appear normal.

Update version: 4/24/2014, © Copyright by
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