Dog: Splenic Torsion

General information

Other common/scientific names: twisted 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.


Splenic torsion results when the spleen twists. Since the spleen is attached to the stomach, if the stomach twists, then the spleen may also twist. This medical condition is called gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) or gastric bloat and twist and is most commonly seen in large breed dogs. Although splenic torsion rarely occurs by itself, it can be seen in cases of trauma.

Cardinal symptom



When the spleen twists, its blood supply is compromised or shut off. This can be partial or complete. Partial splenic torsion can be a chronic condition and clinical signs of weakness, loss of appetite, and bloody vomiting and diarrhea may be seen. In cases of acute, complete torsion the clinical signs of retching, abdominal pain, abdominal distention or bloated appearance, pale gums, weakness, and diarrhea may be present. Dogs with splenic torsion may also experience splenic rupture with internal bleeding. These dogs may be shocky and collapse.


Diagnosis is made from physical examination and radiographs. A complete blood count (CBC), serum biochemistry and electrolyte paneland urinalysis are also performed to assess the dog’s overall condition. Ultrasonography can also aid in the diagnosis.


Splenic torsion must be treated with surgery. In most cases, the spleen is removed (splenectomy). However, in cases where the spleen is partially twisted, the torsion may be corrected and the spleen returned to its normal position if it is not damaged. If the spleen has ruptured, a blood transfusion may be necessary. Since most cases of splenic torsion are also associated with a gastric torsion, the dog will also undergo surgical correction of this condition while anesthetized.

Dogs with GDV and splenic torsion will often have cardiovascular abnormalities that may need to be treated with medications. These dogs have an increased risk of anesthetic complications during surgery.


Because splenic torsion accompanies gastric dilatation and volvulus, prognosis is guarded for a successful recovery. Complications from the surgery and the cardiovascular system can occur days after the surgery. However, with prompt diagnosis and successful surgical correction, dogs with splenic torsion can make a complete recovery.

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