Splenectomy in Dogs

Michael Kearley, DVM
By Michael Kearley, DVM on Jan. 30, 2024
A vet examines a Great Dane.

What Is Splenectomy in Dogs?

A splenectomy in dogs is the surgical removal of the spleen. This procedure is common and is typically necessary after a dog is diagnosed with a splenic tumor. A splenectomy may also be needed if a dog is experiencing another condition and the spleen has been damaged as a result. This is often seen in cases of bloat or gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV).

A splenectomy is a straightforward surgical procedure that many general practitioners and specialized veterinary surgeons routinely perform. Dogs can undergo a splenectomy on an emergency or scheduled basis, based on their underlying diagnosis and symptoms.

Types of Splenectomies in Dogs  

There are two types of splenectomies in dogs:

  1. Total splenectomy—Most common. The entire spleen is surgically removed either by using a stapling device, hemostatic clips, and a vessel sealing device or by placing ligatures on the blood vessels.  

  2. Partial splenectomy (splenorrhaphy)—Only a portion of the spleen is removed. This type of splenectomy is rarely performed, typically reserved for traumatic cases or when focal masses (limited to a singular area) are present on the spleen. 

Anatomy of Spleens in Dogs

The spleen is located adjacent to and below the stomach on the left side of the dog’s abdomen. It’s attached to the stomach with blood vessels. A dog’s spleen shares blood vessels with their pancreas. The spleen consists of multiple chambers made up of two parts:

  • White pulp—This plays a role in immunity, helping to fight off infections

  • Red pulp—This contains a reservoir of blood and removes old or damaged red blood cells

While a spleen has numerous functions, a dog can live without their spleen, which is why a splenectomy is often recommended by veterinarians.

Why Would a Dog Need a Splenectomy?

Dogs need a splenectomy when other diseases are affecting the spleen, such as a tumor, which can be benign or malignant (cancerous). Veterinarians will still want to remove a spleen with a benign tumor to ensure the spleen doesn’t rupture.

Other causes may include:

Because of the severity of these causes, dogs requiring a splenectomy are often treated on an emergency basis.

Risks of Splenectomy in Dogs

Though uncommon, splenectomy surgery in dogs is not without risks. These risks usually relate to an underlying disease and if the splenectomy is performed in an emergency rather than a scheduled procedure. Risks may include:

  • Severe blood loss

  • Infection

  • Trauma/laceration to other organs

  • Arrhythmias

  • Post-operative complications

  • Anesthetic complications

Benefits of Splenectomy in Dogs

Surgery offers a pup their best chance at returning to a normal, happy life.

This procedure is the only treatment option for dogs with splenic masses, lacerations, torsion, end-stage immune-mediated diseases, and GDV.

A splenectomy is the only way to treat ongoing blood loss in dogs. For dogs with splenic tumors, surgical removal allows a vet to diagnose the type of tumor present, which then provides a path forward in terms of future care. 

Surgical removal of cancerous masses can also provide a pup with symptomatic relief.

Effectiveness of Splenectomy in Dogs

In one study, 99% of dogs undergoing splenectomy survived and were discharged from the hospital. However, this outcome varies.

The effectiveness of the surgery depends on:

  • The reason for a dog’s splenectomy

  • The amount of blood lost

  • If the surgery is done on an emergency basis

  • Surgical technique used

  • Skill of the veterinary surgeon

Cost of Splenectomy in Dogs

The cost of splenectomy in dogs varies, and depends on:

  • Location

  • Complexity of surgery required

  • Pre-operative tests needed

  • Whether it’s an emergency or planned procedure

  • Private vet practice or an ER facility

However, a pet parent should expect the cost of surgery to be anywhere from $1,500 to $9,000 or more. Your veterinarian will be able to provide you with a thorough estimate before the surgery.   

Most pet insurance companies typically cover some or all the cost of the procedure, unless specifically stated in their terms and conditions or if the surgery is listed as a pre-existing condition. 

Be sure to review your policy—other alternatives to pet insurance could include applying for CareCredit or payment plans.

Preparation for Splenectomy in Dogs

When your dog’s splenectomy is scheduled will determine their fasting guidelines. After the necessary paperwork is filled out, your dog will be hospitalized, have their blood drawn, and be connected to an IV. 

The veterinarian will perform an exam on your dog, review all the paperwork and blood work, and then proceed with pre-medication—pain medication and sedatives, which facilitate anesthesia. 

An endotracheal tube will allow your dog’s breathing to be monitored, and they will then be prepared for surgery. 

Complications of Splenectomy in Dogs

Splenectomy complications in pups are uncommon. However, major complications have occurred, and may include:

  • Blood loss (most common)

  • Infection, which could lead to sepsis

  • Inadvertent trauma or injury to the pancreas and/or stomach

  • Arrhythmias

  • Post-operative hypotension (low blood pressure)

  • Future incidence of GDV

  • Sudden death, which can even occur up to 24 hours later. This is usually the result of hemorrhage, respiratory failure from thromboemboli (clots), and life-threatening arrhythmias

It’s important to consider that for many dogs, splenectomy is often critically important. Complications are much higher in dogs undergoing an emergency splenectomy.

Blood-borne infections such as Ehrlichia, Babesia, and Mycoplasma may occur after a splenectomy. All dogs should be tested after their operation.

Post-op Care and Recovery for Splenectomy in Dogs

After the surgery, a dog may be discharged the following day while others may be hospitalized longer, depending on their case.

Your dog will be monitored for bleeding, arrhythmias, and frequent evaluation of their blood work until they’re stable. Fluid therapy or a blood transfusion may continue, along with pain medications and antibiotics.

Once discharged, your vet will likely give you strict orders for your pup regarding:

Failure to follow these recommendations could result in complications and may even require another surgery. 

Use a surgical recovery suit or recovery cone to prevent your dog from licking or chewing at their incision during recovery. 

Pain and anti-inflammatory medications may also be prescribed. These include:

Because your dog’s spleen plays a role in your dog’s immune response, your pup may be more susceptible to future infections without it. Exercise caution before taking them to boarding and grooming facilities, dog parks, or when treating common illnesses. 

Alternatives of Splenectomy in Dogs

There isn’t a viable alternative to splenectomy in dogs. Surgery is the only option.

Without it, humane euthanasia may be recommended by your vet, depending on the underlying cause.

Splenectomy in Dogs FAQs

Can a dog live a normal life without a spleen?

A dog certainly can have a good quality of life without his spleen. However, certain precautions should be taken to minimize future infections.

What is the life expectancy after spleen removal?

The life expectancy for dogs that have a successful splenectomy varies depending on their prognosis. If the dog is having a splenectomy due to a torsion or some type of trauma or benign tumor, then they’re expected to have a normal life expectancy.

Featured Image: andresr/E+ via Getty Images


Buracco P, Massari F. Complications in Small Animal Surgery. Wiley Online Library. 2016.

Maki L, et al. Incidence of gastric dilatation-volvulus following a splenectomy in 238 dogs. Canadian Veterinary Journal. 2017; 58(12), 1275–1280.

McGaffey M, et al. Complications and outcomes associated with laparoscopic-assisted splenectomy in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2022;260(11), 1309–1315.

Patten S, Boston S, Monteith G. Outcome and prognostic factors for dogs with a histological diagnosis of splenic hematoma following splenectomy: 35 cases (2001-2013). Canadian Veterinary Journal. 2016; 57, 842–846.


Michael Kearley, DVM


Michael Kearley, DVM


Dr. Michael Kearley graduated from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. He graduated with a certificate in...

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