Pet of the Month November 2021: Chago

Chago, a brave 9 ½ year old Presa Canario, came to us as an emergency in September after he suddenly collapsed at home. His owner rushed him straight down, and on examination, we found that he was weak and unable to stand, with very pale gums, a distended abdomen, fast heart rate and weak pulses; these are signs of blood loss and shock.


Chago was admitted immediately to our hospital, given supportive treatment, along with beginning investigations to understand why he had collapsed. An abdominal ultrasound scan revealed a large mass in Chago’s spleen, and lots of fluid in the abdomen. This finding was consistent with a ruptured tumour that was bleeding internally. Blood tests revealed that Chago was only mildly anaemic at this point. However, he would continue to lose more blood without treatment. The only treatment option would be emergency surgery to remove the spleen, which would stop further blood loss. Chago had an intravenous catheter placed and was started on intravenous fluids to help bring up his blood pressure, along with pain relief to make him more comfortable.

Approximately 50-60% of tumours in the spleen are cancerous, and survival time after surgery is sadly only a few months. 40-50% of tumours are benign, and removing the spleen is completely curative.  Unfortunately, it is not safe to biopsy the spleen to determine whether the mass is benign or cancerous prior to surgery, so we only know for certain what the long term outcome will be once the spleen has been sent to the laboratory for further testing after surgical removal.

Prior to surgery, Chago had an ultrasound of his heart, due to a type of splenic tumour called a haemangiosarcoma, often starts in the heart before spreading to the spleen. Chago also had x-rays of his chest to check for any spread to his lungs. Happily, no evidence of spread was seen, and while this does not completely rule out a cancerous tumour, Chago’s owner decided to go ahead with the surgery to give him the best chance possible.

The surgical team rearranged the planned routine procedures already booked that day to accommodate the emergency surgery that Chago now required. Once the theatre was ready, and Chago was prepped, he had exploratory surgery and his spleen was removed. This intricate surgery involves carefully tying off all of the blood vessels of the spleen. There is a risk of bleeding during and after surgery, and we had to monitor his red blood cell count carefully during recovery, as many patients will need a blood transfusion.  Chago’s surgery went well and his red blood cell count remained stable, so luckily no transfusion was required. After 2 nights in hospital for continued nursing care and pain relief, Chago was ready to go home to his owner, who was over the moon to have him back again.

The spleen was sent to an external lab for analysis, and we waited anxiously for the results to come back. To everyone’s delight and relief, the tumour was benign! We are so pleased that this handsome boy has made a full recovery and is back to his normal self again.