Splenectomy: Support Your Dog Without A Spleen

Splenectomy In Dogs

Last year my client called frantic about the state of her Labrador, Ginny. Ginny was splayed out on the floor. She was restless, bloated and intermittently vomiting white foam. I told my client to take Ginny to the emergency vet right away. Three hours later, Ginny had her spleen removed due to stomach torsion (also known as bloat). 

After the shock wore off, my client’s first question was “how do we take care of Ginny now that she doesn’t have a spleen?” Followed by, “What precautions do we need to take? How is her life going to change?” 

These are questions every owner has when their dog has to have a splenectomy. 

Spleen trauma can happen without warning. And for one reason or another, you might find yourself having to remove your dog’s spleen.

Holistically, everything is connected. So you need to understand the connection between the spleen and other organs. That way you can make the best choices for your dog’s dietary and herbal support. 

Let’s first look at what the spleen does. 

Your Dog’s Spleen 

The spleen is a highly vascular, blood-rich organ located right below your dog’s stomach. 

The spleen is an integral part of the body’s blood production that …

  • Processes red blood cells
  • Stores excess blood in case the body needs it
  • Circulates red blood cells
  • Removes older red blood cells called erythrocytes

Like the kidneys, the spleen filters your dog’s blood, but it also creates new red blood cells. It does this by sending hemoglobin to the bone marrow. It then circulates the cells throughout the body using the body’s vascular system. 

The spleen also contains lymphatic vessels that produce white blood cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are a part of the immune system. They remove blood-borne pathogens as they pass through the spleen

How The Spleen Helps Your Dog: A Holistic View

The spleen is a part of your dog’s immune, lymphatic, and digestive system. It also helps keep the muscles, tendons, and ligaments moist. 

To support the immune system, the spleen …

  • Imprints on blood chemicals and pathogens
  • Creates new antibodies for future use 

When the immune system recognizes a pathogen as an invader, the spleen kicks in. It helps create a specific antibody for that pathogen to destroy it …  and any future visitors just like it. 

The lymphatic system contains lymphatic vessels, ducts, glands and nodes. It carries cellular wastes into the bloodstream through the spleen. It also helps with nutrient absorption through the process of blood nourishment. 

The spleen is the largest mass of lymph tissue in the lymphatic system. It works with the liver to manage proper digestion and elimination. 

When your dog has her spleen removed, it affects her whole body. The kidneys, liver and lymphatic systems have to help the body compensate. The immune system is severely compromised and needs constant support. 

Without a spleen … your dog’s risk of infection goes up exponentially. 

Symptoms And Conditions Of Splenectomy In Dogs

I’ve put together a list of symptoms and conditions I’ve seen after splenectomies. These will usually appear within six months after surgery. 

  • Fatty deposits or lipomas 
  • Lymphatic stagnation or swollen glands 
  • Edema (fluid build-up) 
  • Muscular pain and atrophy 
  • Digestive weakness 
  • Malabsorption 
  • Nausea 
  • Diarrhea alternating with constipation 
  • Thin stools 
  • Fatigue 
  • Increased risk of infection 
  • Lack of appetite 
  • Weight loss 
  • Dryness 

Almost all splenetic dogs become considerably cooler after surgery

A warm dog will pant easily, seek out cool areas, and can’t tolerate hot proteins. But after her spleen is removed, she’ll seek warmth. She’ll want to sleep under the blankets and become less active. 

Splenetic dogs usually struggle with weight loss, lethargy and increased infections. As the body cools, elimination decreases and movement slows. This provides the perfect conditions for pathogens, which feed on backed-up metabolic wastes. These pathogens include: 

  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Viruses

Herbal Support For Dogs After A Splenectomy

Supporting your dog after a splenectomy involves a three-step process

  1. Stimulate the lymphatics 
  2. Support the immune system 
  3. Support elimination functions 

Step One: Stimulate The Lymphatic System 

You want to avoid circulating toxins and build up after a splenectomy. To do this you need to get lymphatic circulation moving and decrease stagnation. The best way to do this is make sure your dog gets at least 30 minutes of consistent, easy movement per day. You’ll also want to support the lymphatic system with herbs. 

Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is a good choice for almost all splenetic dogs. It helps to warm the body’s core and stimulate lymphatic circulation. 

Suggested Dosage (based on dog’s size)

Extra small – 1 drop, twice daily 
Small –  2 drops, twice daily 
Medium – 3 drops, twice daily 
Large – 4 drops, twice daily 
Extra-large – 5 drops, twice daily 

RELATED: Calendula: A great herb for dogs …

Step Two: Support The Immune System 

A splenetic dog needs constant immune system support for the rest of her life

Blackcurrant gemmotherapy is anti-inflammatory. It uses plant stem cells to help support the immune system at a cellular level. 

Caution: Don’t use this for dogs with a history of seizures. 

Suggested Dosage (based on dog’s size)

Extra small – 3 drops, once daily in the morning
Small – 5 drops, once daily in the morning
Medium – 8 drops, once daily in the morning
Large – 12 drops, once daily in the morning
Extra-large – 15 drops, once daily in the morning

Astragalus is another immune supporting herb. This warming root …

  • Increases the appetite.
  • Helps with stress. 
  • Supports the immune system by flushing metabolic debris through the kidneys.

You can use this herb in either a tincture or powder form.

Suggested Dosage For Tincture (based on dog’s size)

Extra small – 1 drop, twice daily 
Small – 2 drops, twice daily 
Medium – 4 drops, twice daily 
Large – 6 drops, twice daily 
Extra-large – 8 drops, twice daily 

Suggested Dosage For Powder 

50 mg for every 10 pounds of bodyweight, twice daily with food. 

Step Three: Support Elimination Channels 

Supporting elimination can be part of the diet, along with herbal supplementation. Many herbs support the liver and digestion. 

Burdock root (Articum lappa) supports the removal of toxins through the liver. It increases waste elimination. You can give as a tincture or dry herb.

Suggested Dosage For Tincture (based on dog’s size)

Extra small – 2 drops, twice daily 
Small – 3 drops, twice daily 
Medium – 6 drops, twice daily 
Large – 8 drops, twice daily 
Extra-large – 10 drops, twice daily 

Suggested Dosage For Dry Herb

150 mg for every 10 pounds of body weight once daily, with food. 

Walnut (Juglans regia) gemmotherapy is antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antiparasitic. It’s a stem cell remedy that supports elimination … while systemically strengthening your dog’s body. 

Suggested Dosage – give 5 days on, 2 days off

Extra small – 3 drops, twice daily
Small – 5 drops, twice daily 
Medium – 8 drops, twice daily 
Large – 12 drops, twice daily 
Extra-large – 15 drops, twice daily

Dietary Support For Dogs After A Splenectomy

When it comes to diet, many splenetic dogs can’t tolerate a traditional raw diet. This is because of the bacteria levels in commercial meats. Instead, look for a freeze-dried or dehydrated raw diet. You can also feed a cooked fresh-food diet with added foods and supplements like … 

RELATED: How to make bone broth for your dog …

Add these before serving, not before cooking. Make sure you serve well-balanced homemade diets. Feed cooked meals warm. If you do feed raw, feed it at room temperature, not straight from the refrigerator. 

Holistic heath looks at your dog as an ecosystem. Knowing the holistic function of the spleen will help you understand how the body has to compensate post-splenectomy. It will also help you recognize when and why your dog may need added support.

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