Dog has a tumour on the spleen, not sure what to do
July 14, 2021 9:04 PM   Subscribe

My elderly dog has a tumour on the spleen. The vet found it during a checkup for some short but persistant nosebleeds. The vet recommended euthanasia but dog seems otherwise ok... how do you decide when it is time?

All the info I read and the checklist/pamphlet the vet sent over, seems to suggest it's time to put your dog to sleep if their quality of life is suffering. I don't think my dog is suffering much yet.. but at the same time, the vet is telling me if that if the tumour ruptures, it will be an emergency, traumatic death so I was resigned to saying goodbye to my dog in a week because I want to spare her that.

I planned nice things and nice food to give her and in doing them, I am finding it increasingly difficult to commit to saying goodbye to her when she enjoys all of these activities still so much. I took her on a drive, one of her favorite activities, and she sat with her face in the wind happily the whole time. She loves all the meals I give her and finishes them within minutes. I feel like if I put her down now, I'm deriving her of all the things she still loves doing. I don't feel like I'm helping her.

My dog is 14 years old, a Labrador poodle mix. She has slowed down a lot over the years and clearly has pain from arthritis but we were managing it with medication. She does not enjoy many of the things she liked when she was young but she still gets pleasure for some things. Aside from this tumour and the nosebleeds, she has had no major problems.

The vet and I both agreed surgery wasn't a good choice for her. The vet said that the tumour is likely cancerous so even if we remove it, the prognosis is not good. I don't want to put a 14 year old dog through surgery either.

I just don't know if now is the time to put her down. The vet says the longer I wait, the more chance her tumour will rupture. I struggle to understand that she is sick and the tumour could kill her whenever but that she's ok now. Has anyone gone through this where it seems like you're putting down a healthy dog?

I'm sorry if this is very rambly. My thoughts are all over the place.
posted by cyml to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm so sorry you're dealing with this. It's hard enough putting down a pet you can see has deteriorated, I can't imaging the pain of thinking about it for one that "looks" fine. I don't have any good advice, but I'm wondering if getting a second opinion would help, even if only for your own piece of mind? If 2 vets agree, it would personally make me feel better about the decision, even though I love and trust my vet to the nth degree. This stuff is just so hard.
posted by cgg at 9:21 PM on July 14, 2021 [8 favorites]

My wife came with a cat I was very fond of. He got really old, and started trying to get out when he wasn't in any shape to be outside. She asked what he was doing, and I said, "He's going to go and find a quiet place and die." Eventually she let him go.
I've put down animals that were in pain, but I've sat with a few while they died. Dying is unpleasant, but they know how to do it better than people.
If his death is sudden and traumatic, that'll be sad, but from what you've said I don't think it will go on long. I'd enjoy your last days with him and not rush things. Let him handle it.
posted by AugustusCrunch at 9:33 PM on July 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

I haven't chosen to put down an animal that looked healthy, but I have had a cat have a traumatic death over the course of a day(stroke) out of the blue fairly young... And when I've put down cats I have had a better since of closure.

Either way is absolutely okay.

In my situation with the sudden illness, there was a bunch of uncertainty and there was the stress of getting everything arranged while the cat was clearly, clearly suffering and it did take hours to do.

But I can't say that if I'd known he'd had the risk for his condition that I would have done anything differently. Ultimately I think if I'd known it would have played out the same way.

It is perfectly acceptable to make this choice based on you. There is no right answer here . Take gentle care.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:43 PM on July 14, 2021

My yellow lab, Loki, had a tumor on his spleen. I didn’t know. Our vet had missed it. On New Year’s Eve he collapsed on our kitchen floor. I called all over to find a vet that was open. The new vet felt his abdomen and she could feel the tumor — she said the tumor had ruptured and crashed Loki’s blood pressure. I was not in the right mental space to be putting my dog down right then and there, especially all alone, but he was going to slowly bleed to death internally if I did not. It seriously is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. I am sitting here typing this and getting all teary-eyed now. A more peaceful and less frantic ending would have been better for both of us.
posted by Ostara at 9:52 PM on July 14, 2021 [18 favorites]

Lap of Love is a pet hospice veterinary practice that will do telemedicine consults to help you assess quality of life and walk through this decision making process.

I think it’s okay to want to hold off for now. Can you get an indication of the normal rupture prognosis for these tumors? Maybe you could fairly reasonably wait another month or two (or six or who knows - I don’t know anything about the type of tumor your dog has) and do it after that? I agree that putting down a dog who seems to be happy and have high quality of life would be extremely hard. Sending hugs if you want them.
posted by bananacabana at 10:25 PM on July 14, 2021 [5 favorites]

I wish I had put down my 13 year old dog with a spleen tumour earlier, before the bleed, than later, after it started. She felt worse and worse as we waited for the appointment for the at-home euthanasia.

She was just okay after the diagnosis, until about 6 weeks afterwards. Then it was an emergency. I feel I could have spared her that.

After it's all done, I think it might be a little easier to have chosen the time and place than it is to have been driven in haste by cruel circumstance.
posted by the Real Dan at 11:48 PM on July 14, 2021 [12 favorites]

Think of what is best, not for you but for a speechless animal that might be in pain.
posted by Cranberry at 1:01 AM on July 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

Oh my, this is so hard - been in that situation myself, with a cat.

Whatever you end up doing is the right thing, but you'll be wondering for a long time if you could have done better. Let me pre-empt that: you did the best you could. The very fact that you're having this discussion right now and here is proof of that.

I wish you strength in the coming days/weeks...
posted by DreamerFi at 2:04 AM on July 15, 2021 [3 favorites]

I am heartbroken for you and your precious dog. I can only offer this; that my elder dog went in for another surgical reason, and while they were working, discovered a very large growth on the spleen. Rupturing a mass of that size would have been fatal (like Ostara described above), and any impact or jarring could cause that rupture; so since they were already in there, I said, go ahead and remove it (a 2-hour procedure). My dog did not recover well; we kept hoping, but in the following days she stopped eating, and passed away suddenly after being home less than a week after the surgery. So I may be biased, but agree that for elder dogs in this scenario, surgery is not recommended.

My thoughts are with you as you struggle with this. What love and happiness you and your dog have brought to each others' lives.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:32 AM on July 15, 2021 [3 favorites]

I am so sorry. The only thing I can add is that I had a cat whose tumor did rupture and it was terrible. It was the middle of the night, and she was screaming. I can't tell you how much time is safe, but if I had to do it over again at the moment of diagnosis, I would.

It's so hard. I know. I'm so sorry. Any decision you make will be okay.
posted by frumiousb at 4:11 AM on July 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

My parents had a cat with a tumor like this, who was fine until she died, seemingly suddenly, in horrible pain. And honestly it’s a source of great regret to my surviving parent, that they didn’t save her from this.

Can you identify a date in the future to say goodbye? Then you could spend your remaining time together mindfully, but hopefully spare her such a terrifying and painful exit.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:19 AM on July 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

We lost our dog to a spleen tumor about 3 weeks ago. We had no idea he had it and was his usually peppy self until 2 days before. The first sign that something was wrong, he just seemed not himself. We attributed it to a very bad thunderstorm that day. The next day, the tumor ruptured and he was bleeding internally. He was in a lot of pain and distress and we took him to the ER Vet. At that point, there was nothing to do but help relieve his pain and he passed soon after he got his pain medication.

We are obviously still heartbroken, but I am thankful that my husband, my sons, and I were there to be with him when he passed. I don't like to think of it happening with my husband at work and my kids at college. The vet said that at his age (12) he would not have suggested surgery if they had caught it before it ruptured. If we had the option of knowing beforehand, I would have loved to take a couple days to spend as much time with him as possible and say our goodbyes in a calm and non-rushed way. Maybe get a chance to feed him all the treats he wanted and sleep on all the beds. This is very hard to type out, but I hope that it helps you.

This is such a hard thing to do and my heart goes out to you. Hugs to you and your dog.
posted by jraz at 7:50 AM on July 15, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Dogs don't miss the future. This is what I remind people who are playing roulette with "good days" vs "bad days" with a dog in more obvious decline. Your dog knows right now that it feels good or bad. After your dog is gone I think either there is nothing after that, so there will be no consciousness to know that she missed a few more good days, OR she will understand the choice you made.

You will live for a long time to come, though. And losing a dog in a panicked medical emergency when they are in unimaginable pain will be something you'll revisit at 3am for a long, long time.

I'm at almost 20 years and counting for one, and three years ago we had home euthanasia for a dog who had rallied several times and we were starting to play the roulette and hadn't slept through the night in months if I'm honest, but when that one replays in the middle of the night I'm so grateful for our last few days and his quiet painless passing on the floor with his people and a nice stranger. I have mild regrets, we should have called it a little sooner, probably 2-3 weeks sooner, but it's not guilt and it's not a burden, I just know I will be even more conservative next time if it's a decline and not a surprise.

Vets almost never say the word anymore, because people who hear it when they aren't ready can be difficult or even dangerous or violent. Your vet said the word, which means they're absolutely serious that you do not want to wait this out. These kinds of deaths are not generally "wake up in the morning and they are quietly gone". This is peritonitis, it's organ failure, it's sounds you'll never forget, it may be her trying to get away from you thinking you're causing her pain or being bitten trying to help her, it's sometimes flooring or furniture replacement.

Enjoy your final days with your dog. Take pictures, and take selfies or get someone to take photos of you together, I promise you will cherish them. Have some cheeseburgers and ice cream, go for a sniff at a good park, let her go like that rather than an almost certainly traumatic end.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:03 AM on July 15, 2021 [22 favorites]

I have had a ruptured spleen myself and I have seen other people with internal bleeding. It is quite painful.
I have euthanized a cat “too late” who suffered terribly. I would always opt for “too early.”
I am sorry that you are faced with this awful decision.
posted by SLC Mom at 12:28 PM on July 15, 2021

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for your experiences. I'm sorry to all those who have lost their pets.

I have decided to proceed with the scheduled appointment and put her to sleep peacefully. I'm so heartbroken. She is my first dog. I got her at a time when I really needed a friend. She is a big goofball but she always loved me, gave me kisses whenever I wanted and loved hanging out with me. I think it is my duty to help her go relatively painfree.

She also took a turn for the worse today. I think she really enjoyed the fun things I planned yesterday but it really brought her energy levels down today and she is in obvious discomfort. It cemented to me that it was time. Thank you again for all your help.
posted by cyml at 2:13 PM on July 15, 2021 [8 favorites]

Many people express they have no interest in being maintained on life support in much older age. This situation isn't drastically different. It seems like you understand your role in the situation, especially now she's cued she may not need to stay.

I'm sorry for your situation/loss. If you are in the planning stage, many people take a sense of deep comfort from spreading their dog's ashes along favorite hiking trails, or even compressing the ashes into pendants.

If it's helpful, you already know our relationship with dogs changes the way we interact with our world and environment in general. In upcoming situations, when you feel more confident, or less stressed, or better focused, in many ways, the influence/imprint of your dog and your shared experiences is continuing to help you, even if she isn't materially present.
posted by firstdaffodils at 3:36 PM on July 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

I am so very very sorry for your loss. Have been through this a few times with my kits. When the worst happens, there's a good chance it will happen at the worst possible time and with agony. As awful as letting them leave always is, you will not regret giving your pup a peaceful and loving goodbye. Beams to you and your beloved pup.
posted by cyndigo at 4:48 PM on July 15, 2021

(buy yourself "dog heaven." [sl goodreads] i've taken comfort in this book and given it to friends many times. sending you love.)
posted by Charity Garfein at 12:10 AM on July 16, 2021

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