Can Dogs Live Without a Spleen?

The spleen helps fight infections, but when it is injured or develops tumors, it’s generally removed. The question is whether dogs can live a normal life without this important organ.

Jan 15, 2024By Lisa Szymanski
can dogs live without a spleen

Dogs have their spleens removed when this organ reaches an abnormal size or when they’ve sustained an injury to it. Despite the spleen playing such a vital role in supporting the body against infections, it is possible for dogs to live without it. While dogs don’t require any special treatment when they don’t have a spleen, they can benefit from immune-boosting supplements and foods. To better understand how dogs function without this infection-fighting organ, this guide looks at the causes of spleen removal and subsequent canine care.

What Causes Spleen Removal in Dogs?

dog with big eyes lying on the floor
Problem spleens in dogs must be surgically removed.

Spleen removal, otherwise called a splenectomy, is a major procedure in which the whole spleen is excised in dogs. You will find the spleen at the top of the abdomen, where it acts as a blood reserve in case of emergencies. The spleen removes faulty red blood cells, and it creates antibodies against infections. Despite this organ being vital in keeping pooches healthy, some pets develop diseases such as cancerous tumors or a twisted spleen called torsion. When these conditions appear, they become life-threatening. In the case of splenic masses, the organ grows to double, if not triple its original size, and it can rupture and hemorrhage. A veterinary examination can determine whether a splenectomy needs to be performed to provide relief and possibly save your pet’s life.

Is It Possible for Dogs to Live Without Their Spleens?

husky looking at the camera
A dog can live happily without a spleen.

The short answer is yes; all dogs can go on to live a perfectly healthy and happy life without their spleens. In fact, the condition responsible for the damaged or enlarged spleen can cause more harm and discomfort than removing this vascular organ. Hemangiosarcoma is quite a devastating canine cancer of the spleen because it has such a terrible prognosis. Without additional treatment such as chemotherapy, most dogs have a lifespan of 3-4 months. Without removal of the organ, the masses keep growing and will eventually cause the spleen to burst. A veterinarian can detect the presence of these abnormalities by physical examination and X-rays. If spleen removal is warranted and pets are strong enough to undergo the procedure, they will recover after about a month.

Amazingly, other organs will take on the responsibilities of the spleen, and unlike splenectomies in people, dogs can manage just fine without it. Once a splenectomy is performed, the focus should be on treating the condition responsible for its removal.

Will Dogs Need a Special Diet After Spleen Removal?

dog paws next to food bowl
Dogs lacking a spleen can benefit from quality food.

Dogs that no longer have their spleens don’t have a very strong immune system. They can pick up bacteria or viruses quickly, and once sick, they’ll need veterinary treatment to help them heal. So how do you protect them? They don’t need major changes to meals, but you’ll want to invest in dog food that doesn’t have a high amount of starch or carbohydrates. It’s also beneficial to place them on immune-boosting supplements as a measure of protection. The choice of food and supplements will depend on the cause of the splenectomy. If the spleen had to be removed because of an injury, they could resume a regular diet. But if they have cancer, then immune support becomes a priority. Some pet owners opt for chemotherapy, but it depends on the dog. Even if your dog receives chemotherapy, they can benefit from nutritious meals that can give them energy and maintain their weight.

Can Dogs Without a Spleen Eat Raw Food?

cocker spaniel english eating a dog treat
Be mindful of what your dog eats.

Putting your dog on a raw food diet eliminates additives and provides an excellent source of protein. It’s a great choice for a healthy dog, but for pooches that don’t have a spleen, raw meat is not an option. Unfortunately, the bacteria in uncooked meat pose a serious risk of illness for these canines. They aren’t equipped to fight off this type of bacteria, so it’s best to avoid foods such as raw treats, raw eggs, and raw meat. Dogs that are missing a spleen enjoy commercial dog food, but take a closer look at the listed ingredients. You’ll want a product that includes a high level of minerals, including vitamins A, E, and C, that strengthen immunity. But at all costs, avoid semi-raw or uncooked foods that will make them very sick. If you want to give them a meaty treat, it should be dehydrated or thoroughly cooked.

Can You Exercise a Dog Without a Spleen?

dog playing fetch running with stick on grass
Dogs without a spleen can run, jump, and play.

Yes, once dogs have healed from their surgery, they can run and play like any other dog. It’s important to keep their spirits up by taking them for regular walks. Exercise keeps them stimulated and physically fit, which is great for improving their immune systems. One thing you can keep an eye out for is low energy or getting tired when they’re playing or walking. If you notice that they can’t manage the activity, stop playtime and, while on a walk, let them rest, then continue at their pace. You’ll also want to keep them up-to-date on their vaccinations, especially if they frequently visit dog parks.

How Do You Care for a Dog Without a Spleen

boy hugging his pet schnauzer
Give your dog all the love and attention they deserve.

Dogs that no longer have their spleens can live their lives to the fullest without requiring special care. You can give them high-protein food and keep them active with exercises they can manage. I know that it can be incredibly tough to hear the news that your fur friend needs to have a splenectomy. However, it can be a life-saving surgery when the spleen twists or enlarges and places dogs at risk of rupture. Depending on the cause of the problem spleen, some dogs can live happily for a few months and others for many years. Despite the important role of the spleen, dogs have organs that will take over these functions, and they do not require lifelong medication to adjust.

Lisa Szymanski
By Lisa Szymanski

Lisa is a wildlife enthusiast who enjoys hiking and gardening and has four years of experience volunteering at pet shelters. She is the proud mom of two dogs, a Pitbull named Ragnar, a Boerboel named Blueberry, and four feisty chickens, or as she calls them, the "queens of the yard," Goldie, Gray, Peaches, and Brownie.