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Dr. Peter
Dr. Peter, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 30373
Experience:  16 years of internal medicine, surgery, and preventive care.
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Hi, Dr. Peter: So, I was doing a search on a my dogs bony

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Hi, Dr. Peter: So, I was doing a search on a my dog's bony back, and I came across this q/a from last year....and stopped right here. You mention the dog losing weight, and then ask about appetite, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, pre-existing conditions.....and then abdominal enlargement. Well, I have an almost 11-year-old male Springer with a bony back in the last couple of months and a recent (last month) discovery of an enlargement in his right side only abdomen that can be felt only if he lies down on his left side just below the rib cage(nontender, you can press it down and not painful to him). You can't feel it when he is standing up. His appetite in the last few days has been about half, but, of course, if you have something in your hand he wants it it's only "his" food he is not craving. No diarrhea. Poops are normal. Nothing pre-existing. Pretty healthy dog, but not too much exercise from our end. Just Mr. Pokey lately. Only walking, rarely runs. Also seems restless when he is sleeping during the day, always up and moving to a new spot every 10 minutes or so. Also in the last few months has started smacking his lips/mouth like he has a dry mouth, licks more than usual (but exactly like his 11-year-old sister we also have, so I thought that was just something in aging) - ? I couldn't find anything on the Springer's anatomy to show what area that would be on his left side. The mass is about 4-5 inches and round.
Hello, Dr. Peter here. Welcome to JustAnswer. I am happy to answer your question today. I need to ask you a few questions first to be well informed and give you the best advice. There may be a slight delay between your follow ups and my replies as I type out a thorough reply for you.

1- Has your dog been losing weight or he has always been bony along the back?
2- I am confused as far as how you are seeing the mass, it is within the abdomen on the right side and it is only seen when he is on the side, is this correct?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I haven't really noticed him losing weight, but that would make sense. No, he has never had a bony back. Just these past few weeks we have noticed it. It is pretty prominent now. His appetite has only recently slowed down, so if he has lost weight, it wouldn't be from not eating. He seems hungry at night when we're eating, but the last 2 days just looks at his food. He didn't eat yesterday at all and only ate half his food this morning. No constipation. No diarrhea. AND he will definitely eat anything in your hand if you give it to him.


You can see the bulge when he is lying on his left side. It seems to be right below the rib cage on his right side, not in the middle of his anatomy. You CANNOT see it when he is standing up.

1- Is he drinking more than usual?
2- Any coughing, vomiting or diarrhea?
3- How are his teeth?
4- Any other symptoms?

I will have an answer to your question within 5-10 minutes after receiving the response to the above questions. Thank you for your patience.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

1. No
2. No

3. Not great.

4. Like I said, just lethargic and restless, moving around a lot during the day to new spots, stands up and looks at me like he wants something but then lies down in a new spot. New for him. He used to be pretty good about sleeping.

Friend, when we touch and visualize with the ease the back bone it is consistent with a dog that is underweight. In this case, if the bones were not visible before as you already know he has been losing weight. Now, the big question is: Is the weight secondary to not eating as much or secondary to an underlying medical problem? You see, the mass that you are seeing in the abdomen could be the spleen. As the dog losses weight he will also loose abdominal fat making the palpation or visualization of abdominal organs easier. In older dogs the spleen also tends to be larger. So, this does not necessarily means it is a tumor or a mass, it could be normal.
The other possibility is that he does have an abdominal tumor either in the spleen, liver, stomach or kidney. And, the weight loss is part of the paraneoplastic syndrome where patients with tumors will loose weight.
We also have to consider dental disease as a possible reason why he is not eating as much and may be uncomfortable (restless) and losing weight. Or, he could have a totally different problem like arthritis making him uncomfortable (pain), not eating as much and losing weight.
From the above discussion you can see that there are lots of possibility. This could be as a consequence of dental disease or something worst like a splenic tumor. I would recommend you consider having him checked by family veterinarian. He will need to have some testing done like blood work and possible xrays. I think the mass that you are seeing is the tail of the spleen, whether it is normal or secondary to a tumor will need to be confirmed with xrays.

Please, let me know if you have additional questions.

Dr. Peter
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

One quick question...if you put something in his dish other than his dog food, say some carrots or a piece of bread, and he eats it....would you assume it's his teeth bothering him or he just is finicky and doesn't want to eat "his" food. Would you recommend feeding him something else to get him to eat? say, wet food? This isn't just part of getting old, right? He should still be eating, right?

That is a very good question, or actually a very good point. If he is eating carrots, bread, etc. then it is very unlikely to be dental disease. He simply does not want his dog food and prefers your food. This is very common when dogs are fed human food. It is not part of him getting old.
Yes, offering wet food tends to be tastier for them, he may be more willing to eat it. In addition, you can request from your family veterinarian a food that is called a/d; it is a wet food but taste really good and high in calories. We use this food to feed under undernourished dogs or cats, they love it. You can add 1/4 or 1/2 can to his food to make it tastier.

Please let me know if you have additional questions.

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