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Matthew Sisk: Worms are gone, but enlarged spleen causes concern
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The whipworms are gone. Well, the adult whipworms are gone.

I suspect the eggs are anywhere Lemmy used the bathroom when he had diarrhea. They’re sort of the Jason Voorhees — a character from the “Friday the 13th” series — of intestinal parasites. They survive very high and very low temperatures. They can even withstand some kinds of bleach. And if they have nowhere to go (no host to infest) they can just hang out for months to years.

Still, Lemmy is on a reliable preventive medication now, and he’s doing well.

Thus, his next visit is a routine senior checkup.

First, the handshake. Second, an exam and general blood work.

He is starting to accumulate a little tartar on his teeth, but only a small amount. His eyes are still a little smoky in the lenses, but not in a pathologic way.

But his spleen feels a little big to me. It’s not huge or irregular, but it still is bigger than I remember it being in his younger days.

The spleen in dogs is a storehouse for blood and a portion of the immune system. Thinking of it as a giant lymph node and blood bank in one isn’t too far from the truth. So when it gets bigger, it can signal a natural aging change or something scary. Some types of cancer often begin, or are first notable, in the spleen. And the spleen can be enlarged with some infections.

Given Lemmy’s mature age and size, it warrants a work up. No abnormalities are noted on blood tests, so radiographs are next.

The only abnormality is the spleen being mildly enlarged. No lump on it, no strange shape to indicate one end being larger than the other. Still, I want a second opinion.

I send the films via email to a radiologist. This allows someone who sits in a little dark room staring at films all day to give me an answer about something that may be too subtle for my general practitioner’s eyes to notice.

“Natural individual variation, possibly related to age,” is what comes back.

Concise, good news and I’ll take it!

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at

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