A lump on a dogs belly after spay surgery is not uncommon, but many dog owners may find its presence alarming. To better understand the etiology of this lump, it helps to gain a better understanding on ideal spay incisions and what they look like along with the importance of keeping dogs quiet after being spayed.
A lump on a dogs belly following spay surgery may be an unexpected finding that may cause dog owners a sense of alarm. What is this lump? How did i form? And what should dog owners do if they identify it?
Veterinarian Dr. Ivana provides information on dog seromas following surgery and the importance of keeping an eye on and protecting the incision.
A seroma is a newly formed pocket filled with serum. Serum is the serous part of the blood – a clear (sometimes pale pinkish) fluid that does not contain red blood cells. The new pockets usually form in incision sites or areas of the body that experience frequent and substantial movements.
According to some definitions, seroma develops when there is serum accumulating outside the blood vessels. This definition supports the previous explanation of newly formed pockets.
Upon touch, seromas feel like slightly moveable, water-filled balloons. They vary in size but under normal circumstances, they should be painless, normally colored and normally temperate.
Where do seromas develop? Seromas can develop virtually anywhere on the dogs body, but they are more frequently reported in high-motion places, such as knee, shoulder, wrist. However, they can also form under the skin (known as subdermal seromas), in the ears, in the head or brain or in any other organ.
Seromas in Dogs After Spay Surgery
Seromas are most common in dogs that underwent a surgical procedure in which cases the seroma develops at the site of the incision.
Surgery-related seromas occur when the surgeon leaves too much dead space when closing the incision. The term dead space refers to the empty space left between the abdominal wall muscles and the fatty layer of tissue just beneath the skin.
Why do seromas develop? Seromas are a relatively normal part of the healing process. Namely, when the body sustains trauma – in this case the spay incision, an inflammatory state is initiated.
When there is an inflammatory process occurring anywhere in the body, the immune system is triggered to go into war at the trauma site. The aim of the immune system’s war is to combat potential infections and achieve faster and smoother healing process.
Basically, the newly formed pocket is in fact the battlefield where the immune system combats potential threats.
It is important to differentiate between a seroma and hematoma. The seroma is filled with serum – a portion of the blood that does not contain red blood cells.
On the contrary, a hematoma is filled with full blood – red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and everything.
Well, seromas are a complication on their own. However, generally speaking, seromas are not painful and are a self-limiting occurrence.
Namely, more often than not, over time, the body will reabsorb the accumulated fluid, redistribute it around the body and solve the problem naturally.
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Rarely, if the seroma gets too big it may cause discomfort. Under such conditions, the risk of infection is also greater. Therefore, if your dog developed a seroma after a spay procedure, have the seroma checked by your trusted vet.
Based on what the vet sees, he/she will be able to advise you how to act upon it and prevent further complications.
Differential Diagnosis: Seroma Look-a-Likes
Because of how they look, seromas can often be confused with various other conditions and formations. Differential diagnosis is the term used by veterinarians to depict the process of ruling out similar conditions and look-a-likes.
Here are some common differential diagnoses and how to reach them.
Seromas are often confused with hernias, especially when occurring at incision lines. Hernias occur when an internal organ pushes through a weakness in the muscle protruding out.
However, statistically speaking, hernias are far less common complications than seromas. Although uncommon, just to be sure, the vet will palpate the mass and if necessary, perform ultrasonography to examine the content of the formation. The ultrasound will reveal whether the content is fluid (seroma) or organs (hernia).
To make this differentiation, the vet will have to extract some of the fluid from the formation. The basic difference between a seroma and a hematoma is in its contents: seromas are filled with serous fluid while a hematoma is filled with blood.
The serous fluid is made from blood plasma and inflammatory cells – it does not contain red blood cells. On the other hand, the typical hematoma is filled with full blood and contains red blood cells.
Once again, the vet will have to extract some fluid in order to differentiate the two. Abscesses are filled with pus and just looking at the fluid composition is enough to make a differentiation. Pus has higher consistency, is cloudy, and is characterized by a repulsive smell. On the other hand, the fluid contained in a seroma is clear, transparent, and scentless.
Touching the formation can provide the vet with useful information. Namely, seromas are soft and squishy while most tumors are typically hard. However, if the veterinarian suspects a tumor, he/she will need to either extract fluid and perform a fluid analysis under a microscope or take a tissue sample for more in-depth analysis.
What Causes Seromas in Dogs After Surgery?
Dogs undergoing a surgical procedure in the ventral midline have a 10 percent chance of developing a seroma. This means that out of ten operated dogs one will develop a surgical complication in the form of seroma.
Seromas are typically a surgical complication most likely to occur after abdominal surgical procedures involving the central line. Common examples are spaying and neutering procedures.
Although the exact causes leading to seroma development are not fully understood, the chances increase in the following scenarios:
These factors are all related to the surgeon and its practices.
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