Quiet, lethargic, not eating very much and just generally a bit slow? It’s worthwhile tapping the abdomen.

I saw a golden retriever presenting in just this way, just as surgery was about to close on Christmas Eve. On examination she was a bit pale but not particularly tachycardic, although her abdomen felt distended.

A quick needle tap sadly revealed the presence of free blood. However haematology showed a significant reticulocytosis consistent with the bleed occurring 2-3 days previously (the owner did point out that, in fact, she had started to perk up that morning).

Our next step will be some imaging to see what the spleen looks like and whether we can consider surgery – hopefully with a favourable outcome. Fingers crossed.

Dr Lisa Powell from the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine describes how to perform an abdominocentesis (peritoneal tap) – the procedure used to obtain free abdominal fluid.

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