Canine Liver Cancer Symptoms

Canine liver cancer can occur for a number of reasons; causes for canine liver cancer include the ingestion of toxic substances or exposure to carcinogens. There are two types of dog liver cancer, primary and secondary. Primary liver cancer occurs most frequently when malignant tumors appear in the liver. Secondary liver cancer occurs when cancer spreads to the liver from other parts of the dog's body.

Causes of Canine Liver Cancer

Dogs can get liver cancer for several reasons. Causes of liver cancer in dogs include:

  • Ingestion of toxic or poisonous substances, usually on a long term basis
  • Ingestion of heavy metals, usually on a long term basis
  • Exposure to carcinogens

The liver is particularly vulnerable to toxic substances, heavy metals and cancer-causing agents because everything your dog eats gets sent to the liver to be purified. If your dog eats any toxic substances, heavy metals or carcinogens, they will go to the liver and accumulate there, especially if your dog continues to ingest these things on a long term basis.

Liver cancer occurs most frequently in older dogs. There are two kinds of liver cancer, primary and secondary. In primary liver cancer, the cancer originates in the liver. In secondary liver cancer, which is less common, the cancer spreads to the liver from another part of the body.

Symptoms of Canine Liver Cancer

The symptoms of liver cancer may remain mild, especially when the disease is in its early stages. As the cancer progresses, symptoms become more severe and more noticeable. Since the liver is central to most bodily functions, problems with the liver will affect all of the dog's physical systems. Symptoms of canine liver cancer include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea; bloody diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin, the gums and the whites of the eyes
  • Inflammation of the liver
  • Abdominal pain

As liver function decreases, toxins may accumulate in the body and affect brain function. This can lead to a secondary condition known as hepatic encephalopathy. Dogs suffering from hepatic encephalopathy may experience seizures.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Canine Liver Cancer

Your vet will diagnose liver cancer based on a physical exam and a liver biopsy. X-rays, ultrasounds and blood tests may be performed.

When caught early, primary liver cancer carries a good prognosis. Primary liver cancer can be treated surgically, especially if there is only a single tumor. Chemotherapy may be used in this instance, as a follow-up treatment. However, chemotherapy has not been shown to be very effective in the treatment of primary canine liver cancer.

If there are multiple liver tumors, if the cancer has already spread to other organs, or if the liver cancer is secondary, then the prognosis is very poor. Pain relievers, anti-inflammatories and a special diet may be recommended. Chemotherapy may be used to treat secondary canine liver cancer and temporarily prolong the dog's life. Natural and herbal supplements, or homeopathic remedies, may boost the dog's immune system and allow a slightly longer life.