Canine Liver Cancer

Canine liver cancer is one of the most dangerous forms of the disease, in part because it may be difficult to diagnose until the cancer has progressed dramatically. Although it is possible for a dog to develop a primary cancer of the liver, in the vast majority of cases a tumorous growth is due to the metastasizing of cancer from another part of the body. In these situations, the cancer has already spread throughout his system and may be especially difficult to treat. Still, early detection of canine liver cancer increases the chances of a successful treatment and recovery.

Causes and Symptoms of Canine Liver Cancer

Although the most common cause of canine liver cancer is cancer of another part of the body that has spread, about 2 percent of canine cancers develop in the liver primarily. Although the exact cause is unknown, veterinarians believe that exposure to harmful chemicals and carcinogens may contribute. Spoiled foods, household chemicals and other dangerous substances can encourage the growth of cancer in your dog's liver and should be avoided if at all possible. Canine liver cancer is most common in dogs that are 10 years of age or older.

Canine liver cancer typically presents some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Jaundice and discolored gums
  • Distended abdomen
  • Lethargy

Diagnosing and Treating Canine Liver Cancer

If your dog displays any of the symptoms listed above, take him to a veterinarian for an immediate examination. Diagnosis of liver cancer in dogs may require a series of tests and biopsies, but your vet will begin with a straightforward physical exam to rule out other conditions. He will also take a blood sample in order to conduct a complete blood count. He may also order x-rays or radiographs of your pet's abdomen and a sample of liver tissue to be taken for further analysis.

The treatment for your pet's liver cancer depends upon the severity of the condition. First and foremost, your vet will work to stabilize your pet's condition and to ease his pain and discomfort. Pain relieving drugs can be helpful in this regard, and your pet may require a blood transfusion or other type of stabilizing treatment.

If the tumor in your pet's liver is easily accessible, your vet may recommend a surgical excision. Surgery of this type is an invasive and dangerous procedure, and should only be attempted when the exact location of the tumor is known, and only in certain dogs. In other cases, chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be better choices for removing and eliminating the cancer cells. Consult with your vet for more information about each of these treatment methods, and whether they are appropriate for your pet.

Following a diagnosis of liver cancer, it is crucial that you monitor your dog's condition and work to relieve his pain. In some cases, the cancer will have already progressed to a fatal degree, and you can only help to ease your pet's pain. However, discovered early, canine liver cancer may be fully treatable.