Feline Liver Cancer Diagnosis

Feline liver cancer, also known as hepatic neoplasia, has a greater incidence in cats aged 10 years or more. Tomcats seem to be more predisposed to this disease than female cats. Having this health condition diagnosed and treated as soon as the symptoms are discovered is mandatory and may, in fact, save the life of your cat.

Symptoms of Feline Liver Cancer

Knowing the symptoms of a particular disease may help the veterinarian to perform the diagnosis easier. However, you need to keep in mind that some symptoms may be common to multiple diseases. Symptoms that may indicate feline liver cancer include:

Jaundice is probably one of the most relevant signs that the liver of your cat is affected. This yellowish discoloration typically is noticed on the skin, but the membrane of the conjunctiva may also be affected.

Diagnosis of Feline Hepatic Neoplasia

There are numerous tests that are performed as part of the feline liver cancer diagnosis. First of all, some of these tests are meant to distinguish hepatic neoplasia from other diseases that affect the liver. Next, if your cat indeed suffers from liver cancer, the veterinarian needs to determine whether it is primary or secondary cancer. The former starts in the liver, while the latter develops during the metastasis of another tumor.  However, primary liver cancer may also expand to the nearby organs, thus leading to metastasis.

After checking the medical history and performing a thorough physical examination of your cat, the veterinarian will do the following tests:

  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Abdominal x-rays
  • Biochemical profile
  • CBC (complete blood count)
  • Clotting tests
  • Liver biopsy
  • Thoracic x-rays

The majority of the symptoms of hepatic neoplasia are not specific. Because of this fact, a physical examination is mandatory for determining whether the liver is enlarged or not. This can be easily noticed by palpating the abdominal area. If jaundice is among the symptoms of your cat, it will also be discovered during the physical exam.

Abdominal ultrasound tests are performed in correlation with the abdominal x-rays. However, the ultrasound tests prove to be more effective in observing liver architecture. Ultrasounds are efficiently used in the discovery of tumors of small dimensions. Any deformities of the organs surrounding the liver can also be detected through this test.

Compared to abdominal ultrasound tests, the abdominal x-rays provide better results in what concerns the dimensions of the liver. This test can also be used for revealing any fluid accumulation in the abdominal area. Thoracic x-rays, on the other hand, are needed for determining metastasis in the lungs.

The biochemical profile provides valuable information related to the enzymes created by the liver. In cats with liver cancer, these enzymes are usually elevated. In addition, the way liver works can also be determined by measuring the following factors, which are known after performing a biochemical profile:

  • Albumin
  • Bilirubin
  • Blood sugar
  • Blood urea nitrogen
  • Cholesterol

Keep in mind that finding abnormal results after measuring these factors only indicates a general problem of the liver. None of the factors listed above is associated only with hepatic neoplasia.

The CBC is needed for determining the number of erythrocytes and white blood cells. The number of platelets, which are blood cells involved in blood coagulation, is also very important. Internal hemorrhages lead to a smaller number of platelets. As most of the factors involved in the coagulation process are created in the liver, hepatic neoplasia is often associated with clotting problems. This is what makes clotting tests necessary. The red blood cells need to be verified in order to discover any signs of anemia, which is quite common in cats with liver cancer. Not only the number, but also the shape of erythrocytes may indicate the presence of a tumor.

As there are many types of hepatic tumors, a liver biopsy may be the only way to distinguish them. In some cases, the cells are aspired through a fine needle and analyzed under a microscope. However, there are situations when a sample of liver tissue must be analyzed in order to have the tumor diagnosed. Obtaining the sample does not always imply abdominal surgery, as a laparoscope can be introduced.