Liver Cancer in Cats

Learn how liver cancer in cats is diagnosed and treated. There are three forms of liver tumors: Hemolymphatic, Metastatic or Primary. The type of cancer and treatment offered play an important role in a cat's lifespan. Many cats go on to live full, happy lives after a liver cancer diagnosis.

Hemolymphatic Tumors, Metastatic Tumors and Primary Tumors

Metastatic liver tumors spread to the liver from another area of the body. Hemolymphatic tumors spread from blood cells or lymph tissue. Primary liver tumors form and remain in the liver. Primary tumors are extremely rare in cats. Approximately one out of every fifty cats with cancer have primary liver tumors.

Primary liver tumors usually trace to an environmental cause such as exposure to toxins like spoiled pet food, pesticides, dyes and food additives. In most cases, cats diagnosed with primary liver cancer are older than ten years of age and a larger percentage of male cats develop this form of cancer in cats.

The most common primary liver cancer form is hepatocellular carcinoma, benign tumors growing in the liver tissue. Surgery is often the best option for primary liver cancer and most cats recover quickly and show no ill effects.

Metastatic liver cancer and Hemolymphatic tumors require a little more testing. Scans of the body and blood tests will be necessary to find the source of the original tumor.

Symptoms of Liver Cancer in Cats

The most common symptoms of liver cancer include:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Jaundice
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

Your vet will do a scan of the cat's body, usually a CT scan, ultrasound or X-rays to look for tumors if liver cancer is suspected. During testing, most veterinarians will start your cat on fluids, especially if dehydration is present.

Treatment Options for Liver Cancer in Cats

In many cases, surgical removal of sections of the liver is the best option for liver cancer in cats. Hepatocellular carcinomas do not respond to chemotherapy, so surgery is required for this type of tumor. Providing the tumor can be completely removed, a cat will usually go on to live a full life. Up to 50 percent of a cat's liver can safely be removed and the liver will grow back.

Chemotherapy is an option for other tumors. Chemotherapy does kill some tumors, but there are side effects. Cats that have undergone chemo treatments usually have gastrointestinal and bone marrow issues. Gastrointestinal problems include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. If the bone marrow is affected, white cell counts drop increasing a cat's risk of developing an infection or disease.

Post-Treatment Care

Once you bring your cat home, it's important to feed him a high-quality cat food. Fresh, canned foods are best. If you use dry food, make sure the food is kept in an air-tight container and out of the sun that robs food of some nutrients. Avoid foods with artificial dyes, flavorings, by-products and glutens.

Watch your cat for signs of infection, breathing difficulties and dehydration. Keep your pet from scratching or licking at his stitches.

Finally, make sure your pet is given all of his pain medication and antibiotics if prescribed.