Surgical Treatment for Cancer of the Liver in Dogs

Cancer of the liver in dogs is not very common. The liver is a vital organ, and when a tumor affects this organ, it can have serious repercussions on the dog’s well being. The liver filters waste materials, keeping the organism clean. Liver cancer may be treated with surgery, but this option is not always available, so alternatives must be found.

Diagnosing Liver Cancer

Canine liver cancer may be manifested from the early stages, as the dog’s body will be filled with toxins that are not eliminated as they should. A clear diagnosis should be established before determining the best course of action. The vet will run blood tests as well as ultrasounds, x-rays or a liver biopsy.

The location of the tumor must be precisely delimited to determine if surgery is a suitable option. If the liver cancer is advanced, surgery may not be recommended.

Surgery for Liver Cancer

The liver is a sensitive organ and surgery on the liver may carry some risks. A surgical treatment for liver cancer is only possible if the tumor is small and hasn’t covered the entire liver or migrated to other areas of the dog’s abdominal cavity.

The type of cancerous cells should be detected, as lymphoma is not a type of cancer that can be operated on. The other types of cancers can be treated with surgery. If it is a treatment option, the surgery should be performed as soon as possible, to prevent the cancerous cells from developing. Cancerous cells tend to grow fast and by waiting even 2 weeks, this can affect the dog and surgery may no longer be possible.

The surgery will be performed using anesthesia and the surgeon will remove the tumor as well as a margin of surrounding cells, which may be cancerous. The vet will make sure that all cancerous cells are removed, so that the tumor will be less likely to grow back. Meanwhile, the dog should receive a diet that is poor in fats and proteins, to help the liver recover. A cleansing cure may also be recommended.

Post Liver Cancer Surgery

Post liver cancer surgery, the dog will have to get medication treatment (i.e. chemotherapy), which is applied preventively to hinder the recurrence of cancerous cells.

There are 3 possible scenarios after the surgery:

  • The tumor will not return
  • The liver tumor may grow back
  • A tumor may grow in a different area of the dog’s body

Consequently, the prognosis will depend on whether the tumor returns or not. The dog may live a normal life if the cancer doesn’t return. However, monthly tests will be performed to monitor the dog’s condition and see if the cancer is in full remission.

If the cancer cells return (which may happen 3 to 6 months after the first surgery), a new surgery may be performed, but the results are not predictable.