Liver Cancer

Information on feline and canine liver cancer and liver health in cats and dogs.

Select a Topic

  1. What is Liver Cancer?
  2. What Causes Liver Cancer?
  3. Diagnosing Liver Cancer
  4. Help for Liver Cancer
  5. More Information on Liver Cancer

What is Liver Cancer?

Pets are often affected by various diseases but cancer is by far the most life threatening. When your dog or cat is suffering with liver cancer, extreme pain and discomfort is experienced. Liver cancer occurs when a tumor develops in the liver and it may either be benign or malignant.

The liver is one of the most essential organs of the body with a number of functions. It filters and removes toxins from the body, regulates body temperature, stores and disperses nutrients, aids metabolism, digestion of food and circulation.

There are various types of liver cancer:

  • Primary liver cancer is quite rare and forms directly from the liver cells. When this type of cancer forms, it is malignant. It is common in older animals.
  • Hemolymphatic cancer is transferred by the lymphoid tissue or blood cells.
  • Metastatic cancer is one of the most common forms of liver cancer and refers to cancer that spreads from other organs such as the lungs, lymph nodes, kidneys, spleen or pancreas in the body to the liver.  

The severity of liver cancer generally depends on the type of tumor. If the tumor is malignant, symptoms usually worsen and cancer cells increase in size. When detected early, liver cancer can be treated and your pet can continue to live a healthy life.

The most common symptoms and signs of liver cancer include:

  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Reduced appetite
  • Increase in urination
  • Light-colored feces
  • Weight loss
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Limb weakness
  • Overall weakness
  • Pale gums
  • Jaundice

What Causes Liver Cancer?

Although the exact cause of cancer is not exactly known, certain factors may contribute to this disease. Genetics, a weakened immune system, fungal, bacterial, and viral infections, copper-storage diseases, and more severe diseases such as Cushing’s disease and pancreatitis may also lead to liver cancer.

Environmental factors such as exposure to toxic chemicals or carcinogens which include malnutrition, pesticides, food additives, colorants, pollution, dyes, plants, animal tissue and spoilt pet food can have a negative impact on the liver.

Diagnosing Liver Cancer

The diagnosis of liver cancer is based on the symptoms presented, physical exam as well as a review of your pet’s medical history. Tests include blood tests such as alkaline phosphatase, total protein, bile acids, bilirubin and protein tests as well as x-rays, ultrasounds and liver biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

Help for Liver Cancer

Cancer therapy generally depends on stage and location of cancer. Treatment involves medications, surgery, radiation or chemotherapy to reduce and prevent more cancer cells from forming. Taking an active role in your pet’s treatment and care is very important.

Communicate with your vet about the various treatment options available, your concerns and what the most appropriate course of action would be to take. Strong commitment, patience and empathy is needed when dealing with a pet that has cancer. Keep in mind that cancer is not necessarily a death sentence, and when detected early treatment can help to ease discomfort.

More Information on Liver Cancer

Tips to cope with cancer in pets

While cancer cannot be prevented, there are certain things that you can do to ease your pet’s discomfort and make him more comfortable

  • Feed your pet a high quality, well balanced commercial or all natural diet that contains all the essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals
  • Make sure that your pet always has plenty of fresh, clean water available, and encourage them to drink regularly
  • Discuss the pros and cons of treatment options with your vet – remember the decision ultimately rests with you
  • Make your pet as comfortable as possible by providing extra bedding and pillows for him to rest on if he is undergoing treatment
  • Incorporate more moist, fatty, protein-rich foods which pets may find more palatable
  • Because your pet may not have an appetite, warm foods just below body temperature
  • Avoid exposing your pets to harmful chemical