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Liver Cancer in Dogs

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Liver Cancer in Dogs

One of the most common cancers found in dogs is primary liver cancer. Like all other types of canine cancer, primary liver cancer presents itself in many different ways. Some show all of the cancer in dogs symptoms that liver cancer can cause, whereas other dogs only express a few symptoms, and they might be so mild you don't see them right away.

Symptoms of Liver Cancer in Dogs

Liver Cancer in Dogs SymptomsThe symptoms of liver cancer often go undetected until a large tumor has developed. The cancer is mostly asymptomatic because you can barely tell that the dog is exhibiting any unusual behavior. However, just because it's not apparent to the naked eye doesn't mean the dog isn't experiencing symptoms of canine liver cancer.

As cancer moves from the early stages into the intermediate, and sometimes late stages, you'll be able to pick up on the signs of liver disease in your dog, which includes:

  • Changes in urination patterns 
  • Constipation followed by diarrhea 
  • Exuding more heat than normal 
  • Slightly higher temperature or fever 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Weight loss 
  • Dizziness and low energy 
  • Extreme lethargy 
  • Almost always sleeping 
  • Excessive consumption of water

A Closer Look at Canine Liver Cancer Symptoms

There are reports that dogs with signs of liver cancer also experience frequent vomiting, coupled with seizures that come and go. In the later stages of this canine cancer, some dogs have severe and life-threatening bleeding in their abdominal region.

Known as abdominal hemorrhaging, these bleeds stem from necrotic tumors, which means that the lymph nodes picked up on the presence of cancerous cells and worked to kill many of them, which is good but also detrimental to your dog's blood flood. If dead cancer cells become trapped in the bloodstream, the chance of hemorrhaging is increased. This is a prime example of why vets perform blood work on dogs that might have this disease.

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How Liver Cancer is Diagnosed in Dogs

There are multiple different ways that this diagnosis of liver cancer in dogs. In the process of diagnosis of liver cancer in dogs, it's very likely that a variety of lab tests will be conducted to rule out other possible illnesses. From blood work and ultrasounds to radiographs and hormone imbalance tests, there are many ways of figuring out if there is something other than cancer making your dog unwell.

Veterinarians often look for blood clotting and hemorrhaging. They will look at the heart first before going through with a biopsy. Since surgical biopsies are a more intense way of looking at potentially cancerous tumors, vets will wait to perform surgical biopsies until they are absolutely sure a biopsy is necessary.

Once the vet has ruled out other possibilities and determines which type of liver cancer your dog has, a treatment plan can be compiled for your pet.

Types of Cancer in Dogs

How to Treat Liver Cancer in Dogs

There are many treatments for cancer cells that have spread to the liver of your dog. The most common plan of action is the surgical removal of the tumor.

The treatment options for liver cancer in dogs are:

  • Palliative chemotherapy 
  • Radiation therapy 
  • Surgical removal 

Type of Tumor in Dogs with Liver Cancer

There are four types of cancer for dogs. The specific form of liver cancer that a dog is diagnosed with depends on the kind of tumor growth in the dog's liver. These four kinds of spread to the liver cancer are:

  • Bile Duct Carcinoma
  • Hepatocellular Carcinoma 
  • Mesenchymal Tumor Sarcoma 
  • Neuroendocrine Tumor Sarcoma 

Bile Duct Carcinoma

Also known as cholangiocarcinoma, bile duct carcinoma neuroendocrine is a type of liver cancer in dogs that is more so centralized in the bile ducts. The bile ducts of the liver move bile to the gallbladder, and eventually, the bile is delivered into the small intestine. This disrupts the natural processes of your dog's internal functioning, which can create a significant backup, resulting in painful complications.

Hepatocellular Carcinoma

This is the type of primary liver cancer that over fifty percent of dogs with this cancer of the liver are diagnosed with. Hepatocellular carcinoma start with cells known as hepatocytes, hence the name hepatocellular carcinoma.

As the most common type of cancer of the liver, hepatocellular carcinoma are often not metastasis. Hepatocellular carcinoma hcc tumors are also not malignant. In other words, the tumors of this type of cancer do not run the risk of spreading to other parts of the body.

Hepatocellular carcinoma hcc is one of many different types of cancer that can affect animals (not just humans).

Mesenchymal Tumor Sarcoma 

The term mesenchymal refers to connective tissue in the central nervous system. Mesenchymal tumors stem from the cells that make up fibroblasts, blood vessels, muscles, and tissue in the central nervous system.

Neuroendocrine Tumor Sarcoma

Growing from the abnormal growth of neuroendocrine cells, neuroendocrine tumors, as well as the related sarcoma that follows suit, can form just about anywhere neuroendocrine cells travel, spread throughout the liver In relation to canine liver cancer, neuroendocrine tumors embed themselves into the nerves and neurons within your dog's liver.

Can a Dog Survive with a Tumor in the Liver?

Dogs cannot survive with a malignant and cancerous tumor in their liver for very long. If the tumor is benign, harmless, then it is more of an unnecessary disruption than it is fatal, but malignant liver tumors are incredibly dangerous. If the tumor is not removed from the liver and treated appropriately by professionals, a dog will eventually pass away from the disease.

How Long Can a Dog Live with Liver Cancer? 

When pet owners learn of their dog's liver cancer diagnosis, one of the first thoughts that comes to mind is, We want our pets to live a long, happy life, so when we are met with a potentially deadly diagnosis, we think of the worst possible outcome and hope that it isn't true.

Is a Dog with Liver Failure in Pain?

Dogs with liver tumors are not in constant pain, but they are aware that something is causing them physical discomfort. It all starts with an overall feeling of uneasiness, or malaise, as the vet might refer to it. From there, a slow-moving onset of nausea as a result of the tumors will start affecting your dog's mood, and it will grow into a full-on vomiting spell.

With the inability to keep food down comes a significant drop in weight and little to no appetite, as well as abdominal pain stemming from the emptiness in your dog's stomach. Over time, your dog's body will begin showing subtle signs of jaundice, which worsens if the organ cannot fully bounce back or heal on its own.

When the liver starts failing due to the presence of tumors, it becomes dull, inflamed, and achy. From there, the tumors can intensify and cause backache as well. When medical intervention and professional care are added to the equation, dogs with liver cancers can receive relief from the pain that the disease naturally causes.


Approved by:
Dr. Ivana Vukasinovic
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, University of Belgrade

Ivana Vukasinovic grew up in Serbia and attended the University of Belgrade where she received a degree in Veterinary medicine in 2012 and later completed surgical residency working mostly with livestock. Her first year of practice was split between busy small animal practice and emergency clinic, and after two more years of treating many different species of animals, she opened her own veterinary pharmacy where an interest in canine and feline nutrition emerged with an accent on fighting animal obesity. In her free time, she acts as a foster parent for stray animals before their adoption, likes to read SF books, and making salted caramel cookies.

Thanks for stopping by!

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The Innovet Team

Please do not ask for emergency or specific medical questions about your pets in the comments. Innovet Pet Products is unable to provide you with specific medical advice or counseling. A detailed physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinarian are required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet requires emergency attention or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic health conditions, please contact or visit your local/preferred veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.

Please share your experiences and stories, your opinions and feedback about this blog, or what you've learned that you'd like to share with others.

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