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Dog Liver Cancer

Dog Liver Cancer

Though liver cancer can occur at any stage in dogs, it is more common among older pets. This article provides some information about this disease in canines.
DogAppy Staff
The liver is the largest organ responsible for performing a multitude of functions in the body, some of which include detoxification, neutralization of harmful toxins present in the blood, fighting infections, aiding digestion by secreting bile juice, and boosting the immune system. One of the characteristic features of the liver is that it can function normally even if 60 - 70 percent of its total mass is affected by a disease. While this feature is very beneficial, it also means that liver diseases are usually well-advanced before the onset of any noticeable symptoms.

Any abnormality in the cells and/or tissues of the liver can affect it. As this organ functions like a biochemical active center, it is susceptible to developing a wide range of diseases like infections, cancer, and degenerative disease. Almost all dogs are at a risk of developing liver disease, which can be either cancerous or non-cancerous.

Causes and Symptoms

Liver cancer in dogs can be caused due to ingestion of toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and exposure to carcinogens. After the pet consumes these toxic chemicals, they pass to the liver for the detoxification process, thus increasing the chances of developing cancer.

In dogs, this disease is present in two types, namely primary and secondary (metastatic) tumors. Primary cancer is more common than the secondary type; it occurs due to the presence of malignant tumors in the liver tissues. The primary type has the potential to spread to other parts of the body. Secondary cancer on the other hand, is caused due to the spread of malignant tumors from other organs of the body.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Since the liver performs a wide range of functions, it is obvious that a cancer of this organ will affect almost all the other parts of the body. Hence, the symptoms of this disease are always vague, and often confused with other canine illnesses. The notable symptoms are loss of appetite, vomiting, weight loss, abdominal distension, stomach pain, gum problems, difficulty in breathing or increased respiratory rate, and jaundice.

Diagnosis is done by conducting a physical examination of the pet, and by doing a liver biopsy. Increased level of bile in the blood or urine, as well as an enlarged or inflamed liver can be an indication of the presence of cancer in the pet. For confirmation, the veterinarian may conduct blood tests in order to check for increased levels of enzymes such as Serum Glutamic Pyruvic Transaminase (SGPT) and Alkaline Phosphatase.

For treatment of the primary cancer in its early stages, surgical removal of the affected liver lobe is the most effective technique. However, surgery is not recommended in case the cancer has spread to multiple lobes. Regarding the secondary cancer, the only treatment option is chemotherapy. The main objective behind this treatment is to improve the quality of the pet's life, but not to increase its lifespan. One can make the pet comfortable by feeding him/her healthy foods, giving the recommended doses of chemotherapy, and taking proper care of his/her needs.