In an oncological (the study of tumors) classification of tumors and dog cancers, canine liver cancer may be of two different types i.e. primary and metastatic in nature. Primary canine liver cancers are less common.
- Primary Dog Liver Cancer:
Tbis type of cancer usually originates within the liver.
It is common in dogs that are older than 10 years of age.
The cancer can be either benign or malignant in nature and can affect
both the lobes of of the canine liver. Some common primary canine liver
are hepato-cellular adenomas and carcinomas, biliary adenomas,
carcinomas and hemangiosarcomas. Hepato-cellular carcinomas are the
most frequent primary type,
while biliary carcinomas on the other hand specific occur in females.
The malignant form of primary liver cancer either forms a single lobular mass on the organ or may cause multi nodular masses, which are more complicated in nature and which can spread rapidly to other parts of body, especially brain directly through the hepatic portal vein.
- Metastatic Secondary Dog Liver Cancer: This type of liver cancer in dogs originates in other organs or parts of the body, and may affect the liver as a secondary location. Heolymphatic cancers, especially lymphomas are the most common occurring metastatic canine liver cancer type. Other forms of this type of cancer are carcinomas of the pancreas, mammary gland, intestine, thyroid and sarcomas of fibrous tissues, bones (osteosarcomas) etc. These are multi dimensional cancers i.e. they can affect any part of body including the liver.
There are several specific and non-specific clinical symptoms for dog liver cancer. Generalized illnesses, signs of jaundice, anorexia and vomiting, polyuria (excessive passage of urine), thirst and weight loss are common non-specific signs.
Seizure and shock may also occur in case of encephalopathy (brain dysfunction) or involvement of nervous tissues, especially in the brain. An abdominal mass can be felt with palpation (touching the dog). Affected dogs experience severe pain. Ascites or accumulation of fluids in the abdomen is another specific sign for liver cancer in dogs, but it is only considered in the presence of other specific signs. Collapse and death may occur due to encephalopathy and severe lethargy.
Clinical signs may help, but detailed laboratory procedures are needed for the detection of alterations in the level of cellular content, different enzymes and various substances. Dogs with liver cancer usually have similar readings as those found as a result of other liver disorders. In particular, lymphomas are characterized by elevated blast cell circulation levels. Similarly, liver enzyme levels are increased in cases of a metastatic form of the disease. ALT (Alkaline Aminotransferase) and AST (Aspartate Aminotransferase) levels will also appear to be slightly increased in all forms. Hyperbiluribina is sure to cause jaundice and secondary complications.
Radiography and ultrasound can help to detect any cellular mass, nodular developments and ascites in the abdomen. On the other hand, in complicated cases, sometimes a biopsy of a pathological sample of blood and liver content is compulsory to confirm the disease.
If surgery is performed during the initial stages of the disease, the primary form of dog liver cancer can be effectively treated, but it should be noted that in most cases, surgery alone is never an ideal approach. If single lobular involvement is confirmed, then surgical excision is highly recommended.
The metastatic form of the disease is usually not possible to be eradicated by surgery alone. The use chemotherapy is essential, and may cause side effects such as severe lethargy and weight loss.
A homeopathic product such as Liver-Aid Formula can be used to help with symptomatic control, however, they are not a cure for the cancer itself. Check with your veterinarian.
The prognosis for primary tumors which involve multiple lobes that are metastatic in nature is “Grave”, as this form of liver cancer is incurable with no effective therapeutic option.