A cancer diagnosis for your pet is heartbreaking news. For many pet owners, cancer is a large concern, particularly for older dogs.
If you’ve recently received a diagnosis of liver cancer from your vet, you’re most likely anxious and asking yourself questions such as: What causes liver cancer in dogs? What are the symptoms to look out for? What is the life expectancy? What are the treatment options?
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In this article, we are going to explore those topics so you can be well informed and better equipped to help your pup through this stressful time.
What Causes Liver Cancer in Dogs?
As with all cancers, it is difficult to pinpoint a singular cause, as there are many genetic and environmental factors to consider. Older dogs are more often affected by all cancers, including liver cancer.
The majority of liver cancers found in dogs are metastatic, which means cancer cells that have developed in other parts of the body have metastasized, or spread, to the liver as well. When the cancer has started in the liver, it is referred to as a primary liver tumor.
Although generally speaking, most tumors are benign (non cancerous and do not spread), the majority of liver tumors in dogs are malignant (cancerous and might spread).
There are 4 types of liver tumors found in dogs (each corresponding to a different region of the liver affected): hepatocellular tumors, bile duct tumors, neuroendocrine tumors (carcinoids), and primary sarcomas.
The most common found in dogs are hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC). These generally present as a large, singular tumor on the liver.
Symptoms of Liver Cancer in Dogs
While symptoms may vary, and some dogs are asymptomatic (meaning they show no symptoms), there are some signs of liver cancer in dogs you can be on the lookout for in your pup:
- Weight loss
- Increased thirst and urination
- Jaundice (yellowing of skin and/or eyes)
If you notice a sudden onset of certain symptoms such as weakness, collapse, and/or lethargy, you should bring your dog in for a checkup right away. Most dogs present with the symptoms of liver disease at the time of diagnosis.
Because the majority of liver tumors are metastatic, if you’ve received a cancer diagnosis for your pup in the past, be aware of an onset of any of the above symptoms, which may indicate that the cancer has spread to the liver.
Liver Cancer in Dogs: Life Expectancy
You’re probably asking yourself: how long can a dog live with liver cancer? Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer.
Life expectancy depends on a number of factors, such as the severity, size, and type of the tumor, for example. Sadly, metastatic tumors found on the liver generally have a poor prognosis (approximately 3-6 months depending on the dog), and are more difficult to treat.
Primary liver tumors such as HCCs that present as one singular mass are generally easier to treat, with a good prognosis and a smaller risk of spreading to other areas of the body.
Are There Natural Treatment Options?
The treatment options available for your dog may change depending on the location, type, and size of the tumor, and whether it is primary or metastatic. After reviewing the specific details of your pet’s tumor, your vet may recommend surgery or chemotherapy.
Of course, no matter the treatment plan recommended to you by your vet, you want to offer your pup the best treatment possible. We understand your desire to do everything you can to support his/her battle with cancer!
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I hope the information found in this article helps you to better understand your pup’s diagnosis, and see the options available to you for treatment - so you can ensure your loyal companion gets all the help he/she needs!