Liver Cancer in Dogs, Canine Euthanasia, Digestion

Liver cancer in dogs is relatively rare with some experts estimating that in the majority of primary causes of Cancer it occurs in about two percent of cases.

This condition comes in two forms – Metatastic and Primary. Each type is very serious and will of course need medical treatment.

At it’s worst this condition may lead to euthanasia especially when the cancer has spread to other organs.

Below we have provided a complete guide to the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment for this devastating disease.

Liver Cancer in Dogs

Liver Cancer in Dogs – The Facts…

As previously mentioned this condition comes in two forms and it is normally quite advanced before any symptoms are noticed. Although the Liver is an amazing organ it can still continue to function relatively normally even when a large proportion of it has been affected by a cancerous tumor or growth.

The Liver has a variety of functions – including producing bile which is utilized to make digestion easier. As well as aiding the digestive system it also regulates the storage and how Carbohydrates are used by your dog’s body. This very important organ also helps with the mobilization of fat and helps to detoxify and excrete toxic substances in your dogs body. The Liver also helps to synthesize the proteins found in your dogs blood system while also helping to keep your pooches body temperature stable.

Metatastic Liver Cancer in Dogs

Metatastic Liver Cancer in dogs is when the Cancer has spread to other organs in your dog’s body. This is a very serious condition and will produce a variety of symptoms. As previously mentioned Cancer that forms in the Liver first (Primary) is actually very rare and the disease will normally form somewhere else before it spreads to the Liver. Due to the fact that the organ helps to filter blood any Cancer Cells that are being passed around the body via the blood stream and then through the Liver – this will then cause the cancer to develop in this organ.

Primary Liver Cancer in Dogs

Primary Liver Cancer refers to a Cancer that has developed in the Liver as opposed to somewhere else. Primary Neoplasia refers to a Tumor (Cancer) that forms in the Liver. In this case the Cancer is normally malignant and has developed from Liver Cells (also referred to as Hepatocellular Carcinomas). The Primary type can also develop benign tumors that also develop from Liver cells – this type is referred to as Hepatocellular Adenomas (Hepatomos). This type of the disease is more common in older dogs – especially those aged of 10 years of age.


The main causes of Primary Liver Cancer in dogs are actually due to environmental factors. This can include carcinogens from chemicals or toxins. nasty food additives, preservatives, colorings and fillers, food dyes and pesticides.


The symptoms of this condition depend on the area that the tumor has affected. benign tumors that are situated in one place and have not spread will often not lead to your dog becoming seriously ill. However, if the tumor is large enough to have caused abdominal issues then your pooch might show negative symptoms. A benign tumor that has become particularly large and more intrusive can impact on other areas within the abdomen especially if has started bleeding should it have been ruptured. In very unusual cases a tumor might cause your dog to experience low blood sugar and even hypoglycemia. More common symptoms will normally include some of the following…

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting and sickness
  • Tiredness and lethargy (especially after exercise) or even just walking around the House.
  • Your pooch might be really thirsty and want to drink lots of water.
  • Your dog might urinate excessively.
  • If your dog is experiencing Anemia then you might notice that your pooch has pale gums.
  • You may notice blood in your dog’s poop.
  • The abdomen might appear distended and out of shape
  • Your pooch might start breathing faster or even have difficulty breathing.
  • Weight loss is another symptom of the condition.
  • Your pooch might have skin that appears yellow – this is a sign of Jaundice.

Diagnosis of Liver Cancer in Dogs…

As previously mentioned sometimes the symptoms don’t start to appear until the Cancer has become more advanced. Sometimes the owner is the best person to ask about unusual symptoms because even the smallest symptom can be picked up on by a loving owner. Alongside speaking to the owner the diagnosis of this disease may include the vet using some of the following techniques…

  • A complete physical examination and look at the medical history.
  • A CBC (Complete Blood Count) may also be taken.
  • An abdominal X-ray might need to be undertaken to see if there is anything causing the unusual symptoms.
  • A chest X-ray or abdominal Ultrasound scan might be used by the Vet to make an accurate diagnosis.
  • A Biochemical profile might also be undertaken by the Vet. This is an amazing procedure that involves the Vet taking a small sample of blood – the blood sample is then sent to a Lab to be tested – this will involve electrolytes, enzymes and lots of other molecules being tested in Laboratory conditions. A Biochemical profile is a unique method used by medical professionals to look at and examine the inside workings of a dog’s body.
  • The Vet might also undertake clotting tests.
  • In some scenarios the Vet might take a biopsy of the Liver.
  • Urinalysis – this is the chemical analysis of your dog’s urine.

Liver Cancer in Dogs – Treatment…

In some cases surgery might need to be performed to remove the disease tumor. If the tumor has spread to other areas of your dog’s body then your dog’s chances of recovery and even survival are reduced significantly. The Vet might need to treat secondary problems with IV fluids (if your dog has become dehydrated) and even blood transfusions.

As mentioned previously the Liver is an amazing organ and can continue to function with only twenty percent left after surgery. Chemotherapy is sometimes used to treat metatastic cancers but is not particularly effective when used to treat Primary liver cancer in dogs.