Liver Cancer In Dogs: Treatment & Prognosis

There are 2 types of liver cancer in dogs:
- metastatic
- primary

Metastatic liver cancer in dogs

Metastatic liver cancer is tumor that has spread from other parts of the body. This is the most common type of liver cancer in dogs. Treatment depends on the stage of metastasis. Due to the aggressive nature of this tumor, prognosis is not good.

liver cancer in dogs, canine liver cancer

Primary liver cancer in dogs

This type of tumor originates in the liver. It has a low occurence and only accounts for 2.6% of all cancer in dogs. Primary liver cancer usually affects dogs that are over 10 years old.

Primary liver tumor is classified according to:
- the origin from liver cells,
- form: massive, nodular or diffuse.

Massive tumor is a single solitary mass and is located in a single liver lobe.
Nodular tumor is present as distinct nodules and located in multiple liver lobes.
Diffuse tumor affects the entire liver.

There are 4 types of primary liver cancer in dogs:
- hepatocellular carcinoma (52%)
- biliary carcinoma (22%)
- neuroendocrine tumor (13%)
- hepatic sarcoma (less than 15%)

Hepatocellular carcinoma
Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common type, accounting for about 52%, of primary liver cancer in dogs. More than half of hepatocellular carcinomas are massive, while the rest are nodular and diffuse in nature.

Massive hepatocellular carcinoma is usually removed by surgery. It is not responsive to chemotherapy. Dogs that are treated with surgery have better survival times than dogs that receive no surgery.

Median survival times:
With surgery: from 1 year to more than 4 years, depending on the location of the tumor on the liver lobes (left, centre or right)
Without surgery: 270 days

If the tumor is located near large blood vessels or on the right liver lobe, surgical removal can be more difficult and complicated.

There is no effective treatment for nodular and diffuse hepatocellular carcinomas, so prognosis is poor.

Biliary carcinoma
This type of tumor affects the bile duct, which is a tube that allows bile to flow from the liver to intestine. About half of biliary carcinomas are massive, which are usually treated with surgery.

Since biliary carcinoma is highly aggressive and metastatic, the average survival time is less than 6 months post surgery. The tumor tends recur locally and spreads to other organs.

Neuroendocrine tumor
This is a rare type of primary liver tumor in dogs. It is often nodular or diffuse, with no known treatment. Neuroendocrine tumor is aggressive and tends to spread early to regional lymph nodes and other organs. Prognosis is poor.

Hepatic sarcoma
Hepatic sarcoma is a malignant connective tissue tumor of the liver. This is another rare primary liver cancer in dogs that is aggressive and metastatic. Hepatic sarcomas include hemangiosarcoma, fibrosarcoma and leiomyosarcoma.

1/3 of hepatic sarcomas are massive and 2/3 are nodular. Although massive hepatic tumor can be removed surgically, prognosis remains poor as it would have spread at the time of diagnosis. Certain hepatic sarcomas can be treated with chemotherapy.

Nutritional Therapy

Feeding a dog cancer diet is crucial to support your pet’s health and its fight against the disease. Cancer cells thrive on carbohydrates for energy. So, a canine cancer diet should be low in carbohydrates with moderate amounts of high quality proteins, fats and fiber. Dietary supplements such as K9 Immunity Plus can enhance the immune system while Omega 3, turmeric (curcumin) and antioxidants have anti-cancer properties.

The nutritional needs for dogs with liver cancer, do vary according to age, disease symptoms and the affected organs.

If liver function is normal, an increased protein intake may be necessary to provide energy and for recovery.

If there is impaired liver function, too much protein can increase the liver’s workload and result in complications.

There is no one diet plan that works for every dog. You should consult with your vet to determine a cancer diet best suited for your dog’s condition. As the disease progresses, your dog’s dietary needs may change over time.

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