By Tess Thompson (from 2007 Winter Newsletter)

The liver is a multifunctional organ in the body. It is involved in practically all the biochemical processes that go on in a healthy body. It transfers food into energy, detoxifies waste materials, synthesizes proteins and also serves as a blood reservoir. It is natural for any disorder in such a versatile organ to affect other parts of the body. Moreover its capacity to act as a life preserver is so enormous that it can function efficiently even when nearly 70% to 80% of its mass is affected by any disease, even if it is liver cancer in dogs.

The liver’s multifunctional role and its reserve capacity is that the liver can keep your dog alive despite a major infection or a large tumor. The fact that the symptoms of liver cancer in dogs tend to be non-specific or mimic symptoms of other disorders adds to the problem. More often than not the symptoms can remain hidden until the disorder has advanced to an untreatable stage.

If you see any of the following symptoms in your pet, it will be sensible to get the animal checked for any signs of liver cancer developing inside its body. Early treatment is always helpful for curing any disease. In the case of the liver, it is more important because the liver has the best regeneration capacity among all organs in the body. Your keen observation and timely action can save the life of your dog.

  • Abdominal
    • Swollen and distended stomach- This is caused by fluid accumulation due to disturbances
      in circulation and the filtration process .
    • Pain – Pain can be noticed when lifting the stomach or palpating .
  • Gastrointestinal
    • Diarrhea
    • Constipation
    • Vomiting
    • Light colored stool – Feces get their color from bile pigments. An inefficient processing of bile by the liver will not give stools their natural brown color .
  • Urinary
    • Orange urine – This is also associated with jaundice.
    • Increased urination – This is noticed when serum salt balances are disturbed.
  • Neurological
    • Seizures
    • Aimless pacing or circling
    • Head pressing
  • General
    • Jaundice – All pale or white skin or visible tissue turns yellow.
    • Lethargy and depression
    • Loss of appetite
    • Chronic weight loss and anemia – Liver dysfunction inhibits growth.
    • Increased thirst

Rarely, a dog may show signs of bleeding. A malfunctioning liver fails to produce the proteins necessary for coagulation of blood.

Prognosis of liver cancer, including feline cancer , primarily depends upon the stage to which it has advanced and the extent of metastasis if it has spread to other organs. The overall health of the pet is also another determining factor. In most of the cases, it is not a matter of cure but only of improving the quality of life of your pet.