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Liver Tumour with Dogs: Symptoms, Types and Treatment Possibilities

07.10.2022 - Reading time: 5 minutes

lebertumor bei HUnden

As with humans, cancer is becoming an increasingly more diagnosed illness among dogs and other animals. This is because medicine now has many more ways to recognise cancer, for example through blood work, ultrasound, x-ray, or tissue samples.


While dog owners can feel some types of tumour by hand, tumours of the organs like the liver can only be recognised by the careful observation of specific symptoms.

Liver tumours in dogs and other tumours of the inner organs are often only recognised in an advanced stage, as the initial symptoms of the disease tend to be non-specific. If your dog is suffering from diarrhoea or vomiting, or has no appetite, you as a pet owner will probably not think of cancer immediately. However, if such symptoms have been present for longer it can point to a serious illness. Do not hesitate, and preferably go once too often to the vet with your four legged friend. Generally it is true that cancer in dogs has better chances of being healed the earlier it is recognised.

What symptoms are caused by liver tumours in dogs?

If a dog is sick with a liver tumour, this is expressed in the early stages through signs like nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, increased drinking or increased urination. These symptoms can also be present in other, less harmful illnesses but are certainly a reason to visit your vet and have your dog checked thoroughly.

If the illness is at a more advanced stage, a dog with a liver tumour will show clearer symptoms that indicate a liver disease: a yellowish discoloration of the mucous membranes, stomach cramps and liquid in the abdominal cavity. During an ultrasound examination, the vet can then precisely diagnose the tumour(s). Altered blood values such as a higher number of liver enzymes can also provide clues. The results of a tissue sample show whether the tumour is malignant or benign.

What types of tumours can dogs get?

Generally, you differentiate between primary and secondary tumours. A primary tumour is a change in tissue, originating in the liver or bile. A secondary tumour is a metastasis of a cancer that has affected another organ and whose degenerated cells have migrated, for example, to the liver via the blood. The liver is also frequently affected in leukaemia such as malignant lymphoma.

Primary tumours are found significantly less often in the liver than secondary tumours. Primary tumours affecting a single lobe of the liver are most common in dogs, and, depending on location, can be removed well surgically. If a dog is ill with a secondary tumour the vet will first try localise the primary tumour and treat it.

What should I do of my dog is suffering from a liver tumour?

If the vet suspects a tumour in your pet’s liver, you
should try to remain calm and wait for all the required examinations. The vet you trust will explain exactly where the tumour is located and whether it is a primary tumour or metastatic. In conclusion they will explain the possible treatment methods.

Benign tumours of the liver, that only grow slowly, do not have to be removed urgently. Under the correct circumstances, your dog can live with it unimpaired for several more years. Primary tumours are generally removed surgically in otherwise healthy, young animals. If there are metastases from cancer in another organ, the original disease is treated if possible.

What to do if an operation is not possible for your dog?

In such cases the vet or the veterinary clinic can treat cancer with radiation or chemotherapy. Since cancer therapy for dogs is more concerned about maintaining a high quality of life for a longer period of time than healing completely, the side-effects of these therapies are less pronounced than with humans.

If you adapt the nutrition of your dog with a liver tumour, and follow a liver diet, you will be providing optimum support for the medical measures prescribed. At Maxi Zoo you will find a good selection of wet feed and dry feed for dogs with a liver disease: these diet feeds are conceived to relieve the liver of the dog so that it can recover better.

Liver tumour in dogs: think about your animal first

As bad as the diagnosis of cancer is concerning your beloved pet: depending on the severity of the disease there are many options to treat your dog so that he can still have a long life with a good life quality, or even be healed.

When choosing treatment such as an operation or chemotherapy you should always first think of the animal’s well-being. For an older dog carefully consider whether an operation or radiation therapy is appropriate or will mean to much stress for the animal.

Depending on the prognosis the correct decision could also be to adjust the animal’s diet, and when needed, provide medication to alleviate the symptoms. Then make the rest of his time with you as lovely as possible. This is worth considering above all if you are possibly only extending the life of your beloved pet with a treatment for a few months.


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