liver tumors in dogs

difference between benign and malignant (cancer) liver tumors in dogs

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Liver tumors are common in older dogs. The symptoms are difficult to appear on the table, and in malignant cases, it is not uncommon to find it after it has become severe. Now we will explain the difference between benign and hepatocellular carcinoma, types such as hepatocellular carcinoma, and treatment methods such as surgery and diet.

What are liver tumors in dogs?

What are liver tumors in dogs
What are liver tumors in dogs

A tumor is a mass of self-proliferating cells in the body. There are benign and malignant tumors, and malignant tumors continue to grow and metastasis and invasion can be seen. Malignant tumors are commonly called “cancers”.

The most common liver tumors in dogs are “hepatocellular carcinoma” and “cholangiocarcinoma.” Although hepatocellular carcinoma is malignant, it rarely metastasizes and has a good prognosis if treated early. Tumors are divided into “primary”, in which the cells themselves become cancerous, and “metastatic,” in which cancer that has formed in other parts of the body metastasizes. Liver tumors are often metastatic. The main types of liver tumors are summarized in the table below.

* Infiltration: Cancer cells destroy the surrounding tissue and spread like water seeping in.


benign hepatocellular adenoma
Intrahepatic bile duct adenoma
liver hemangioma
liver leiomyoma
malignant hepatocellular carcinoma
bile duct cancer
Liver angiosarcoma
liver leiomyosarcoma
liver fibrosarcoma
Liver carcinoid tumor (neuroendocrine tumor)

Breeds with high prevalence of liver tumors

The incidence of liver tumors increases with age, and the incidence tends to increase as dogs live longer. It can occur in any dog ​​regardless of breed, age or sex.

Symptoms of Liver Tumors in Dogs

Symptoms of Liver Tumors in Dogs
Symptoms of Liver Tumors in Dogs

The liver is often referred to as the “silent organ,” and the symptoms often go unnoticed by the owner. Since there are no symptoms specific to liver tumors, many of them are found incidentally during physical examinations or tests for other diseases, or they are found to be severe.

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • jaundice
  • Anorexia
  • don’t want to go for a walk
  • Weight loss
  • Polydipsia and polyuria
  • Pale gums and tongue (cyanosis)
  • limp

Among these, it can be said that the urgency is particularly high if “the gums and tongue are pale” and “weakness”. Please go to the animal hospital without waiting.

Symptoms of Liver Tumors
Symptoms of Liver Tumors

Even if changes in behavior are difficult to discern, changes in body weight are displayed numerically, which is useful for early detection of illness. We recommend that you measure your weight regularly at home as well as when you go to the hospital.

Causes of Liver Tumors in Dogs

It is not clear what causes liver tumors, but genetic predisposition and environmental factors may play a role. Environmental factors include infectious diseases, ingestion of carcinogenic substances (diet, tobacco smoke, air pollution, drugs, etc.), exposure to ultraviolet light, and abnormal immune function.

Read Also: How to weigh a dog? Tips for weighing your dog

Treatment for liver tumors in dogs

Treatment for liver tumors
Treatment for liver tumors

Most liver tumors are discovered when they become severe, or are suspected from abnormalities in liver enzymes (ALP) or blood sugar levels during blood tests such as health checkups. If the tumor ruptures, the red blood cell count drops, resulting in anemia. If there is a suspicion of a liver tumor, diagnostic imaging using X-rays (X-rays) or ultrasound (echo) will be performed, and cytological examinations will be performed to collect cells and estimate whether the tumor is benign or malignant.

Image diagnosis confirms whether what is made in the liver is “massive” or “multifocal” (diffuse). If it is lumpy, it is often “hepatocellular carcinoma” or “nodular hyperplasia” (a benign mass that looks like a tumor due to enlarged liver cells). However, it is difficult to distinguish between the two by cytological examination, and a definitive diagnosis can be made by removing the tumor and performing a biopsy to observe the tissue under a microscope.

If it is not massive but multiple, it is difficult to remove it by surgery, and it is basically a palliative care with symptomatic treatment. In some cases, such as when the tumor (mass) is formed near the vena cava, even if it is a mass, the risk is high and surgery is not indicated. Therefore, a CT scan is performed in advance to confirm the location, number, and presence or absence of metastasis.

liver tumor surgery cost

Liver tumors are difficult to operate depending on where they are formed, and in some cases your family hospital cannot handle them. In that case, a detailed examination will be performed at a hospital that specializes in oncology, and the condition of the tumor will be determined. The cost of surgery varies greatly depending on the hospital and the nature of the surgery, but you can expect it to be around $3600.

Surgery for elderly dogs

Liver tumors are common in older dogs, and many owners are hesitant to consider surgery or the risks of anesthesia. There is a choice not to perform surgery if it is expected that the life expectancy will be reached before it becomes severe, but the risk of age increases as much as the time you hesitate. I would advise you to consult with your veterinarian before making a decision.

Diet for liver tumors in dogs

Diet for liver tumors in dogs
Diet for liver tumors in dogs

If the liver tumor is “cancer”, “carbohydrate restriction” will be performed. As cancer progresses, malnutrition called “cachexia” occurs, so omega-3 fatty acid intake is recommended. If the tumor causes deterioration of liver function, it is necessary to “restrict salt intake” to suppress edema and ascites, and “change to a low-protein diet” to suppress ammonia production to avoid hepatic encephalopathy.

Ammonia is detoxified not only in the liver but also in the muscles, so dogs with impaired liver function will increase the demand for BCAA, which is a combination of three amino acids: valine, leucine, and isoleucine. BCAAs are essential amino acids that dogs cannot synthesize on their own, so taking them from supplements may prevent hepatic encephalopathy and nutritional deficiencies.

If there is no deterioration of liver function other than cancer, a normal diet is fine. Please feed them fresh, nutritious meals.


  • Liver tumors are common in older dogs
  • Prognosis varies depending on whether malignant is lumpy or multifocal
  • The prognosis is good if the mass can be removed surgically.

Liver tumors are common in older dogs and are becoming more common as dogs get older. Hepatocellular carcinoma, which is often malignant, progresses slowly and is difficult to detect until it becomes severe. Treatment varies depending on the type, so it is important to detect it early and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

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