Feline Liver Cancer

Written by caryn kelly
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Feline Liver Cancer
A cat with liver cancer likely gets it from his environment. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

The feline liver is an important organ that performs over a thousand necessary tasks that can't be accomplished by any other organ in the body. It metabolises protein, fat and carbohydrates, stores vitamins and minerals, and rids the body of waste through proper digestion. When a cat suffers from liver cancer, his life may be short-lived. Many cats go through life exposed to environmental hazards that are being metabolised by their livers, but the signs and symptoms of liver cancer don't usually show up until it's too advanced to treat, and diagnosis and treatment is tenuous at best.

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Types

There are three types of feline liver cancers: primary tumours that grow directly in the liver; hemolymphatic cancer that spreads from the blood or lymph tissue; and metastatic cancer that spreads to the liver from other malignant parts of the body. Primary tumours are very rare in cats and occur only in cats 10 years or older. Metastatic---or lymphoma---liver tumours are the most common.

Symptoms

A cat with liver cancer will have fitful bouts of vomiting and diarrhoea, have no appetite, drink a lot of water, urinate more often and may have trouble breathing. He'll be depressed and lethargic and lose weight rapidly. His abdomen may also be swollen or painful. His faeces may appear pale grey in colour, his urine will be orange and his skin will look jaundiced, all symptoms of a liver that isn't processing bile properly.

Diagnosis

A veterinarian will take an exhaustive medical history and perform a physical exam of a cat suspected of having liver cancer. Blood tests are done to look at blood count and liver enzymes. Chest and abdominal X-rays and ultrasounds are taken to identify tumours or inflammation, and a biopsy is done---surgically or with a fine needle---to determine if the liver tumour is cancerous. The abdomen is massaged to see if there's any swelling or accumulated fluid.

Treatment

The best option for feline liver cancer tumours is to remove them surgically, so long as they're not directly attached to the liver. Some cats may be able to live long lives if their liver tumours are successfully removed. Chemotherapy is also an option for some feline liver tumours, but there are side effects, such as diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. A cat undergoing chemo may also develop infections or other diseases because of low blood cell count affecting the bone marrow. Cats may also be given pain medications and require frequent monitoring.

Prevention

Cats should not be allowed to eat food that is spoiled or that contains additives, dyes and byproducts. Only a high-quality canned cat food should be given to ensure optimal health. Dry food can be fed but should be kept out of sunlight to avoid loss of valuable nutrients. Cats must also be kept away from toxic substances, such as household cleaners and pesticides, as accidental ingestion could lead to liver cancer. Cats should not be allowed to chew on certain plants and flowers that are poisonous to them.

Feline Liver Cancer
Keep your feline away from household cleaners. (Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

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