End stage liver cancer in dogs

Updated November 21, 2016

End stage liver cancer is characterised by the liver's inability to operate normally and perform its usual functions. This cancer is treated by removing the cause of the cancer and treating for liver failure. There are specific nutritional needs that should be followed.


There are many causes for end stage liver cancer, including viral, bacterial and fungal infections. Diseases in other organs, trauma, poisons and toxins can cause the liver to become inflamed and result in end stage liver cancer. It can also come about from a change in blood flow resulting from heart failure or congenital abnormalities.


Signs of liver cancer include loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, an increased consumption of water and urination, recurring upset stomach, a swollen belly, chronic weight loss, bowel movements that are pale grey in colour, orange urine, jaundice, neurological signs or behavioural changes, bleeding problems and abdominal pain.


Your vet can do a number of tests to determine whether your dog has end stage liver cancer. Your vet will determine if there is fluid in the abdominal area and check for a yellowish discolouration in your dog's skin and gums. He will also perform blood tests as well as tests to determine the ability of the liver to metabolise. Performing an ultrasound and X-rays are also standard practice. A liver biopsy, the final test performed, will confirm whether your pet has end stage liver cancer.


One method of treatment is supportive therapy, ensuring that your pet gets plenty of rest and is confined to improve blood flow to the liver, decrease the dog's workload and decrease the amount of pain. Another approach to treatment is fluid therapy, which corrects fluid, electrolyte, blood sugar and metabolic problems. Your vet may also prescribe antibiotics.


One of the most important things you can do to help your dog after a diagnosis of end stage liver cancer is to follow a strict diet, according to Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc. The goal of this approach is to reduce the amount of work for the liver by providing high quality, yet low levels of protein, reduced amounts of sodium, carbohydrates that are easy for your pet to digest and high-quality fats.

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