Liver cancer in dogs is normally diagnosed quite some time after the disease has taken hold and reached dangerous levels. Diagnosing canine liver cancer calls for a comprehensive plan of attack.
One of the basic characteristics of the liver is its functional reserve power to continue performing despite being affected by liver disease.
The liver is closely related with other organs in the body and exhibits symptoms that mimic diseases of these organs. Furthermore, symptoms of liver disease in dogs are subtle and change as the disease advances.
Primary liver cancer in dogs is rarer than secondary cancer that develops from elsewhere in the body. Liver has a dual blood supply - one through the portal vein and the other through the hepatic artery.
While the liver requires this extra supply to execute its multiple procedures, it also means that it is open to a greater risk from cancer cells that can reach it in the blood stream from remote organs.
Liver cancer in dogs can happen at any age. In younger dogs and puppies there is a greater possibility of liver shunt, toxicity and viral diseases. In older dogs, inflammation and cancer is more probable than other conditions.
Even though liver cancer does not show specific symptoms, severity of the symptoms below demands additional investigation to eliminate prevalence of malignancy:
* The most common symptom loss of appetite. Anorexia frequently contributes to a weight loss and improper metabolism of fats, carbohydrates and proteins further complicates an already complex situation. Poor appetite also causes anemia. Anemia can also be caused by disease in liver cells.
* Increase in urination and excessive thirst is commonly associated with other diseases like diabetes and kidney diseases but is one of the important indications of prevalence of liver cancer in dogs.
* Light colored feces can be an indication of liver cancer as a tumor prevents the secretion of normal bilary pigments into the intestines.
* Clotting of the blood is one of the important functions of the liver. Liver cancer in dogs can suppress this function and cause bleeding problems.
* If the tumor is large enough, it can be found by probing the region from outside. A distended stomach and abdominal pain can also suggest liver cancer.
* In serious conditions, liver cancer leads to jaundice. If the mucous membranes are yellowish or the dog is passing orange colored urine, it is a sure signal of jaundice and should be taken to the vets for an examination.
The liver is essential for breaking down toxins. If the liver has primary or secondary cancer, the malignancy curtails its detoxification operations letting out toxicity into the blood stream.
When this toxicity arrives at the brain it may cause behavioral changes related to the nervous system, such as seizures, circling and tilting of the head. Look out for these symptoms particularly after meals.
It may be difficult, but an early detection of liver cancer in dogs means that half the struggle is won. The liver cells can restore themselves to a large degree if they are supplied with a high quality supportive diet.
Increasing the survival time might not be possible but you can at least provide comfort and a good quality of life to your dog.