The liver is the largest organ in the dog’s body, a reflection of its importance in various bodily functions. It is involved in practically all the biochemical processes of the body involved in growth, supply of energy and nutrients, detoxification and combating disease. Liver cells go through myriads of complex biochemical processes to be able to perform these functions.
As the liver is involved in a large number of processes, it is obvious that it would also be exposed to numerous diseases, including liver cancer. In dogs, as in humans, the liver is the primary target of almost all metastatic cancers.
Primary liver cancer in dogs, cancer that originates in the liver, is less common than secondary liver cancer. The liver is supplied blood through two blood vessels – the portal vein and the hepatic artery. Cancer that metastasizes tends to travel to the liver through the blood stream or the lymphatic system, and the fact that the liver is supplied blood through two blood vessels instead of one make it all the more vulnerable. Primary liver cancer can also metastasize to other parts of the body, though this is a rare phenomenon.
In the early stages of the disease, the symptoms are vague and subtle. The symptoms themselves are so mild and generic that they can be associated to other mild to moderate conditions. Some symptoms that are normally presented by liver cancer include loss of appetite and weight, excessive urination and thirst, lack of energy, light-colored stool and bleeding. Appetite loss and the accompanying lack of nutrients usually lead to anemia. Liver disease and anemia often lead to jaundice and symptoms like pale-colored urine and yellowing of the whites of eyes.
Considering the responsibilities that the liver has, it is allowed great functional capacity. In fact, the liver can continue to function for a long period of time, despite being affected by cancer. This, along with the subtlety of symptoms in the early stage of cancer, translates into the late discovery of liver cancer in most cases.
Malignant tumors have a poorer prognosis, because these are aggressive disease processes. Liver cancer is a terminal condition and there is very little that you can do to save the life of your dog. The disease itself and the medication associated with cancer treatment tend to seriously compromise the ability of the immune system, leading to further complications.
Treatment with chemotherapy is often equated with giving poison to the animal, as it is beset with side effects as serious as the disease itself. The choice is often between the number of years that your pet will live versus the quality of life that he lives. Antioxidant supplementation, diet, herbal medicines and homeopathic cancer treatment for dogs can play an important role in providing support and give a good quality of life to your dog.