The liver is a cardinal part of the bodily system, but it sometimes doesn't work the way we want it to. In this article, we'll discuss Liver Cancer in dogs.

The liver helps in filtration, detoxification, protein synthesis, digestion, and metabolism.

Although can regenerate itself and provide enzymes that help regulate system function, the liver may also experience a malfunction that can be troubling.

The liver is composed of different cells such as connective tissue, neuroendocrine cells, and bile duct cells.

Irregularly, liver cells rapidly multiply and lump together creating chemical imbalance and interference in the function of the liver and other functions.

This will become a Liver tumor. This condition may have a lower occurrence in terms of cancers in dogs but it may exist.

Sick Dog with Vet

Liver Cancer in Dogs: What is Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC)?

Hepatocellular Carcinoma is the most common cause of liver cancer in dogs. Other liver cancer may be mesenchymal tumors, neuroendocrine tumors, and bile duct carcinoma.

Hepatocellular Tumors may include adenomas, hepatomas, and carcinomas. Tumors in the liver may begin from the hepatocytes of the biliary epithelium.

HCC is one of the most common types of primary liver cancer in dogs. Hepatocellular leakage enzymes may increase when liver metastasis occurs, this can help detection in damage to the liver.


  • Massive – large solitary mass that is confined to a single liver lobe
  • Nodular – multifocal and involve several liver lobes
  • Diffuse – coalescing nodules in all liver lobes or diffuse effacement of the hepatic parenchyma, the final spectrum of neoplastic disease

Hepatocellular Adenoma is a type of solid benign tumor in the liver. It has a low rate to turn cancerous. So, it may not be cancerous but it still may obstruct function from its size. 

Studies have found that although Hepatocellular Tumors often penetrate hepatic egress and channels and later in main venous channels. There were instances where there is widespread metastasis. 


HCC may be in different forms and symptoms may also vary with the size. Dogs who have liver tumors often do not show any symptoms until the tumor is huge enough to obstruct the function of the organ. 

Symptoms of HCC often depend on its location, organs affiliated, size and span. HCC is found in the liver. Here are some clinical symptoms the dog may have:

  • Diarrhea – Blood Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Excessive Thirst
  • Increased Urination
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Jaundice
  • Ulcers
  • Hepatic Encephalopathy

Diagnostics detection that may relate to Hepatocellular Carcinoma:

  • Mass
  • Arterial Hypervascularization
  • Liver Enzyme Leakage
  • Anemia
  • Cholestasis

Owners should carefully observe their dogs to see if symptoms are present with their dog. Since Hepatocellular Carcinoma rarely shows early symptoms, owners should address these signs with their veterinarian to undergo diagnosis. 

Hepatocellular Carcinoma may grow in large mass/es or diffuse state. This tumor can obstruct the function of the liver.

This can worsen the dog’s condition making it difficult to respond to treatment and recovery. Treatment procedure and prognosis may depend on its status and if it has metastasized or not.

Sick Dog with Vet

Causes of Liver Cancer in Dogs

Hepatocellular Carcinoma causes remain unknown. Researchers and doctors are still observing cases to determine the definite causes.

From genetically inherited cancers, chemically unbalanced hormones, a mutation in genes, prolonged exposure to radiation, and other underlying diseases. 

Studies also found that dogs diagnosed with Hepatocellular Carcinoma were also diagnosed with additional tumors. Although tumors that were found were often in the endocrine region and were benign.

Often found in Golden Retriever breeds, German Sheperd, Poodle, Scottish Terriers, and Rottweilers. Dog breeds like Golden Retriever, who is prone to lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma, are found to be prone to Hepatocellular Carcinoma.

Studies that observed dogs with Hepatocellular Carcinoma noticed more male candidates than female ones. 

Diagnosis of Carcinoid Cancer in Dogs

Dogs that are suspected of Hepatocellular Carcinoma may undergo diagnostics that will determine their condition and the status of the tumor.

Differentiating hepatic benign tumors, malignant tumors, and hyperplasia are often difficult if without histologic examination. Unfortunately, Liver Cancer in Dogs is often misdiagnosed with another type of cancer. 

The following may be suggested by the veterinarian to properly determine the disease:

  • Physical Exam
  • Urine Sample Test
  • Radiographs ( X-ray and Ultrasound)
  • Computed Tomography
  • MRI
  • Needle Aspiration
  • Biopsy

Physical exams are often first done by veterinarians, they will recommend further testing if clinical signs may align or are susceptible. Diagnostics such as Ultrasound may help determine the status of the tumor whether it’s massive, diffuse, or nodular.

Needle aspiration and biopsy are methods to further check the histology of the tumor. This can help determine if the tumor is malignant or benign. 

Prognosis is often determined through Histology and Morphology.

On the other hand, the prognosis for massive hepatocellular carcinoma and benign tumors often shows a good prognosis. If hepatectomy surgery is done, the tumor is often nonaggressive and indolent and may not regrow again. 

Treatment of Carcinoid Cancer in Dogs

After Veterinarians examined the dog for Hepatocellular Carcinoma or similar Liver Cancers, they will more likely recommend combinations of treatments to improve the dog’s health and prevent further regrowth and metastasizing.

The following can be one of the treatments the veterinarian may suggest:


Firstly, surgery can be performed with massive Hepatocellular Carcinoma, since the area is usually isolated large mass may be removed from the tumor and the surrounding area to assure completely removing the carcinoma. 

Sadly diffuse and nodular Hepatocellular Carcinomas are not recommended for surgery.

Performing the Liver Lobectomy may include techniques such as bipolar vessel sealant devices, surgical stapling, finger fracture, mass ligation, and mattress suture. Vets will perform the best procedure possible, depending on the condition of the dog. 


Secondly, Chemotherapy is an option to control the growth of the tumor in the surrounding organs where the tumor has grown. This can help slow down malignant tumors, that have been removed, to regrow.

Radiation Therapy

Thirdly, Radiation Therapy is used for local tumors that have not undergone metastasis. This also helps relieve pain in dogs with cancer. Radiation Therapy can be found almost in veterinarian hospitals only.


Lastly, Immunotherapy includes using monoclonal antibodies, interferon, and other stimulants that can help the immune system to respond better in the recovery of the dog. 

It’s best to follow through with the treatment provided by the veterinarian to see efficient and desirable improvement of the dog’s condition.

Treatment and recovery are possible for dogs that are diagnosed with Hepatocellular Carcinoma. Dogs that have their tumors completely surgically removed may have a good to great prognosis and may prolong their life as well.

Furthermore, it’s best to have the dog regularly tested and checked after treatment and recovery as there may be a chance Hepatocellular Carcinoma may regrow or other tumors may develop. 

Dog Rehabilitation

Frequently Asked Questions about Liver Cancer in Dogs

Is liver cancer pain in dogs?

Unfortunately, liver cancer in dogs is painful. Masses in the liver can obstruct function and affect other organs' functions as well. The chemical imbalance in the body can cause symptoms such as lethargy, inappetent, diarrhea, and many more. 

How long can dogs live after being diagnosed with liver cancer?

It depends on the diagnosis and treatment. Often dogs who have been diagnosed with liver cancer and have it removed may live normally after treatment but regular checkup and follow-up treatment, if needed, is to be followed.

Sadly, some liver cancer does not go through surgery due to their tumor type. It may be helped with chemotherapy in delaying the growth and metastasizing further.

How fast does a liver tumor grow?

It depends, but keep in mind that liver cancer can be a silent killer in dogs. This is because symptoms or clinical signs are not always visible.

Some tumors may grow slowly over years and some may grow rapidly in weeks.

Check your dog for weight loss, vomiting, loss of appetite, pale gums, and other symptoms that were listed above.

Most Common Health Conditions in Dogs To Look Out For: Cancer

Liver Cancer in Dogs Summary

Liver Cancer in dogs may be lower in cases of metastasizing but it is not possible. Its symptoms are often late to appear so owners should address them immediately with their veterinarian.

Hepatocellular Carcinoma prognoses may also depend on treatment and recovery regarding the dog’s response to it as well. Owners should follow the treatment, medication, and precautions the veterinarians prescribed.

Sadly, there are cases of Hepatocellular Cancer in dogs that have been diagnosed late or in a certain type. In this stage, treatment may be infeasible.

Veterinarians may help owners discern options for treatment to prolong life or euthanization to cease the agony the dog is experiencing. 

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Toby loves spending time with his dog and two cats. They are the best stress reliever and affectionate pets, especially his Belgian Malinois, Shawie. Shawie's favorite activity is running or jogging. But their go-to spot is to chill and swim around a nearby river.