What is Hepatic Neoplasia (Liver Tumors)?
Hepatic neoplasia is the term to describe liver tumors in dogs. There are several different types of tumors, either malignant or benign that can be found in the liver. Some tumors within the liver are more common than others, as some can be quite rare.
The liver is located within the front of the abdomen, and the dog’s liver contains six separate sections. The sections on the left side are large, as they accompany almost half of the liver’s size and weight. The middle area houses the gallbladder. The liver is a very important and vital organ, as it takes blood in and out of the liver by blood vessels. This organ is responsible for removing toxins and harmful bacteria from the bloodstream, helps with blood clotting, gets rid of the old red blood cells, and creates fat-digesting bile.
Liver tumors can occur silently in dogs, and many tumors are not diagnosed until the dog begins to have symptoms, or is being tested for another illness. Some types of liver tumors may grow very slowly, such as the hepatocellular carcinoma.
Hepatic Neoplasia, or liver tumors, in dogs is a disorder used to describe the different types of tumors that can occur in the liver. These liver tumors can be either benign or malignant.
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Symptoms of Hepatic Neoplasia (Liver Tumors) in Dogs
The symptoms of hepatic neoplasia are similar to symptoms of other diseases, and the ultrasound is the most common mode of diagnostic tools. Symptoms of liver tumors in dogs include:
- Weight loss over time
- Pale gums
- Loss of appetite
There are various types of liver tumors in dogs, and each of them has their own causes and can be either benign or malignant. Different types of hepatic neoplasia in dogs include:
- Myelolipomas (less common)
- GI tumors
- Leiomyosarcomas (less common)
Causes of Hepatic Neoplasia (Liver Tumors) in Dogs
Liver tumors, or hepatic neoplasia, in dogs can occur commonly in elderly dogs. There are several different causes of these types of tumors, which can come from different origins. Causes may include:
- May arise from a primary tumor in the liver
- May arise from the blood cells of the liver (hemolymphatic cancer)
- Can be developed within the lymphoid tissue of the organ (hemolymphatic cancer)
- May spread to the organ from other areas of the body (metastatic cancer)
Diagnosis of Hepatic Neoplasia (Liver Tumors) in Dogs
If your dog is showing any symptoms of liver tumors in dogs, or if he is undergoing testing for another illness, your veterinarian may come to a diagnosis of hepatic neoplasia. If you are seeing symptoms that concern you, your veterinarian will begin by taking blood work, urinalysis, and biochemistry profile. The biochemistry profile will help determine the function of your dog’s organs, namely the liver, and the blood work will test for any elevated enzymes within the liver. The blood work also will show any obstruction in the bile duct. The veterinarian will also ask you about his symptoms and when you began noticing them. He will look at his health history as well.
Your veterinarian may choose to do and ultrasound of the liver and the abdomen area. An ultrasound is an imaging technique that is commonly used to diagnose liver tumors. The veterinarian may also choose to do a chest x-ray to check for any cancer in the area, and any other imaging techniques he feels are necessary. Other imaging techniques may be a computed tomography scan (CT scan) or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
If any tumors are present, the veterinarian may choose to further test them by doing an aspiration of the tumors, or a biopsy. He will then proceed to a method of treatment, depending on the type of tumor or tumors within your dog’s liver.
Treatment of Hepatic Neoplasia (Liver Tumors) in Dogs
Treatment of the liver tumor in your dog will be dependent upon the type of tumor that is affecting your companion. Treatment methods may include:
If the liver tumors have not spread to another organ, surgery may be performed. Your veterinarian may recommend you to a board-certified veterinary surgeon for this procedure. The type of surgery will be exclusive to your dog, as his tumor will have its own position and size within the liver.
If your dog’s tumor is malignant, then chemotherapy will be the next mode of treatment. This will be determined by the biopsy report once the tumor is removed.
IV fluids will be given immediately after surgery in order to restore hydration, keep your dog stable, and restore electrolytes. Within the IV, medication may be administered, such as antibiotics, in order to prevent any infection. Medication to control the pain may also be administered at the same time.
Your dog will continue to be monitored by the veterinary team once surgery is complete. He may remain in the animal hospital or intensive care for quite some time until he shows signs of significant recovery. His vital signs will be taken regularly and any additional testing will be performed as well. Blood work will also be conducted to be sure his organs are functioning properly. Other tests may be performed to check for internal bleeding.
Recovery of Hepatic Neoplasia (Liver Tumors) in Dogs
Once your dog has recovered from surgery and is able to go home, your veterinarian will give you specific instructions on how to care for him. More than likely, you will have antibiotics and pain medications to give him on a regular basis. The veterinarian may also recommend a special diet for your dog, either in prescription or home-cooked form.
In order for your dog to heal properly, he will be required to wear an Elizabethan collar (or cone) in order to prevent him from licking or chewing at his incisions. It is important that he wears this collar at all times.
Careful monitoring by you or someone close to you during the day and night will be necessary. It will be important to avoid any type of play or activity; rest will need to be encouraged. Approximately 10 days after surgery, the veterinarian will want to see him again for a follow-up visit. During this visit, the veterinarian will give you any results from the biopsy report and will explain to you any further treatment, if necessary.
In terms of prognosis, liver tumors that have been removed will help your dog live a healthy life. This depends on the type of tumor that your dog had; if your dog’s tumor is malignant, then chemotherapy will need to be performed. The prognosis may be guarded in this case, depending on if the cancer has spread or will spread in the future. If the cancer has spread, or metastasized, then the prognosis may be poor. Every dog is unique, and many do recover from malignant liver tumors after successful surgery and chemotherapy.