Liver Cancer in Dogs:
Outlook & Treatment Options
What Is Liver Cancer in Dogs?
A diagnosis of canine liver cancer is scary but there is hope and there is help - even if the tumor has grown to a substantial size. A liver tumor can be due to primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma) or metastasis of cancer spread from another part of your dog's body. While less common, primary liver cancer does occur in dogs and the prognosis can be favorable. This is because the liver can regenerate healthy tissue and rebuild itself.
The most effective conventional treatment for liver cancer is the surgical removal of the tumor, depending upon the location of the tumor and the overall health of the dog. Dogs can often survive for years* after the surgical removal (or even partial surgical removal) of a primary liver cancer tumor (hepatocellular carcinoma). Dogs with primary liver cancer can live substantially longer than dogs diagnosed with another form of cancer.
*Reference: Research study: Massive hepatocellular carcinoma in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2004 Oct 15;225(8):1225-30. doi: 10.2460/javma.2004.225.1225.
Julius M Liptak, William S Dernell, Eric Monnet, et.al.
Since the liver can regenerate new tissue, it is a type of cancer that can respond especially well to holistic treatment for liver cancer, such as liver support supplements and diet changes. Whether your dog has surgery or not, supportive care using a dog liver cancer diet and holistic cancer supplements for dogs can improve the quality of life for your pet and, often, the quantity of time as well.
Symptoms and Signs of Liver Cancer in Dogs
Many dogs are asymptomatic in the early stages of the disease. Liver tumors grow slowly, which can give time to allow the tumor to be discovered. Dogs with liver cancer will often show slow deterioration in eating, energy and weight--signs that can often be misinterpreted as old age. An ultrasound or X-ray can identify the tumor (sometimes it can be felt by your veterinarian).
- Abdominal pain
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Mass in the abdomen
"Our 13 year old, 78 pound rescue dog Legend’s symptoms of liver cancer came on very gradually and were hard to diagnose. There were small signs: he stopped sleeping on his back and was being a little picky with his food but not much else. Then, we saw an increase in his water consumption but…it was summer. We tested and retested and found he had some protein in his urine, indicating he might have early kidney disease. But then clumps of fur started falling out and we tested for Canine Cushing's. While we waited for results, Legend began drinking full bowls of water at once, especially after eating. This finally helped us to see that something was causing pressure on the inside, making it hard for him to eat. A few days later, he became very weak, stopped eating and truly looked like he wasn’t going to make it. It was then that a large tumor appeared on an XRAY. Surgery was risky at his age for a big dog, but it was clear he could not go on much longer.
The next day, our veterinarian removed a large 3-pound liver tumor (see photo below), all located in one lobe, which a biopsy determined was massive hepatocellular carcinoma. The day after surgery, Legend started to eat and within a month, he was completely back to his old self. We feed Legend many fresh vegetables such as beets, carrots and leafy greens which are helpful for his liver. We also give him Liver & Gallbladder Support, Power Probiotic, K9 Digestive Enzymes, Power Probiotic, Amazing Omegas, Resveratrol and Purrfect Pet CoQ10. We are blessed to not only have more quality time with our Legend but to have the chance to see our happy rescue dog live out the remainder of his golden years." - The Davis Family, California
Types Of Canine Liver Cancer
The liver plays several very important roles in your dog's body. The organ detoxifies the blood, metabolizes energy, breaks down medications, and secretes bile acids that are essential for digestion. The liver is a large organ that is divided into six separate lobes. Liver cancer in dogs can affect just one or multiple lobes of the liver. Liver masses may be benign, malignant, or the result of metastasis (spread) from cancer spread in another part of your dog's body.
Liver and biliary (bile-related) tumors are divided into four types: hepatocellular tumors, bile duct tumors, neuroendocrine tumors, and primary sarcomas. The most common type of primary liver cancer (cancer that originates from the liver) in dogs is hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and it is defined by the type of tumor that forms:
- Massive - A single large tumor.
- Nodular - Several masses spread throughout the liver.
- Diffuse - Cancer growths seen throughout the entire liver.
- Hepatocellular adenoma - A non-cancerous (benign) tumor. Can be problematic if they rupture (burst) or if they create pressure on other internal organs.
Most dogs with hepatocellular carcinoma have a massive tumor. While the name is not necessarily indicative of the size, some tumors can grow to the size of a football. These are slow-growing tumors and tend to be easier to remove than nodular or diffuse tumors. If an HCC tumor is not surgically removed, it can eventually metastasize to other parts of your dog's body.
Massive hepatocellular tumors can be quite large.
This is the tumor that was removed from Legend.
How Long Can Dogs Live With Liver Cancer?
Has your dog been diagnosed with liver cancer? No pet owner ever wants to hear the word cancer. It can make your heart sink. But, this diagnosis may not be as bad as it sounds. A Canadian study regarding the long-term survival of dogs that undergo surgical treatment of liver tumors concludes that the prognosis associated with a liver tumor lobectomy is good .
A massive hepatocellular carcinoma is a very slow-growing tumor. In many cases, it has only attached to the liver tissue in a single liver lobe. These types of tumors can be resected with excellent margins. Even if a large portion of liver tissue is removed, the liver is the only organ in the body that can regenerate healthy tissue. Adding natural science-based supplements and feeding a liver-friendly diet can provide support for the repair and regeneration of liver tissue. By removing the affected parts of a dog’s liver, there is a chance of a full recovery.
The average survival time for dogs that received surgery for hepatocellular carcinoma is about 3-5 years when complete surgical margins were achieved. There is a very low probability of recurrence . Studies show that even dogs that had surgery with incomplete margins were still expected to survive for an additional 1-2 years . Providing liver support in the form of supplements and the appropriate diet may help to extend the quality and quantity of time you have with your dog.
Surgery can be expensive and in many cases, it may be hard to determine from an x-ray or ultrasound what type of tumor your dog has and how much of the liver is affected. If you think that your dog may be a candidate for surgery, please discuss all possible risks and benefits with your veterinarian.
1. Factors Associated With Long-Term Survival In Dogs Undergoing Liver Lobectomy As Treatment For Liver Tumors. Can Vet J. 2015 Jun;56(6):598-604.
2. Massive Hepatocellular Carcinoma In Dogs: 48 Cases (1992-2002). J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2004 Oct 15;225(8):1225-30. doi: 10.2460/javma.2004.225.1225.
3. Impact Of Surgical Margins On Survival Of 37 Dogs With Massive Hepatocellular Carcinoma. N Z Vet J. 2017 Sep;65(5):227-231. doi: 10.1080/00480169.2017.1319304.
"Denali was rescued from the shelter at 9 years old. We brought her to our house as a foster dog. We knew right away that something was wrong. Denali seemed to have an upset stomach and she didn't want to eat. She cried a lot and acted uncomfortable. We took her to the vet for a senior wellness exam. The vet felt her sides and noticed abnormal swelling. An x-ray showed a large mass that appeared to be on her liver. It was causing pain and pressure. Our only options were to try the surgery or to let her go.
A few days later the vet performed surgery and removed 1/3 of Denali's liver. The massive hepatocellular tumor weighed 4 pounds and was the size of a football! Since she had just come from the shelter, she was in pretty rough shape going into the surgery. The veterinary staff did not expect that Denali would make it. The first week or so after surgery was very tough. It was hard to get her to eat anything with all the medications she was on post-op. Once she started to wean off of the medications and eat better, it was like she was a new dog.
Denali survived that surgery over 8 years ago and I failed as a foster. She's still with us at 17 and going strong. Denali uses Ask Ariel supplements to help support her digestion and liver health." - Laura, California
Holistic Cancer Treatments for Liver Cancer in Dogs
Ask Ariel's holistic supplements for canine liver cancer are recommended by veterinarians nationwide. The supplements have been used successfully to help dogs with canine liver cancer since 2005. Pet Nutritionist Susan Blake Davis offered holistic consultations for pets with cancer at a leading veterinary oncology hospital in Orange County, CA, and at several VCA Hospitals for over 10 years. Her years of experience formulating diet and supplement protocols for dogs with liver cancer are evidenced by the many testimonials on our website. These vitamins can be used in conjunction with the conventional veterinary treatments prescribed by your veterinarian or veterinary oncologist.
Liver Support Kit - Contains three gentle supplements that work together synergistically to improve digestion of fats and protein, relieve pain and digestive discomfort and reduce ascites (swelling of the abdomen). Helps to optimize liver function while detoxifying from conventional veterinary medications and treatments.
Liver & Gallbladder Supplement For Pets - A broad-spectrum product that is effective for pets with liver cancer. It can help detoxify the liver when you are giving your pet medications, especially NSAIDs given for pain and chemotherapy treatments. It supports bile flow and healthy liver function.
Special SAM-e - The single most important supplement to use if your dog needs liver support. Special SAMe supplements metabolic activity, helps maintain glutathione levels (which is known to be protective and detoxifying for the liver) and supports cell regeneration.
OncoPet Cancer Vitamin - A proprietary blend of herbs and medicinal mushrooms that provide powerful immune support. The natural ingredients in OncoPet contain polyphenols, beta-glucans and antioxidants, like D-fraction and L-ergothioneine, that boost the immune system and help regulate your dog's inflammatory response. OncoPet is a comprehensive dog cancer vitamin that also includes herbs to help balance the gut microbiome and reduce nausea and cancer-related fatigue. Combines well with cancer treatments from your veterinarian or veterinary oncologist.
Amazing Omegas - The highest quality, purified fish oil available for pets. It is a powerhouse of omega-3 nutrients (essential fatty acids) that can help your pet fight cancer. Amazing Omegas is a highly purified fish oil made from sardines, anchovies and mackerel, processed with minimal heat to preserve the oil in its natural state. Packed in glass bottles to prevent any chemicals from plastic leaching into the oil. Naturally processed, highly bioavailable with all toxins and heavy metals carefully removed. Compare the nutrient panel of this premium pet fish oil to all other brands and see the difference.
Resveratrol for Dogs -An exceptional antioxidant, backed by research, that can help your dog in so many ways:
- Cancer support and preventative (use with dog breeds that have a higher incidence of cancer, such as bichon frise, German shepherd, Labrador retriever, golden retriever, boxer). Resveratrol for Dogs acts on the process of carcinogenesis by affecting all three phases, tumor initiation, promotion and progression, and suppresses the final steps of carcinogenesis. Resveratrol for Dogs also supports immune function.
- Cardio-protective (excellent for breeds prone to heart issues, such as Cavalier King Charles spaniel, poodle, dachshund). Very important if your pet is undergoing radiation.
- Energizing, promotes longevity - excellent for senior dogs
K9 CurcuMagic - A scientifically proven natural anti-inflammatory pet supplement containing a patented combination of three curcuminoids acting as free radical scavengers. These cancer-fighting nutrients help prevent and fight cancer with a unique bioactive turmeric formula. K9 CurcuMagic absorbs best when digested with fat, especially omega-3 fatty acids (Amazing Omegas), which is why our clients use the two pet cancer supplements together. If your pet is undergoing radiation for any type of dog liver cancer, curcumin can protect the skin undergoing radiation.
Immune Harmony - Premium-quality patented blend of plant sterols and antioxidants. When battling with liver cancer, dogs can benefit greatly from this #1 choice for pets with cancer. Unique patented plant sterol supplement tolerated well by even the smallest pets. This pet vitamin has been successfully used in conjunction with chemotherapy and/or prednisone since 2005. The sterols contained in Immune Harmony have been shown in studies to have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and immunomodulatory properties. No known toxicity has been found. The antioxidants protect the body from free radical damage, along with an essential fatty acid complex that assists in the bioavailability of these health-promoting nutrients. Excellent value: One bottle lasts between two and four months depending on the weight of your pet.
Purrfect Pet CoQ10 is an excellent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Kaneka Ubiquinol™ helps to protect cells, tissues and organs from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Animal studies have found that CoQ10 boosts the immune system and helps the body fight certain infections and types of cancer.
"In 2021, our sweet Murray was suddenly diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma and he had a tumor the size of a honey-dew melon in his abdomen! At age 12, we were told he might not be a candidate for surgery so we were mentally devastated. With an amazing medical team, the tumor (an entire lobe of his liver) and his gallbladder were successfully removed, and Murray is about to have his 13th birthday! In his recovery process, it was hard to determine the root cause of cancer, but tests identified that he has acute Pancreatitis and with his gallbladder also removed, we had to make significant adjustments to his diet! As I was researching his condition, I stumbled into the Ask Ariel website and felt like I found a miracle! Today Murray gets a blend of the K-9 Pancreatitis and Liver Kit as well as Gastro ULC. Overnight, his stool changed dramatically, and he has had more energy than he’d had in the past 2 years! I am so grateful for Ask Ariel’s products and also for the incredible team who always offers thoughtful feedback and support for Murray!! Thank you Ask Ariel!! - Wendi, California
The Best Diet for Dogs With Liver Cancer
Pets with cancer need a special dog liver cancer diet that supports a healthy immune system and reduces inflammation. However, dogs with liver cancer often need reduced amounts of fats and protein to take the workload off the liver. Please be sure to include the food and treats you are feeding your dog, along with any health issues, directly on the order form at checkout. We will include FREE cancer diet tips on the packing slip that comes with your order.
If you have questions, please feel free to email us at Support@AskAriel.com. We will be happy to provide you with additional information about our natural remedies for hepatocellular carcinoma in dogs, but please know that due to veterinary regulations, we cannot provide individualized consultative advice without a physical exam.
"Thrilled to have had ONE additional year...IN January 2*0*1*2, I was informed that my girl, GRETA who is closest to me, sleeps by my side, accompanies me most anywhere, etc had TWO to FOUR weeks to live at the most..I was told she had inoperable liver cancer that had already spread to her lungs and was quite widespread. I was shocked and devastated that my girl that I had taken special care of since she was about 1 yr was now going to leave way before I had hoped...Barely being able to comprehend the bad news, I prepared for the last few weeks with her. BUT, my FIRST phone call was to Susan Davis (animal nutritionist) who recommended the necessary supplements to wage WAR and give it a good fight. I listened to everything Susan told me to use and feed her...AND NOW we have surpassed the ONE YEAR mark!!! Greta has slipped down hill as of late and I realize the time is near but I AM COMPELLED to inform and shout from the mountaintops, NEVER give up and PLEASE Try holistic/homeopathic remedies!" - Rhonda, California
Products Used: Curcumin For Pets, Reseveratrol for Dogs , Amazing Omegas, Special SAMe, Liver & Gallbladder Support, LypoZyme, Power Probiotic
"In April 2008, our 10-year-old dog, Teddy, a Chow Chow rescue, was diagnosed with a liver tumor. Our vet did not know if it was cancer at the time. As Teddy’s tumor grew, he was able to be tested, and cancer was confirmed. We were told he was too old for conventional treatment and, as his cancer progressed, to simply keep him comfortable. The vet had no hope for his recovery from canine liver cancer.
Our family decided to treat Teddy’s liver cancer condition with a holistic approach. We found Susan Davis through her website. We contacted Ask Ariel and the surprising results began. Within just two weeks following Ask Ariel's diet plan and supplements, we saw a marked difference. His overall health continued to improve.
We chose to have Teddy living with canine cancer instead of dying with cancer. He lost his brave battle on January 8, 2010. Teddy’s vet felt it was a miracle that he survived for so long. Our family knows that it was a miracle, thanks to Susan and Ask Ariel. Ask Ariel made it possible for us to have extended time with our wonderful Teddy.
Susan and her team are professional, well-informed, caring, and most responsive. We highly recommend AskAriel.com particularly when pets are young, to start them off on a healthy, all-natural diet and supplement regimen." - The Nardoni Family, California