Liver Cancer in Cats

picture of a cat on the floor

Like many other animal species, cats are more and more predisposed to getting cancer, especially as they become older. While hepatic neoplasms are less common in cats than they are in dogs, they can still happen.

In today’s article, we’re looking at everything you should know about liver cancer in cats — from its exact types and the symptoms it causes to how it is diagnosed and treated.

Different types of hepatic tumors in cats

Primary liver cancer in this species is not very common and it tends to affect about 2% of all individuals.

However, hepatic neoplasia can appear as a result of tumors metastasizing from other organs, whether located in the abdominal cavity or outside of it (such as a mammary tumor).

The number of cats that develop metastasis in other organs from a primary liver tumor is low. More often than not, primary liver tumors affect the organ itself, the bile duct, the connective tissue, or the blood vessels inside the liver.

Discovering the exact location and type of hepatic cancer that the cat has are two goals of a correct diagnosis since only if these are discerned can the veterinarian recommend the appropriate therapy.

It is worth noting that this species usually develops less aggressive hepatic tumors, which means that they also have a better chance of survival.

What symptoms does liver cancer cause?

The symptoms can vary from one animal to the next depending on a number of factors, such as their general health status, their age, the exact type of tumor they’ve developed in their liver, and others.

The biggest problem when it comes to liver cancer discovery in both cats and other species is that it doesn’t cause specific symptoms. Here are several examples:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive thirst and increased urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • An enlarged abdomen
  • Jaundice or changes in gum color – pale gums
  • Weakness, disorientation, or seizures

Some cats can live with a hepatic tumor for a long time and exhibit recurring symptoms that subside and then reappear without an apparent explanation.

Also, geriatric patients are more likely to be sick on occasion if they have various chronic health problems, which might not necessarily alarm their pet owners — so the cats can end up at the vet clinic later than normal, which can make treatment more difficult.

What causes hepatic cancer in cats?

Liver tumors do not have a specific cause. However, many vets agree that a combination of factors or genetic predisposition makes some cats more likely to develop this form than others.

Continuous exposure to toxic substances, such as harsh cleaning supplies, can also be a factor. Chronic inflammation of the liver might be another and there are also oncogenic viruses that could be involved in some cases. Unfortunately, this also means that preventing cat liver cancer is impossible — besides the cleaning substances you use.

How is liver cancer diagnosed?

Diagnosing cancer in pets has come a very long way in the past several decades, which means that these days, there are many tests that veterinarians can perform to find out what part of the liver has been affected, what type of tumor a cat has, and if it’s benign or malignant.

A complete blood count and biochemistry are going to be the first tests that the vet will recommend, but if a mass is discovered, imaging methods such as an ultrasound, an X-ray, or MRI or CT can also be considered.

A biopsy can reveal the specific type of tumor the cat has. A veterinary oncologist is also usually involved and can weigh in as to what the appropriate type of therapy can be for the specific liver tumor.

Can feline hepatic cancer be treated?

Solitary liver tumors that haven’t spread to other organs are typically treated using surgery. In cats, the success rate is good, especially if the case is diagnosed in the incipient stage of the neoplasia.

However, some tumors can be so large that they might have engulfed the entire organ in their structure, which could mean that they are inoperable.

Depending on the biopsy report, the tumor might be sensitive to certain medications, and therefore, chemotherapy could be another therapy option. Some types of chemotherapy can be rather aggressive, so their side effects have to be carefully considered, especially in particularly old animals.

Recovery

When caught early, liver tumors in cats are usually operable. The recovery rate after the surgery is good in this species. Pet parents have to take their cats in for regular check-ups in the following months to make sure that the pet is recovering properly.

If the cat has a primary liver tumor that has already spread to other organs, the prognosis is poor.

In this case, the vet can recommend various medications for pain management and can also give advice on how pet owners can make their cat’s life comfortable until the end.

Since the treatment of liver tumors in cats can be very expensive, having pet insurance can make a lot of difference.

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