In dogs, liver cancer is the most frequently diagnosed malignant tumor in dogs, and the leading cause of death from cancer. The liver is a vital organ that performs many essential functions in the body; it also has a high blood supply, which means that tumors that start here can spread quickly. This makes liver cancer very dangerous. A dog that is diagnosed with liver cancer must receive treatment right away. Most dogs will not survive more than six months after the diagnosis has been made, but some may live longer if they are treated properly.
When to euthanize a dog with liver cancer
This is a very common question in oncology. There is no easy answer, but we can give you some guidelines to help you make your decision.
It is typically recommended that a dog be euthanized when he stops eating and drinking, becomes lethargic, has trouble breathing or develops a fever. These are all signs that the dog’s body is shutting down. This typically happens at the end of life. However, there are many dogs with cancer who die suddenly before they reach this point.
Most veterinary oncologists will tell you that once a dog has stopped eating for 2-3 days, its life expectancy is only about 1 week.
Liver cancer prognosis depends on whether the cancer is localized (has not spread), or metastatic (has spread). If your dog has metastatic cancer and/or cannot have surgery, then we recommend euthanasia when the quality of life has deteriorated significantly.
If your dog has metastatic liver cancer and can have surgery, then we recommend surgery followed by chemotherapy to extend their lifespan by several months or longer.
Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. These are expensive and may not improve your dog’s quality of life. If the treatment is unlikely to be beneficial, it might be best to have your dog euthanized rather than prolong their suffering.
What are the final stages of liver cancer in a dog?
The final stages of liver cancer in dogs can be extremely distressing for the owners. The symptoms which are seen during this stage are mostly related to a gradual mental and physical deterioration in the dog. The dog may suffer from severe depression and loss of appetite. Seizures and coma are also common during this stage. There is no effective treatment for treating a dog with liver cancer, however, home care is recommended.
In many cases, there are few symptoms observed in dogs with liver cancer until the disease has progressed. When they do occur, they can often include:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Jaundice (yellowing of gums and whites of eyes)
- Bruising or bleeding disorders
When cancer develops in the liver, it renders the organ incapable of performing one or more of these vital functions. The prognosis for dogs with liver cancer varies depending on the type of cancer and whether or not it can be surgically removed, but in general, this is a serious disease with a poor outlook.
Are dogs with liver cancer in pain?
Dogs with liver cancer are not always in pain. However, if your dog’s quality of life is compromised due to the disease, it may be time to consider euthanasia. In general, dogs that have severe alterations in their neurologic status or severe anemia and are unable to eat should be euthanized.
How fast does liver cancer grow in dogs?
Liver cancer is a common disease in dogs, but primary liver tumors are usually less aggressive than tumors that originate elsewhere in the body and spread to the liver. The cancer is unlikely to spread to other organs, however, some tumors may metastasize or spread throughout the liver. The most common metastasis of hepatic carcinoma is lymph node involvement. Affected dogs commonly will grow slowly, become thin and lose weight, but many will live comfortably for months.
What happens when a dog dies of liver cancer?
When your dog dies of liver cancer, it’s not a short and painless process. The liver is responsible for a lot of important functions, including detoxification and blood clotting. When the liver shuts down because of cancer, the effects are far-reaching, eventually becoming fatal.
Dogs who die from liver cancer are likely to experience weight loss and loss of appetite, symptoms which will be visible as early as three months before death. Other symptoms include jaundice (yellowing eyes and skin), anemia (pale gums), and lethargy.
The final stages can be sudden and painful — bleeding ulcers in the stomach and intestines can lead to internal hemorrhaging and shock. At this point, euthanasia may be necessary to end a dog’s suffering.
How much does liver surgery cost for dogs?
The cost of the procedure is variable and can range between $3,000 and $10,000. The price depends on the severity of the condition, geographical location, and how much work needs to be done. Additionally, many of these diseases are difficult to diagnose and may require an extensive workup with blood tests, ultrasound, and sometimes a biopsy to determine if surgery is an appropriate treatment. The costs associated with this diagnostic evaluation can also vary. It is important that you discuss all of these costs with your veterinarian before proceeding with any treatment.
Financial assistance for dogs with liver cancer
There are several places you can go to find financial assistance for dogs with liver cancer.
Your veterinarian’s office should be able to help you decide on a treatment plan for your dog, including costs. Veterinarians often offer payment plans for clients who need help paying for veterinary care, and many veterinary hospitals can refer you to organizations that provide financial assistance or other resources to help with pet care bills.
The Animal Cancer Foundation
The Animal Cancer Foundation is an organization with the mission of extending and improving the lives of animals with cancer. They provide information about treatment options, as well as financial aid for canines with cancer.
The Brown Dog Foundation
The Brown Dog Foundation provides short-term assistance to pet owners who are facing a financial crisis and cannot afford their pet’s necessary medical care. The organization helps pet owners pay their bills by providing grants that cover up to $1,000 in costs. You can learn more about the program and apply for funding on its website.
Paws 4 A Cure
Paws 4 A Cure is a national non-profit organization dedicated to providing financial assistance to individuals and families who cannot afford veterinary care for their beloved furry family members. Their service area includes the entire USA, including Alaska and Hawaii, as well as Canada. They provide funding directly to the veterinarian when proof of treatment and cost is provided by the pet owner/guardian.
American Animal Hospital Association
The American Animal Hospital Association offers a number of resources for pet owners, including one for financial aid for veterinary care. The AAHA also provides links to several other organizations that offer assistance with medical expenses.
CareCredit is a line of credit specifically designed for veterinary expenses. CareCredit offers a range of payment options, including interest-free plans with low minimum monthly payments. You must apply and be approved before you can use the card so make sure you plan ahead if you want to use CareCredit to help pay for your dog’s cancer treatment.
The Pet Fund
The Pet Fund is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit association that provides financial assistance to owners of domestic animals who need urgent veterinary care. According to The Pet Fund website, they have provided financial assistance since 2003. You can apply for assistance online, or you can call the organization at (916) 443-6007.
The Magic Bullet Fund
The Magic Bullet Fund provides grants of up to $5000 for dogs diagnosed with cancer that will allow them to receive treatment at veterinary teaching hospitals. Priority is given to senior dogs and those whose family has exhausted all other financial resources.
Conclusion of euthanizing a dog with liver cancer
When considering euthanasia for a dog with liver cancer, it’s important to weigh whether the dog is still able to enjoy life.
If the quality of life is poor and there is little hope for improvement, then euthanasia may be the most humane option.
Do not let your pet suffer or lose his dignity by continuing life when the disease has robbed him of his quality of life.
A vet will usually start with a full physical exam and blood work. A dog with liver cancer may show increases in bilirubin, creatinine, globulin, hepatitis, ALT/AST, and alkaline phosphate enzymes.
The vet may also recommend an ultrasound to confirm a diagnosis of liver cancer. This procedure is painless for the dog and can be done on an outpatient basis.
It’s important to remember that even if a dog has cancer somewhere in its body, it may not affect its quality of life at all until late in the disease process.
If a dog has cancer that has metastasized to other parts of its body, then euthanasia is likely the best option for ending suffering and allowing them to die with dignity.