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Hepatic Neoplasia (Liver Tumors) in Cats

By: Dr. Erika De Papp

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Although hepatocellular tumors and tumors of the biliary tract are the most common primary liver tumors in cats, other tumor types may also occur. These include:

  • Hemangiosarcoma – a malignant tumor that originates from blood vessels
  • Hemangioma – a benign tumor that originates from blood vessels
  • Fibrosarcoma – a malignant tumor that originates from connective tissue
  • Leiomyosarcoma – a malignant tumor originating from smooth muscle
  • Carcinoids – a malignant tumor arising from specialized endocrine cells.

    Hemolymphatic tumors that often involve the liver include:

  • Lymphosarcoma – a tumor of the lymph nodes and lymphatic tissue
  • Mast cell tumors – mast cells are involved in allergic responses and can become malignant and form tumors
  • Leukemia – cancers that arise from blood cells
  • Multiple myeloma – a type of cancer that arises from specialized antibody producing cells

    The liver is the most common organ involved in metastatic disease, or spread of malignant cancer. Many tumor types may metastasize to the liver. Because the symptoms of hepatic neoplasia are often quite vague, there are any number of other disease processes that may cause similar signs. In cases of metastatic disease, the signs are often related to the site of the primary cancer. Generally the initial diagnostic work-up allows recognition of some type of liver problem. Other liver diseases that may cause similar symptoms include:

  • Hepatitis or cholangiohepatitis. These are inflammatory conditions of the liver, or liver and biliary or bile transport system.

  • Hepatic abscesses. Abscesses in the liver are bacterial infections with associated pockets of pus similar to an abscess your pet could develop in the skin.

  • Hepatic hematomas. Hematomas are large collections of clotted blood that may occur in the liver secondary to trauma or secondary to ruptured portions of the liver. The hematomas usually do not cause clinical problems unless they begin to bleed profusely.

  • Hepatic necrosis. Necrosis or cell death of the liver may occur secondary to toxins or adverse drug reactions.

  • Hepatic lipidosis. Lipidosis is a fatty liver syndrome that occurs most commonly in cats that stop eating.

  • Toxoplasmosis. This is an infectious liver disease caused by a protozoal organism that most commonly affects cats. Affected animals often have multiple body systems involved.

  • Hepatic flukes. Flukes are parasites that invade the liver. They are quite rare.

  • Hepatic viral infections. Viruses that target the liver include feline infectious peritonitis in cats. As with other infectious causes, these animals usually have more than one body system involved.

  • Fungal infections. Systemic or widespread fungal infections can involve the liver. Individual fungi are limited to certain geographic regions of the United States.

  • Liver lobe torsion. In rare instances, part of the liver may become twisted. This may happen following trauma or can occur spontaneously.

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