Liver cancer in a Labrador retriever

Our question this week was:

Dear Dr Debra,

I have a ten years old black lab that recently has been loosing weight and no appetite. We went for a sonogram (ultrasound) and discovered that he has an enlarged liver. We then did some blood test for liver functions all was well except the Alkaline phosphate was 224. The doctor told us that the dog has cancer. I was shocked and could not believe what he said. Can you please tell us if there is any other way to be sure of that or is there a cure for it?Thank you



Hi A.K. Thanks for your email and question. I'm sorry to hear about your dog. Your question is – "How can you tell if a dog has liver cancer and if so, how can you know if it can be cured?"

Cancer is very common in older dogs. The most common signs of cancer in an older dog are weight loss and lack of an appetite, which fits with your dog.

The way liver cancer is generally diagnosed is based on blood work, x-rays and ultrasound findings. A definitive diagnosis of the type of cancer is based on a biopsy. A biopsy is basically taking a sample of the liver and sending it to a laboratory where they look at it on a cellular level. A biopsy can be done during the ultrasound or surgically.

I am going to give you the link to a very good article that talks about liver tumors Hepatic Neoplasia in Dogs (Liver Tumors). Another article that might be useful talks about what is the liver and may help you understand a little more about it – Structure and Function of the Liver.

I'm sorry but there is no cure. There are some treatments including surgery and chemotherapy that can help depending on the specific type of tumor and where the tumor may have metastasized from.

Best of luck.

Dr. Debra

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