Liver cysts in dogs can be acquired or present at birth. Acquired cysts are usually single cysts and cysts present at birth are usually multiple cysts. Congenital polycystic disease of the liver has been seen in Cairn Terriers and West Highland White Terriers. The cysts can become large and cause lethargy, abdominal swelling, excessive thirst and vomiting. The veterinarian may be able to feel masses in the abdomen. These are not usually painful. There may be fluid accumulation in the abdomen. The cysts may be seen with x-rays and ultrasound but a biopsy is needed to confirm the diagnosis. The cysts can be removed surgically.
Nodular hyperplasia is an age related condition found in dogs but it is a non spreading condition. Generally, it does not cause disease or have any affect on the liver function. A biopsy may be needed to confirm the diagnosis.
Cancer of the Liver in Dogs
Primary tumors in the liver are not as common as secondary tumors. A primary tumor is a tumor that has originated in that part of the body. A secondary tumor is a tumor which has started in another body part but spread. Primary tumors may be seen in animals over ten years of age. They can be benign or malignant. They may metastasize or spread to other areas such as the lungs, the abdominal wall or the lymph nodes.
Cancers that can spread to the liver include pancreatic cancer, breast or mammary cancers among several others. Secondary tumors are usually found in multiple locations.
The symptoms can include vomiting, weight loss, jaundice, excessive thirst, bleeding problems, excessive urination, enlarged liver, fluid accumulation in the abdomen and hepatic encephalopathy. There is a risk of the animal developing seizures due to hepatic encephalopathy, the spread of the cancer to the brain or low blood sugar. The veterinarian may find an abdominal tumor during an examination. A biopsy will be needed to confirm any diagnosis of cancer. If the cancer is confined to a single liver lobe then it may be possible to remove the lobe. Chemotherapy may be useful for some types of cancer. The prognosis for an animal with a primary tumor in multiple lobes of the liver is poor as there is not an effective treatment available.