The dog and cat liver has 6 distinct lobes. It sits just behind the diaphragm and in front of the stomach.
The liver is a very important organ, providing several functions for life. Some people refer to it as the body’s, “Grand Central Station”. The liver’s functions include but are not limited to:
- Regulates the content of blood including the amounts of sugar (glucose), protein, and fat that enter the bloodstream. It can convert glucose into glycogen for storage.
- It removes toxins from the blood including bilirubin and ammonia. Bilirubin is the by-product from old or injured red blood cells.
- It processes many nutrients absorbed by the intestines during digestion and converts those nutrients into forms the body can use. The liver also stores some nutrients, such as vitamin A, iron, and other minerals.
- It produces cholesterol and certain important proteins, such as albumin.
- It produces clotting factors, chemicals needed to help blood clot.
- It breaks down many drugs.
Liver lobectomy (removal of a liver lobe) or partial lobectomy (removing only part of a liver lobe is most often performed at Metropolitan Veterinary Center to remove cancerous masses found by x-ray or ultrasound.
Although many types of liver tumors are metastatic, having spread from another organ, and are associated with a poor outcome, some are known to be less aggressive malignancies or can be benign lesions.
The most common type of single, large liver tumors in dogs are called, “Hepatocellular Carcinoma”, accounting for 50% of livr tumors presenting in this way. These are primary liver tumors, meaning that they originate from the cells of the liver called hepatocytes. Although they can become very large, making pets very ill, they do not commonly spread to other organs. If not curative, surgery can greatly improve quality of life.
More than half of all liver tumors in cats tend to be benign, biliary cystadenomas (bile duct adenomas). This tumor is rare in dogs. Bile duct carcinomas are the most common malignant liver tumor in cats.
Signs and symptoms of liver tumors tend to be non-specific but may include
- Distended abdomen (from massive tumor and or fluid accumulation)
- Elevated liver enzymes on blood work
- Mass found on x-rays/ultrasound
- Mass felt on physical examination
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Dark yellow/orange urine
- Jaundice/icteric or a visible yellow color to the gums, inner ears, eyes
Potential Complications of Surgery:
- Bleeding – it is not uncommon for pets to require blood transfusions before, during or after liver lobectomy. The blood bank at Metropolitan Veterinary Center is a valuable resource for these patients.
- twisting of a liver lobe adjacent to the portion of liver that has been removed
- re-growth of the tumor in the liver
- spread of the tumor to other internal organs
After surgery, your pet is monitored at our hospital until cleared for discharge to you at home. Medication is administered to control pain, as well as fluids and often antibiotics. If needed, a blood transfusion may be given.
Your pet will be discharged with pain medication and often antibiotics. An E-collar/Cone is kept on your pet when not under your direct supervision to prevent licking of the incision. A t-shirt could also be worn by your pet to protect the incision. A recheck exam and suture removal will be required about 10–14 days after surgery. Once biopsy results are received, you will be called and any potential next steps discussed.