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Chronic Active Hepatitis in Dogs

chronic active hepatitis in dogs

Even if you’re not familiar with this condition, chronic active hepatitis in dogs is the most common liver disease in our canine friends. What can you do to prevent it and what happens if your dog does test positive for it? These are the questions we will answer in this article. Learn more about chronic active hepatitis in dogs such as why it happens and what can be done to help.

What is Chronic Active Hepatitis in Dogs?

According to PetMD:

Hepatitis, a medical condition used to describe long-term, ongoing inflammation of the liver, is associated with an accumulation of inflammatory cells in the liver and progressive scarring or formation of excessive fibrous tissue in the liver (fibrosis). These biological changes can lead to decreased functioning of the liver.

Simply put, this is a liver disease also known as chronic canine inflammatory hepatic disease or CCIHD.

How Does It Happen?

There are a variety of causes for chronic hepatitis. One is genetic where it is inherited and is known as copper storage disease. Other causes include:

  • Environmental Causes. These include things like various toxicities.
  • Infectious Disease. This may be any one of various diseases such as Leptospirosis, Canine Adenovirus Type 1, Herpesvirus, or Helicobacter Species.
  • Drugs. Some examples include Phenobarbital, Amiodarone, Trimethoprim, Carprofen, or Diethylcarbamazine.
  • Toxins. This falls under poisons ingested by the dog.
  • An Immune-related Disease
  • A Genetic Disease. This is an Alpha-1 Proteinase Inhibitor Deficiency.

There are specific breeds that are predisposed to this condition and these include:

  • Bedlington Terrier breeds
  • Doberman
  • Standard Poodle
  • West Highland white terrier
  • English Cocker Spaniel
  • Labrador Retriever
  • American Cocker Spaniel
  • Skye terrier

While these dogs seem predisposed to chronic active hepatitis, it can happen in any breed of dog, any sex, and at any age of life.

In some cases, there is no known cause of the condition and this is known as idiopathic. The bad thing about this particular disease is that usually it is indeed idiopathic where the vet cannot determine what caused it.

It is important to note that the difference between chronic and acute is that chronic stands for the fact that the damage has been happening for quite some time – at least a few weeks.

What Are the Symptoms?

If your dog is exhibiting any of the following symptoms, it is important to get advisement from a veterinarian.

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundiced skin that includes the gums and ears
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • A swollen tummy
  • Excessive urination
  • Excessive thirst

There are other symptoms some dogs may have. These include some that are rare symptoms but must be addressed in case you see any of the following:

  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Severe fatigue
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Depression
  • Pressing their heads into walls or corners
  • Aggression
  • Blindness

How is Chronic Active Hepatitis Diagnosed?

While a diagnosis is not always quite so simple, here is how a vet can determine if your dog has this condition:

According to Blue Pearl Vet:

Liver biopsy is the only definitive way to diagnose chronic hepatitis. A biopsy can be performed surgically, via laparoscopy, or through the skin using a special needle under ultrasound guidance. Ultrasound-guided biopsies, regrettably, are not as informative as surgical or laparoscopic biopsies. The information obtained from the biopsy is necessary to determine the type and severity of liver disease as well as to allow an assessment of your dog’s prognosis and outline appropriate treatment options.

In some instances, a vet may want to do what is called an ultrasound-guided aspirate. This is done as a less-invasive test before more invasive testing is done. It is performed under a mild anesthesia so that the dog is not in any pain or distress.

At the least, the diagnosis involves a physical exam including a urinalysis, a blood chemical profile, and electrolyte panel. All of this directs the vet to any compromised kidney function that your dog may have. Also, be sure that your veterinarian is aware of your dog’s medical history.

Some of the things the vet may find include:

  • Ascites, which is an abnormal fluid buildup in the stomach
  • Icterus, which stands for jaundice
  • Abnormal mucous membrane color
  • Abnormal capillary refill time

What Are Treatment Options?

Treatment may be somewhat difficult because it varies with each dog and the clinical signs they are exhibiting. It also depend on how severe the condition is and what type of disease that caused it in the first place. For example, some dogs need intravenous therapy while others may require hospitalization. Others simply need home care.

In many cases, medication in the form of anti-inflammatory meds or immunosuppressive drugs are prescribed. In some dogs, a change in diet is sufficient and in others, there are medications that work against fluid accumulation and copper accumulation.

It is important to have a plan in place so that you do not encounter exorbitant expenses. By having pet insurance, you can more easily afford a visit to your favorite vet while giving your dog the best of care.

Cost to Treat: $1,000 to $7,500


What is the Prognosis?

Unfortunately, this is not a disease that is curable. Instead, it can be managed in many cases. Continued therapy means that many dogs have an excellent quality of life and the symptoms of the disease are more easily controlled so that your dog is not in any distress. Keep in mind that regular blood work is imperative to monitor your dog’s progress and take care of any escalating issues so they do not cause further damage.


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