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Hepatic Disease in Dogs

hepatic disease in dogs


Hepatic disease in dogs is a condition that damages the liver and prevents it from performing a variety of functions. Some of the liver’s most important roles include removing toxins and storing toxins to protect the rest of the body. The liver also plays a crucial part in metabolizing toxins so they break down into less harmful chemicals.

When hepatic disease leads to liver damage, the organ cannot do its job. Eventually, increased levels of toxicity can affect the gastrointestinal and circulatory systems.

Some examples include abscess of the liver, benign tumors, cancer, toxins, parasites, hepatic encephalopathy, acute hepatic failure, hepatic lipidosis, hepatitis chronic active, copper storage disease, leptospirosis hepatitis and infectious hepatitis.

Causes of Hepatic Disease in Dogs

Hepatic disease in dogs can come from any number of sources. Some dogs develop hepatitis from canine adenovirus, which can cause liver tissue to inflame, scar, or die.

Dogs can also develop hepatic disease by:

  • Bacterial infections that invade the liver.
  • Fungal infections.
  • Toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease that kills liver cells.
  • Taking medications that accumulate in the liver.
  • Abnormal accumulations of copper or iron in the liver.
  • Autoimmune disorders.

Before veterinarians can begin treatment, they need to identify the root cause of hepatic disease in dogs.

Diagnosing Hepatic Disease in Dogs

Since hepatic disease in dogs can have multiple causes, veterinarians may need to identify the root of the ailment before they can begin effective treatments.

Some common diagnostic options include:

  • Testing the blood for high levels of toxins, including copper and iron.
  • Reviewing the dog’s prescription medications to determine whether they might interact.
  • Taking a tissue sample from the liver.
  • Using ultrasound imaging to view abnormal liver shapes or sizes.

Unfortunately, veterinarians have not developed a reliable test for diagnosing hepatic disease in dogs caused by autoimmune disorders.

Symptoms of Hepatic Disease in Dogs

Hepatic disease in dogs can cause a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Bloody urine or stool.
  • Jaundice (yellow eyes, gums, or tongue).
  • Increased urination.
  • Increased thirst.
  • Sudden weight loss.
  • Vomiting.
  • Fever.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Pale feces.
  • Seizures.
  • Weakness.
  • Loss of appetite.

Untreated liver disease can evolve into hepatic encephalopathy, an inflammatory disorder caused by toxins that accumulate in the brain. Dogs with hepatic encephalopathy may experience mood swings, sleep disruptions, and behavioral changes.

Without treatment, hepatic disease will end a dog’s life.

Treatment Options for Canine Hepatic Disease

Early treatment is essential to prevent canine hepatic disease from evolving into liver failure. Knowing the source of canine hepatic disease makes it easier to treat the condition.

The liver has extraordinary regenerative abilities, so it’s possible that the organ can repair itself once the dog no longer has access to a medication or toxin. Similarly, switching to a diet with low levels of copper or iron can help the liver repair itself.

Dogs living with bacterial or fungal infections often respond well to treatments that target those ailments. As the infection clears, the liver begins to regenerate new cells.

Treating autoimmune diseases may give the liver a chance to recover. Medications for autoimmune diseases can include corticosteroids like prednisone, which also has anti-inflammatory properties.

Cost to Treat: $2,000 to $5,000


Dogs that show symptoms of hepatic disease need immediate assistance from a veterinarian experienced in diagnosing and treating the condition. The sooner hepatic disease in dogs gets treated, the more likely it is that the animal will recover and lead a normal life.

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