If left undetected, liver disease in dogs can cause irreversible damage resulting in life-threatening health complications such as neural problems. It is crucial to learn its early symptoms to ensure affected dogs get prompt treatment, which increases their chances of living a long and happy life.
What causes inflammation of the liver in dogs?
The common factors that affect the liver’s function and cause inflammation are old age, genetics, and trauma to the organ. It can also be brought on by:
- Endocrine disorders (e.g., diabetes and hyperthyroidism)
- Bacterial disease (e.g., leptospirosis)
- Exposure to spores and moulds
- Ingestion of toxic substances
- Consuming unhealthy amounts of fatty food
What breeds are prone to liver disease?
Some dog breeds are predisposed to liver disease. For instance, Bedlington Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Poodles, and Yorkshire Terriers are highly susceptible copper storage disease.
It is a metabolic defect that causes a copper build-up in the organ, resulting in liver damage in dogs. Another disease called hepatic amyloidosis, which leads proteins to accumulate in the liver, is a prevalent health condition in Chinese Shar Peis.
What are the different types of liver disease in dogs?
Canine liver disease can take different forms. The following are the most common liver conditions in dogs:
1. Congenital Portosystemic Shunts
Also known as liver shunts, they result from the blood flow bypassing the liver, leading to toxin accumulation in the body. They usually affect young dogs.
A liver shunt is also one of the most common senior dog liver problems. It typically manifests in older dogs due to certain diseases, including cirrhosis or hypertension.
2. Chronic Hepatitis
Chronic hepatitis is also called liver inflammation. It is not contagious, unlike canine infectious hepatitis, caused by a virus called canine adenovirus 1 (CAV-1).
Although the cause of chronic hepatitis is unknown, copper and iron build-up are believed to contribute to its development.
3. Hepatic Encephalopathy
Hepatic encephalopathy is a neurological disease brought on by severe poor liver function. The inability of the organ to properly filter toxins in the bloodstream together with amino acid metabolism changes is thought to be its primary cause.
These types of liver diseases in dogs can either be chronic or acute. Chronic condition refers to the slow and gradual progression of the illness.
On the other hand, acute liver disorders are the opposite of chronic ones. They suddenly occur and are often fatal, as their effects can lead to liver failure.
Early detection of liver disease in dogs is essential to prevent this health problem from advancing at a fast rate.
What are the symptoms of a dog with liver problems?
7 early signs of liver disease in dogs:
7 late symptoms of liver disease in dogs:
- Blood clotting issues
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Neurological problems (e.g., disorientation)
- Abdominal swelling
What are the different dog liver failure stages?
Liver inflammation occurs along with the early signs of liver disease in dogs. Affected canines will become lethargic and picky eaters.
Jaundice, which is characterised by a yellowish discolouration of a dog’s body, sets in. Abdominal swelling also occurs due to an over lack of albumin, which is a type of protein.
Neurological problems arise due to excessive toxin build-up in the body. Aside from disorientation, dogs with liver disease in this stage may also exhibit:
- Absent-minded wandering
- Loss of vision
What are the final stages of liver failure in dogs?
During the final stages of dog liver failure, cirrhosis occurs. Healthy liver cells are replaced with scar tissues, causing increased liver damage in dogs as it restricts blood flow.
Dogs need 20% of normal liver function to survive. Anything below that can lead to life-threatening effects commonly occurs at the end stage of liver failure.
Can a dog recover from liver damage?
Yes, a dog can recover from liver damage as the organ has a unique ability to heal itself. However, it is only to an extent.
If liver disease is in its final stage, the damage will be irreversible. This is another reason why early detection and treatment of liver disease in dogs is important.
How long can dogs live with liver disease?
The life expectancy of dogs with liver disease may greatly vary. It largely depends on the severity of their condition and the administered treatments.
Early detection and treatment of canine liver disease can extend a dog’s life to a few years. On the other hand, severe liver disease and late diagnosis can greatly shorten his lifespan. He may only live for a few months.
How is liver disease in dogs diagnosed?
Diagnosing liver disease in dogs is very tricky, especially during its early stages. The symptoms are usually non-specific and can be associated with other diseases. For this reason, a proper diagnosis from the vet is needed.
Below are the most common diagnostic tests that they may run to correctly determine the main cause of the clinical signs:
- Blood tests
- Liver biopsy
How do you treat liver disease in dogs?
The vet will prescribe specific veterinary medicines or treatments, such as surgery if the underlying cause is identified.
However, for dogs with liver disease with unknown causes or on its end stage, supportive treatment is used to hinder its progression and prevent acute liver failure. Diet changes and supplementation are used to aid the liver’s healing.
What to feed a dog with liver problems
Dogs with liver problems must be fed fresh food containing moderate amounts of proteins. Some believe that a low protein diet is necessary, but its effectiveness is still debated up to this day.
The food for dogs with liver diseases should also be low in phosphorus and high in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Work with the vet to find the right food for your dog.
You may also like: Dog Essential Nutrients: Your Guide to a Balanced Nutritious Diet
What should dogs with liver problems not eat?
High-fat food and leftovers should be kept out of their diet as they can weaken their liver function. Cut down on treats as well for the same reason.
Ensure that whatever you feed your dog is also free from additives and preservatives since it can worsen the liver’s inflammation.