Identify & Treat Liver Disease in Dogs

Your dog’s liver is an important organ and is primarily responsible for ensuring that the metabolism works smoothly.

The main task of the liver is to metabolize the nutrients absorbed in the intestine and at the same time to break down toxins. The liver regulates fat, protein, and sugar metabolism, stores and produces vitamins. At the same time, it promotes the breakdown of fatty food in the intestine with the bile acid it produces.

The liver, therefore, fulfills important functions in the dog’s body – and if it becomes ill, you should act quickly and consult a veterinarian.

Identify liver disease in dogs

Liver disease in dogs is quite common. It is often difficult to recognize them quickly since liver diseases usually only cause symptoms when they are already advanced. Since the liver usually regenerates quickly and well with targeted medical treatment, there are generally good chances of recovery.

The following symptoms can be early signs of liver disease in dogs:

  • diarrhea, vomiting, and fever
  • excessive water intake and increased urination
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • inertia

If you observe these signs in your dog, it is best to contact a vet directly for clarification. Our team of Dr. Fressnapf will be happy to clarify the symptoms with you and give you an initial assessment. In this way, you save your darling the stressful visit to the vet and find out whether this is necessary at all.

Signs of advanced liver disease in dogs:

  • poor performance
  • yellow discoloration of the mucous membranes
  • disturbed blood clotting
  • Accumulation of fluid in the abdomen
  • muscle twitching and cramps
  • strong-smelling, voluminous, light-colored feces

What should I do if my dog ​​has the liver disease?

If you notice one or more of the above symptoms in your dog, you should consult a veterinarian and have your four-legged friend checked for liver disease. The veterinarian will use blood tests, an abdominal ultrasound, or a tissue sample to diagnose the causative disease and provide appropriate treatment.

If the dog’s liver values ​​are elevated due to a functional disorder, a supportive liver diet should generally be followed, which helps to detoxify and relieve the metabolism.

What liver diseases are there in dogs?

A variety of triggering factors can cause your dog’s liver to malfunction. Liver diseases in old dogs, for example, are often the result of other underlying diseases. Poisoning, medication over a longer period of time, tumors, or obesity are also possible triggers for liver disease in dogs.

The following causes of liver disease in dogs are possible:

  • congenital diseases such as copper storage disease or portosystemic shunt
  • liver fibrosis
  • hepatitis
  • tumors of the liver
  • Damage to the liver due to poisoning or long-term use of medication
  • Overweight (obesity), fatty liver

Copper storage disease is common in certain terrier breeds such as the Bedlington Terrier. In this hereditary disease, a genetic defect causes too much copper to accumulate in the liver lobules, which causes chronic active liver inflammation. If the disease is not treated, it leads to cirrhosis of the liver.

The portosystemic shunt is a malformation of the vessels that bypass the liver and thus limit the liver’s detoxification function.

Liver fibrosis is scarring of liver tissue due to injury or disease. With this scarring, the scarred connective tissue increasingly replaces the functional tissue of the liver lobules.

Hepatitis can be triggered by an acute infection or be chronic. Most liver inflammation in dogs is of a chronic nature, acute hepatitis in dogs (hepatitis contagiosa canis) is rather rare. You can have your dog vaccinated against acute hepatitis as a preventive measure.

In older animals, in particular, cancer cells are often found in the liver, which can be surgically removed depending on the location and size of the tumor. Most liver tumors in dogs are secondary, meaning they are metastases from another cancer in the animal’s body.

Acute liver damage in dogs occurs after the animal has eaten poison, which requires immediate attention. Long-term use of medication can also damage the function of the liver in the long term.

Being severely and persistently overweight is one of the main causes of liver disease in dogs, as it can lead to the development of the fatty liver.

If your dog is showing possible symptoms of liver disease, it’s a good idea to see a veterinarian immediately. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the better the chances of recovery.


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