Symptoms Of Liver Issues In Dogs


What Causes Liver Problems

11 Symptoms of Liver Problems in Dogs [7 Ways to Heal & 1 KEY Remedy]

Sometimes liver disease can happen as a result of aging. Sometimes it’s genetic. But it can also be brought on by infection or trauma to the area. Some diseases and medications can hurt your dog’s liver.

Other causes of liver disease may include:

  • Some plants and herbs such as ragwort, certain mushrooms, and blue-green algae
  • Leptospirosis, a bacterial disease dogs can get through direct contact with urine from infected animals or through water, soil, or food contaminated with their urine
  • Molds that grow on corn
  • Untreated heartworms
  • Use of painkillers

If your dog has some symptoms of liver problems, your vet may ask you about their diet and medications. The vet may want to do blood tests and X-rays or an ultrasound to get a picture of what is going on with your dog’s liver. They may also want to take a biopsy — remove a small tissue sample for testing.

Disorders Of The Liver And Gallbladder In Dogs

, DVM, DACVIM, Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University

The liver is an organ that performs numerous functions. It has a large storage capacity and functional reserve and is capable of regenerating. These properties provide some protection against permanent damage. However, the liver is also susceptible to injury because of its role in metabolizing, detoxifying, and storing various toxic compounds.

Signs that a dog has liver disease can vary and include loss of appetite, vomiting, stomach ulceration, diarrhea, seizures or other neurologic problems, fever, blood clotting problems, jaundice , fluid collection in the abdomen, excessive urination and thirst, changes in liver size, and weight loss. Gastrointestinal bleeding can be seen in animals with liver disease due to ulcers or problems with blood clotting. The veterinarians understanding of the potential causes of each of these signs helps him or her to diagnose illness and provide appropriate treatment.

Treatments For Hepatic Encephalopathy In Dogs

Treatment for hepatic encephalopathy may begin with hospitalization in order to stabilize the dogs system. This can include oxygen therapy and intravenous fluid, as well as a feeding tube if the vet deems it necessary.

Once the dog stabilizes, the vet will likely prescribe a special diet for dogs with liver disease.

The vet may then prescribe medication, including antibiotics if they suspect an infection, enemas, diuretics, or seizure control drugs. They may also prescribe zinc supplements. If the cause of the hepatic encephalopathy is a portosystemic shunt, then surgery may be an option to correct the defect.

During recovery, you should keep your dog warm and limit their activity. The vet will go over at-home treatment and give further advice on using a feeding tube if necessary to increase the dogs calorie intake.

Avoid drugs like aspirin that can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, as well as tranquilizers or sedatives. If your dog is recovering from hepatic encephalopathy, then follow your vets instructions closely, keep an eye on the condition, and schedule follow-up vet visits to make sure recovery goes well.

Does your dog suffer from hepatic encephalopathy? If so, then how does your vet treat it? Let us know in the comments below!

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Signs Of Liver Disease In Dogs

The liver is a multi-purpose organ: it detoxifies the blood, helps break down drugs, metabolizes sources of energy, stores vitamins and glycogen, produces bile acids necessary for digestion, and manufactures important proteins necessary for blood clotting. Because of its behind-the-scenes role in so many important bodily functions, liver disease can manifest as a wide variety of symptoms depending on the vital function affected. Liver disease often has a cascade effect on other body systems.

One of the most common symptoms of liver disease is jaundice, a yellowish tinge to the skin most often noticed in the eyes, gums, and ears. The liver is responsible for excreting bilirubin, a by-product of red blood cell breakdown. When the liver isnt functioning as it should be, this bilirubin builds up in the blood and leads to the yellowish appearance of the patient.

Hepatic encephalopathy is another common sequelae to liver disease. Hepatic encephalopathy refers to a collection of neurologic signs that occur in pets with liver disease and includes seizures, disorientation, depression, head pressing, blindness, or personality changes.

Other common symptoms of liver disease are gastrointestinal signs, such as decreased appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, weight loss, increased drinking and urination, and changes in stool color. Dogs may develop fluid retention in the abdomen, commonly referred to as ascites.

Inflammation Of The Gallbladder

Spot The Early Signs Of Liver Disease In Dogs

Inflammation of the gallbladder can be caused by bacterial infections, cancer, trauma to the liver, gallbladder obstruction, or blood clots. In some cases, the wall of the gallbladder is damaged, and bile leaks into the abdomen causing severe abdominal infection and inflammation, which can be fatal. Loss of appetite, abdominal pain, jaundice, fever, and vomiting are common signs. The dog may be in a state of shock due to abdominal inflammation.

The inflammation can also spread to the surrounding branches of the bile duct and the liver. Diagnosis is based on blood tests and ultrasound findings and can be confirmed by biopsy for bacterial cultures and tissue analysis. Treatment usually consists of removal of the gallbladder and appropriate antibiotic medication to treat infection. The outlook is good if surgery and appropriate antibiotics are started early but is less favorable if diagnosis and treatment are delayed.

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Portosystemic Shunts And Other Vessel Abnormalities

Portosystemic shunts have already been described as a congenital defect Liver Congenital abnormalities are conditions that an animal is born with they are often called birth defects. Some of these conditions are inherited and tend to occur within particular families… read more . However, in some cases they can develop as a part of illness. In these instances they are called acquired shunts. They can be caused by high blood pressure in the vessels entering the liver. The diseased liver can be thought of as resisting blood flow into the organ. In this case, new blood vessels open to bypass the liver and connect to the blood system of the rest of the body, where the blood pressure is lower. It is as if the blood system were finding a detour around a traffic jam. Acquired shunts are usually seen in older animals and are more frequent in dogs than in cats.

Signs of an acquired shunt include excessive thirst, vomiting, and diarrhea. Fluid accumulation in the abdomen is common. Affected dogs may also have neurologic signs that come and go. Laboratory tests can identify abnormalities associated with the underlying liver disease. Medical treatment of the disease to minimize the neurologic signs and fluid build-up in the abdomen can result in a favorable outlook for some dogs with this condition.

Types Of Liver Disease

There are two types of liver conditions known as chronic and acute. Chronic liver disease occurs gradually and can be caused by an ongoing health condition like cancer or diabetes. Acute liver failure comes on suddenly and requires immediate medical attention. Poisoning is one of the most common reasons for acute liver failure.

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Do You Know The Signs And Symptoms Of Liver And Kidney Failure In Dogs

Liver and kidney failure in dogs are both extremely common. Either can be fatal to your canine companion if left untreated.

The liver is a filter for your pups digestive system. It metabolizes proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. It stores the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients your dog needs for a healthy body.

The kidneys filter waste for your dogs bloodstream. For top health, both organs must be working well.

If youre able to communicate with your pet, he or she will be able to tell you when their system isnt functioning at its peak.

Your dog might have the odd down day or eat something that upsets their stomach, but its imperative that you consult a veterinarian if any of these symptoms persist.

If your dog has spent the day playing in a public space, or has been exploring out of bounds in your garage or garden shed and begins vomiting or has diarrhea, contact a vet immediately to rule out poisoning.

What causes kidney disease?

There are two types of kidney disease: chronic and acute.

Signs of acute failure will be immediate and very sudden. However, unlike liver failure, the signs of chronic kidney failure wont be very obvious. It develops over years and is an irreversible condition but is manageable.

Keep a close eye out for:

  • A decrease in urination

Acute kidney failure will appear with symptoms such as:

Of course, it will be easy to tell if Rover is feeling off if you spend lots of time walking, playing, and talking with him.

Symptoms Of Liver Disease In Dogs

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The symptoms of early stage liver disease are non-specific, which means they are common to a number of ailments and do not directly point to a liver problem. This can make detecting liver issues difficult. Early stage symptoms can include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • An increase in thirst, which will cause the dog to pee more frequently
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Changes in behavior, such as irritability, lethargy, or depression

As the disease progresses, it can cause jaundice where the skin, eyes, and gums turn a yellowish color. This is one of the most telltale signs of liver disease. In addition to jaundice, later stage symptom include:

  • Swelling of the abdomen due to enlargement of the liver or fluid build up
  • Issues with blood clotting

Neurological problems, such as disorientation, pacing, aimless wandering, or lack of coordination can also happen in the end stages. These are caused by an accumulation of toxins that normally would have been eliminated by the liver.

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How To Prevent Liver Disease In Dogs

Its hard to tell whether your dog actually has liver disease or if the symptoms he has are related to something else. Because the early signs of liver disease vary so much and could be anything, if your dog stays away from toxins, has a healthy diet, and doesnt take medications, it is unlikely he is suffering from any type of liver damage.

Thinking that way though is sometimes part of the problem. You dont want to wait until liver damage has already occurred, so its best to take early action, even before you notice any symptoms.

The best way to prevent liver damage from happening is to never even letting the early signs and symptoms happen in the first place. There are multiple ways to keep your dogs liver healthy. If you take extremely early preventative measures, you can help reduce your dogs risk of developing liver disease.

What Are The Symptoms Of Liver Disease

Dogs who have liver conditions may show a variety of signs depending on if they have acute or chronic liver failure and the underlying cause of the liver disease. Some signs of liver disease to watch for include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain which may cause the dog to adopt a hunched or praying/play bow position
  • Increased thirst and increased urination
  • Loss of appetite

If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately. Especially with acute liver disease, the sooner the vet can start treating your dog the better. Also, these signs can accompany other life-threatening conditions like pancreatitis in dogs or a GI obstruction. For this reason, it is always best to play it safe and make an appointment with the vet promptly.

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Is Liver Disease In Dogs Contagious For Humans Or Other Pets

Most causes of liver disease in dogs are not contagious or transmissible to humans. Infectious canine hepatitis is not transmissible to humans, but it can be transmitted to other dogs via feces, saliva, and urine. Leptospirosis can be transmitted to both animals and humans through contact with the urine of an infected animal.

However, most dogs are vaccinated against both viruses as part of the Distemper/Leptospirosis vaccine.

How To Spot The Early Signs Of Liver Disease In Dogs

What Causes Seizures in Dogs?

Life loves the liver of it The great American poet Maya Angelou knew a lot about your dogs liver! Her quote actually referred to living life large but the saying still holds true

Life will not be good for your dog if his liver isnt loved. So its important to know the signs that show your dogs liver might be struggling.

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Keys To Liver Disease Prevention

The best way to help your dog with liver disease is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Yearly exams and scheduled vaccinations are important to your pets health. Its also important that your veterinarian is aware of all medications and supplements your dog is receiving. The mix of certain medications can cause harm to the liver. Also, certain vaccinations may not be completely necessary for your breed or age of dog.

While its impossible to remove all toxins from your dogs environment, there are plenty of proactive ways you can help your dog avoid liver disease. Speak with your veterinarian about steps you can take to preserve your dogs health as much as possible. One area you can get started is with your dogs diet.

Liver Aspirate Or Biopsy

Having a veterinary pathologist evaluate the liver cells can help diagnose liver disease. Sometimes your vet can use a needle to obtain a small sample of liver cells under ultrasound guidance. He or she can then submit those cells for evaluation under the microscope. However, in some cases, this method may yield inconclusive results. While more invasive, surgically obtaining a larger tissue sample can provide more definitive information about liver problems.

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How Is Liver Disease Treated

Once your vet diagnoses your dog with liver disease, he or she will discuss the treatment options. These may vary depending on the underlying cause of the liver failure. If a toxin is to blame, your vet will take steps to prevent further absorption of the toxin. This could include inducing vomiting or performing gastric lavage in an attempt to remove the toxin left in the stomach. He or she may also give your dog medications to prevent further toxin absorption or an antidote to the toxin .

Your vet can treat bacterial infections like leptospirosis with antibiotics. As a word of caution, leptospirosis is zoonotic, which means it can transmit from animals to people. Your vet will explain the precautions you should take to keep yourself and your family safe while caring for your dog.

Certain medications and a specialized diet may help decrease the signs of a portosystemic shunt. However, this doesnt work well in all cases. Many dogs with a congenital portosystemic shunt require surgery to block blood flow through the abnormal vessel. The surgeon may place a band around the vessel that eventually closes the vessel completely. Alternatively, he or she may insert a metal coil into the vessel. A clot will form around the coil, obstructing blood flow through the shunt vessel.

Symptoms Of Liver Failure In Dogs

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Vomiting, poor appetite, and weight loss are often the first signs of chronic liver failure. A dog with these symptoms should be evaluated by a veterinarian before acute liver failure develops. Severe symptoms should be treated as an emergency.


Symptoms of acute liver failure can appear with any condition affecting the liver. Conditions can be very sudden, or chronic and slow developing.

Sudden poisoning can cause immediate liver failure if there are more toxins in the system than the liver can handle. Infection can also severely limit liver function quite suddenly. Occasionally necrosis, or the death of liver cells, can generate sudden, acute, symptoms.

Chronic long term liver disease may begin slowly, but it will eventually manifest acute symptoms.

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Types Of Canine Liver Disease

Hepatitis: Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, which can be short-term or long-term . There are many causes of hepatitis, including exposure to poisons or toxins, certain medications , bacterial infections, viruses, or fungal infection. Hepatitis is usually a clinical symptom that occurs secondary to another issue or disease. Some of the viral causes can include Leptospirosis, which is spread through the urine of other animals, and infectious canine hepatitis , which is caused by the canine adenovirus 1 and is spread through the saliva, urine, and feces of dogs. Most dogs are vaccinated against both viruses as part of their Distemper/Leptospirosis vaccine series.

Cirrhosis: Cirrhosis is a very advanced stage of liver disease in which normal, functioning tissue gets replaced by scar tissue, usually caused by chronic hepatitis.

Copper storage disease: This is a disease when excessive amounts of copper accumulate within the liver because the liver is unable to remove enough of it from the body . Bedlington Terriers have a genetic predisposition to this condition.

Hepatic lipidosis: Also known as fatty liver disease, this is when a buildup of lipids collect within the liver, which prevents the liver from working properly.

Fulminant hepatic liver failure: Fulminant hepatic liver failure is a syndrome characterized by a sudden loss of liver function. Hospital treatment based on the cause is needed to allow the liver time to heal.

Diseases Of The Gallbladder And Bile Duct

The liver secretes bile, a substance that assists with digestion and absorption of fats and with elimination of certain waste products from the body. Bile is stored in the gallbladder and is released into the small intestine through the bile duct.

Jaundice is often the main sign of diseases of the gallbladder and bile duct. An exception is cancer of the gallbladder, which may not cause jaundice.

Gallbladder agenesis is the lack of a gallbladder from birth. Unless the bile ducts within the liver are also missing, the lack of a gallbladder doesn’t cause any problems.

Biliary atresia is the lack of development of bile ducts within the liver and is uncommon. Affected dogs are jaundiced and unthrifty at a young age. The outlook is poor.

Cystic mucosal hyperplasia of the gallbladder is also known as cystic mucinous hypertrophy, cystic mucinous hyperplasia, and mucinous cholecystitis. It is the development and growth of cysts filled with mucusin the gallbladder. It may be caused by treatment with steroid hormones, such as female reproductive hormones. An early stage of the disorder may be a condition known as gallblader dysmotility.

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