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Liver Disease In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

When a beloved dog falls ill, the owner does everything to quickly restore health to his pet. Unfortunately, our four-legged friends are susceptible to a large number of diseases that are long and difficult to heal. Such problems include liver disease in dogs. The liver is one of the most important organs in the body of an animal, with a unique ability to recover, even if the disease has affected more than 50% of its volume. The quality and duration of your pet’s life depend on the state of the liver.

Symptoms that Signal Liver Disease in Dogs

Liver problems in dogs are insidious in that their symptoms appear in the late stages, when treatment is not helping enough or not helping at all, so you need to monitor your pets very carefully. Common symptoms that may indicate liver disease:

  • poor appetite;
  • refusal to eat;
  • weight loss of a dog;
  • lethargy.

In addition, specific signs arise:

  • Jaundice, with yellowing of the whites of the eyes.
  • Discoloration of feces – it becomes very pale, almost colorless.
  • Increased sleepiness, apathy.
  • Hepatic encephalopathy, which is accompanied by a change in the dog’s behavior and can manifest itself as excessive affectionateness and aggression, as well as inappropriate behavior.
  • Problems with the gastrointestinal tract – vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence are the causes of the disease.
  • Bruising and punctate hemorrhages on the skin are possible because blood clotting decreases.
  • Dry skin, irritation, itching.
  • Thirst.
  • Ascites of the abdominal cavity in a dog, accompanied by an increase in the volume of the abdomen due to the accumulation of fluid.

Do not ignore any signs of illness in the dog and contact your veterinarian if you suspect. Maybe this will save your dog’s life.

Varieties of Liver Disease in a Dog

The causes of liver problems in dogs are:

  • viruses;
  • bacterial infection;
  • liver damage by protozoa or worms;
  • poisoning with chemicals, drugs;
  • wrong diet;
  • poor quality feed;
  • autoimmune processes;
  • tumors in the liver.

The pathological process in the liver of a pet can be both chronic and acute, it can be inflammatory and non-inflammatory. Acute inflammatory hepatitis is primary, that is, arising when a dog is infected with some kind of infection – leptospirosis, salmonellosis, as well as secondary, which are the result of problems with other organs, for example, with the pancreas. Acute non-inflammatory processes occur under the influence of toxic substances, with a lack of certain amino acids in the dog’s body, with liver ischemia due to trauma or heart failure.

Chronic liver diseases include:

  • chronic hepatitis. It progresses without pronounced symptoms until the liver is disrupted and liver failure begins to develop;
  • the disease caused by excessive accumulation of copper (Cu) in the liver is typical for Doberman, Bedlington Terrier, Dalmatian dogs;
  • congenital anomalies leading to enzyme deficiency, due to which metabolic products accumulate in the liver;
  • fibrosis and cirrhosis, accompanied by the formation of areas of fibrosis and nodular regeneration in the liver, arising as a result of chronic diseases;
  • amyloidosis of the liver, which is a manifestation of a systemic disease of the body and is accompanied by the accumulation of amyloid protein;
  • obesity of the liver observed in overweight animals.

In addition, tumors, which can be both primary and metastatic, become the cause of the disease. Benign formations do not manifest themselves until they reach a decent size and cause compression of the surrounding tissues. In the case of malignant tumors, the symptoms of the disease appear earlier and are characteristic of liver diseases.

Metastatic tumors in the liver result from the migration of malignant cells from the primary tumor, for example, in breast carcinoma.

The anomaly of the hepatic vessels or portosystemic shunt is the process of vascular formation through which blood from the portal vein of the liver enters the systemic circulation, bypassing the liver itself. Normally, blood from the portal vein enters the liver, where it is cleansed of toxins. If the movement of blood flow passes through the portosystemic shunt, then the metabolic process is disrupted, and harmful substances that have not been neutralized in the liver enter the blood. This can cause the dog to develop encephalopathy or brain damage from toxins.

Such pathology can be observed in an animal from birth or formed as a result of chronic diseases, most often dogs of small breeds are susceptible to it.

How is Liver Diseases Diagnosed?

If the veterinarian suspects that the liver is out of order in the dog, then he prescribes a number of laboratory and instrumental studies. A full set of studies is necessary because the symptoms of various liver diseases are similar to each other. First of all, general analysis and a biochemical blood test, an ultrasound examination of the abdominal organs are carried out. A clinical blood test tells about the degree of anemia in a dog, about inflammation in the body, and about the general condition of the animal. In the course of biochemical analysis, the level of the main liver enzymes, and bilirubin is determined, which gives an idea of ​​the process of functioning of the organ and the presence of inflammatory phenomena in it. In the process of ultrasound, the size of the liver is assessed, their deviation from normal size is determined, the presence of neoplasms is detected, and the structure of the organ is examined.

Of no small importance are urine and feces analyzes, by which one can judge the processes occurring in the body and identify the presence of parasites.

If there is a suspicion that an infection or helminthic invasion is the cause of the liver disease, additional tests are performed for the corresponding diseases. A bile acid blood test is used to confirm the diagnosis of hepatic encephalopathy.

If a portosystemic shunt is suspected, angiography is performed, and a liver biopsy is performed to determine the causes of chronic pathologies. After a complete examination of the dog, the veterinarian can make the correct diagnosis and prescribe adequate treatment.

How to Treat a Dog with Liver Disease?

After the diagnosis is established, the veterinarian prescribes a set of therapeutic measures. At the same time, for each specific case, a certain set of measures is selected, which will take into account all the features of the condition of a four-legged patient. Often there are situations when a dog has combined liver pathologies. Acute periods of the disease can be replaced by subacute ones, and then the treatment regimen is adjusted in accordance with the current state of the animal. Also, in the course of treatment, many additional analyzes and studies are carried out in order to obtain the maximum result from the treatment and to exclude the transition of the disease to a chronic form. If chronic liver disease is diagnosed in a dog, then supportive therapy is carried out, a diet is followed, tests are regularly taken and ultrasound is done. Such measures will prevent exacerbation and prolong remission.

The main points in the treatment regimen for liver disease in dogs are the following:

  • First of all, the animal’s body is detoxified in order to alleviate its condition.
  • A sick dog is transferred to a strict diet using light food, which does not require a lot of energy to digest. It is advisable to use premium medicated food and reduce fat intake.
  • The dog’s physical activity is limited, it should rest more. Heavy loads associated with training, long walks are completely contraindicated for your pet.
  • To prevent the development of secondary infections, antibiotic injections are prescribed.
  • During the acute period, antispasmodics, antiemetics, vitamins are used to support the animal until the moment when liver functions are restored.
  • Hepatoprotectors are used to help in the process of cell regeneration and in the restoration of the function of the damaged organ.
  • A thorough examination of the animal is carried out in order to identify concomitant diseases that can cause liver problems. In some cases, for example, when a portosystemic shunt is identified, surgery is performed.

Be attentive to all changes in the dog’s behavior and contact your veterinarian in time, as a timely diagnosis increases the likelihood of recovery many times over. Keep your dog healthy and energetic for years to come!

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