A Pet Owner’s Guide to Liver Disease in Dogs

Posted on April 10, 2019 under Dog Articles

Many pet owners are aware of common canine health problems like ear infections, dental disease, and skin infections. But when our fur babies contract less-visible conditions, like liver disease, it isn’t always easy to recognize the symptoms. Yet, liver problems in dogs are quite common, with canine liver disease being listed as the fifth leading cause of death for man’s best friend.

For this reason, it is essential that pet owners become more familiar with the signs of liver disease in dogs, especially since early detection and prompt treatment are of critical importance when trying to protect your pup’s life and ensure they live the longest, healthiest, and most comfortable life possible.

The Warning Signs of Liver Issues in Dogs

Fortunately, there are detectable symptoms of liver disease in dogs and pet owners can secure the proper treatment for their animal, as long as they are aware of these warning signs.

Symptoms of liver disease in dogs include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Increased thirst
  • Yellowing of the gums or the whites of the eyes
  • Fluid retention in the abdomen
  • Dark urine
Discover the warning signs of liver disease in dogs

It’s important to remember that if your pet is suffering from canine liver disease, they may not display all of these symptoms or only display a handful. While these symptoms can be indicators of liver disease, they may also be indicative of other pet health issues. For example, urinary tract infections, kidney disease, and diabetes all share increased thirst as a common clinical warning sign. If you notice any of the warning signs above, seek immediate veterinary care.

The Most Common Liver Disorders

There are several different types of liver disorders that your dog could be affected by. Many of these disorders share similar symptoms, however, some do not. Thus, it’s always recommended that pet parents seek medical attention for their pets if they notice any of the signs listed above, so an accurate diagnosis can be made.

Some of the most common liver issues in dogs include:

    • Cirrhosis of the liver
    • Liver cancer
    • Benign liver tumors
    • Hepatitis
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Leptospirosis

The Causes of Canine Liver Issues

The liver is the largest internal organ in both humans and dogs, and is connected to an array of bodily functions. This means that when something is wrong with the liver, it can impact your pet’s overall health in several different ways.

Some of the most common causes of liver problems in dogs include:

1. Congenital Liver Disease

Much like larger dogs that experience an increased risk of hip dysplasia and bloat, some breeds are genetically predisposed to liver issues. One of the most prevalent types of congenital liver disease is a portosystemic shunt. This occurs when a new pathway develops between a portal vein, which delivers blood to the liver, and another vein within the body, allowing blood to bypass or “shunt” around the liver. This causes major problems, since the liver filters the blood, and if your pet’s blood is not being properly filtered, toxins and other substances may not be adequately removed from the bloodstream.

2. Infectious Liver Disease

This type of liver disease in dogs is brought on by viral, bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infections that make their way into your pup’s system. These infections can cause the liver to swell, hindering its ability to perform its normal functions.

Some of the most common infectious liver diseases in dogs include:

  • Canine hepatitis
  • Leptospirosis
  • Histoplasmosis
  • Coccidioidomycosis
  • Canine herpesvirus
  • Tyzzer disease

3. Drug-Induced Liver Disease

We all know medications for human consumption come with side effects that must be carefully considered, but it’s not uncommon for pet owners to be unaware that their pup’s medications can also produce adverse reactions.

Many canine medications are known to impact liver enzyme levels, including tetracycline, acetaminophen, and anabolic steroids.

If your pup has been prescribed a new medication, it is always a good idea to speak with your veterinarian about any potential side effects— especially if your pet already has a history of liver issues. 

The Dangers of Liver Disease in Dogs

Typically, canine liver diseases are categorized as either chronic or acute. A chronic liver issue, while still concerning, develops over a longer period of time and can often be managed with consistent, proper care. An acute condition, however, develops rapidly, and can have an irreversible effect on your pet’s health.

Acute liver conditions often lead to liver failure, where 70 percent or more of the liver’s functionality has been lost.

If liver failure occurs, your dog must be hospitalized immediately so professionals can administer colloid replacements and oxygen supplementation, along with a pharmaceutical regimen.

The signs of liver failure in dogs include:

  • Extremely high levels of liver enzymes
  • Low blood sugar
  • Ammonium urate crystals in the urine
  • Bilirubin in the urine
  • Abnormalities in blood platelets and coagulation (blood clotting) factors
  • Aggression
  • Excessive drooling
  • Blindness
  • Seizures
  • Jaundice

Many of the symptoms of liver failure in dogs are only detectable via lab tests and other medical procedures. If you suspect your pet may be experiencing liver failure, it is imperative that you speak to a vet.

How to Protect Your Pet

One of the best ways to protect your pet from potential health conditions is to invest in pet insurance.

At Pet’s Best, our dog insurance plans cover accidents and illnesses including chronic conditions. These plans offer customizable annual limits, annual deductibles, and 70, 80, or 90 percent reimbursement. With multiple levels of coverage, BestBenefit plans can be customized to meet the pet insurance needs of your four-legged family member, and your budget.

Pet insurance offered and administered by Pets Best Insurance Services, LLC is underwritten by American Pet Insurance Company (APIC) or Independence American Insurance Company (IAIC). Please see www.americanpetinsurance.com to review all available pet health insurance products underwritten by APIC. IAIC is a member of The IHC Group, an organization of insurance carriers and marketing and administrative affiliates, please see www.ihcgroup.com for additional information. Please refer to your declarations page to determine the underwriter for your policy. Each insurer has sole financial responsibility for its own products.