liver disease in dogs

What is Liver Disease in Dogs?

What is it?

Dogs can suffer from various liver conditions, some more serious than others. Primary liver disorders in dogs are caused by diseases of the organ itself or by metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity. These conditions can be devastating because they damage the liver’s ability to filter harmful toxins out of the body and its ability to produce proteins essential for digestion.

How is it Treated?

When treating liver disease in dogs, the best approach is to treat the underlying cause. Depending on the type of liver disease, this can include medications, lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and a healthy diet, or even surgery. Sometimes, therapy and supplements may alleviate symptoms and support liver health. In addition, regular veterinary check-ups are essential for monitoring progress and introducing new treatments if needed.

Breed Predispositions

Certain breeds of dogs, such as Dachshunds, German Shepherds, and English Bulldogs, are predisposed to liver disease. Breeds that are extremely small or large can be at risk of developing the condition due to genetic predisposition. Other lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise habits, also contribute to liver diseases. Early diagnosis is the key to preventing more severe conditions from arising.


When Jack noticed that his normally playful and energetic Dalmatian, Spot, had become increasingly lethargic and was losing weight, he grew concerned. Spot had also developed a loss of appetite and a yellowish tint to his eyes and gums. Deciding it was time to consult their trusted veterinarian, Jack scheduled an appointment and brought Spot in for a thorough examination. After running a series of tests, the vet informed Jack that Spot was suffering from liver disease, a diagnosis that Jack had never expected.

It’s essential to understand canine liver disease because it affects millions of dogs worldwide every year, and it’s the leading cause of death among dogs under two years old.

But how do we know if our dog has liver disease? And what exactly does it mean if he does? I’ll answer both questions in this article and explain everything you need to know about canine liver disease.

What is Canine Liver Disease?

Canine liver disease is a condition where the dog’s liver becomes damaged. The liver is responsible for filtering out toxins from the blood flow stream, and when the liver fails to do this properly, these toxins build up in the bloodstream causing severe health problems.

Liver diseases include hepatitis, cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, hepatic lipidosis, and hemochromatosis. It affects up to 10% of dogs older than five years old. Overt liver failure only occurs at least 70 to 90 percent of its functional capacity has been lost. These conditions affect dogs differently depending on what type of damage has occurred. Some types of liver disease may cause no symptoms, while others may lead to vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weight loss, jaundice, bleeding, or seizures. However, low albumin levels may be caused by poor liver function, even if the liver has lost less than 75% of its normal position.

What is canine liver disease

Types of Liver Disease in Dogs

Canine Hepatitis

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. It may occur due to viral infection, bacterial infection, drug toxicity, autoimmune response, nutritional deficiencies, or metabolic disorders. Viral hepatitis is the most common type of hepatitis seen in dogs. There are four main types of viral hepatitis: infectious canine hepatitis (ICH), feline panleukopenia virus (FPV) hepatitis, parvovirus B19 (B19) hepatitis, and adenoviral hepatitis. ICH is characterized by fever, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, icterus, and jaundice. FPV hepatitis is characterized by depression, weakness, weight loss, fever, and vomiting. Parvo B19 is characterized by fever, cough, exercise intolerance, and muscle pain. Finally, adenoviral hepatitis is characterized by fever, abdominal discomfort, vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration.


Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver tissue. Cirrhosis occurs when there is excessive alcohol consumption, exposure to toxins, or certain medications. Yellowing of the skin and eyes, ascites, enlargement of the spleen, and increased appetite characterize alcoholic cirrhosis. Toxin-induced cirrhosis is characterized mainly by vomiting, diarrhea, and decreased activity. Dogs with advanced liver disease (cirrhosis) are more likely to develop ascites and gastrointestinal bleeding than dogs without these conditions. In addition, certain medications, including acetaminophen, NSAIDs, phenobarbital, and valproate, may induce liver size damage leading t cirrhosis.

Hepatic Lipidosis

This is caused by excessive accumulation of fat in liver cells. This disease is most commonly seen in adult dogs over ten years old, and in some cases, it can lead to death.

The disease occurs when no dietary restrictions are placed upon the infected animal. The body can only use those nutrients properly if the diet contains enough protein, carbohydrates, fats, or fiber. As a result, the excess goes into storage as fat. The liver condition begins to fail when the amount stored reaches toxic levels.

Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weight loss, fever, depression, weakness, lack of coordination, seizures, coma, and even death. A veterinarian must complete a physical exam and blood work to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment includes fluid therapy, nutritional support, and medication.

Fatty Infiltration

Fatty infiltration is also known as steatosis. Rich infiltration results from the accumulation of fat inside the cells of the liver function. This condition is usually secondary to obesity, diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, Hyperadrenocorticism, and malnutrition.


Pheochromocytoma is a tumor of the adrenal gland that produces too much adrenaline. Hemochromatosis is a hereditary disorder that causes iron overload in the body, and iron accumulates in the liver, causing fibrosis and cirrhosis.

Causes of Liver Disease in Dogs

The most common cause of the canine liver disease is dietary indiscretion. This includes feeding diets that contain too much fat, sugar, salt, preservatives, artificial colors, flavors, etc. Other causes include bacterial infection (e.g., salmonella), viral infection (e.g., parvovirus), genetic disorders (e.g., hemophilia), poisoning (e.g., lead toxicity), trauma (e.g., blunt force injury), and neoplasia (cancer).

Bacterial Infection

Liver disease in dogs is usually due to bacterial infection, and bacteria enter the mouth, nose, eyes, ears, or genitals. Dogs’ most common causes of liver disease include feline leukemia virus (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), toxoplasmosis, and coccidiosis.

Viral Infection

Viral infection is another cause of liver disease in dogs, and viral infections spread quickly through dog populations because they’re highly contagious. The most common cause of feline viral hepatitis (FVH) is FIV, or feline immunodeficiency virus.

Genetic Disorder

Genetic disorders occur when a dog inherits two copies of a gene mutation from its parents, and this causes problems with metabolism, digestion, and immune system function. Some of these disorders can be prevented by screening breeding animals before mating and avoiding using them if they carry a gene mutation that may cause an infection. But unfortunately, many of these genetic disorders cannot be prevented or cured.


Poisoning among dogs causes liver shunt damage. Poisoned dogs may show symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness, depression, loss of appetite, fever, and weight loss. They may also develop jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), icterus (a yellowish discoloration of the mucous membranes), ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity), and hepatomegaly (enlargement of the liver).


Liver disease is common among dogs, and trauma can cause liver disease in dogs. Traumatic injuries include car accidents, dog bites, falls, and other forms of violence. In addition to trauma, other causes of liver disease in dogs include infections, poisoning, certain medications and supplements, age-related changes, cancer, and inherited diseases. While some of these causes are out of the owners’ control, some steps can be taken to help prevent liver disease.


Another cause of liver disease is neoplasia, which means abnormal cell growth. Neoplasms are usually benign tumors, but some become malignant (cancerous).

Dogs develop liver cancer because of genetic mutations when cells divide uncontrollably. This happens when DNA is damaged during cell division.

When a dog develops liver cancer, its immune system doesn’t recognize the tumor as foreign and fails to destroy it. Instead, cancer proliferates and spreads throughout the body.

Symptoms of Liver Disease in Dogs

Symptoms of liver disease vary depending on the type of liver damage. However, some symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, lethargy, depression, weakness, and jaundice (yellowing of the eyes).

Symptoms of Liver Disease in dogs
  • Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain is the first sign of liver disease in dogs. This painful condition occurs when the liver disease enlarges early due to fluid accumulation. This causes abdominal discomfort and bloating.

  • Lethargy

Lethargy is another symptom of liver disease in many dogs, especially in older animals. Older dogs often become sluggish and uninterested in food.

They may also appear depressed.

  • Jaundice

Jaundice is a yellowish discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes. This happens when bilirubin accumulates in the bloodstream, and The breakdown of red blood cells produces bilirubin. It is usually caused by inflammation of the bile ducts.

  • Diarrhea

Diarrhea is another common symptom of liver disease in felines. This is caused by intestinal irritation. In addition, diarrhea can lead to dehydration.

  • Anorexia

Anorexia is the lack of appetite. This can occur in dogs with liver disease, particularly those with chronic hepatitis.

  • Fever

Fever is another common symptom of feline liver disease. Again, this is caused by infection. Other possible causes include kidney failure, diabetes mellitus, and hyperthyroidism.

Diagnosing Liver Disease in Dogs

Contact your veterinarian immediately if your dog exhibits any of these symptoms. Your vet may recommend blood tests to determine whether there is liver damage.

A vet will test whether the dog has been diagnosed with liver disease. Some of these tests include:

  • Blood test
  • Ultrasound
  • Biopsy
  • X-ray
  • CT scan
  • Echocardiogram
  • MRI

Some dogs with liver problems recover entirely after treatment. However, some dogs need additional treatments, including surgery.

Treatment of Canine Liver Disease

Treatment for canine liver disease is often tailored to the individual dog based on the underlying cause. Some of the most common treatments for canine liver disease include medications (such as antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, and anti-inflammatory drugs), dietary changes (such as switching to a low-fat diet or specially formulated liver diet), supplements (such as omega-3 fatty acids and silymarin), and lifestyle changes (such as increasing exercise and reducing stress).

In addition to these treatments, surgical options are available for certain types of canine liver disease. For example, surgery can be an option if cancer is present in a dog’s liver. In addition, if a blockage is causing liver failure, surgical intervention may be necessary to remove it.

Finally, if canine cirrhosis is diagnosed, a veterinarian may recommend a course of steroids to reduce inflammation in the liver and help maintain healthy function.

Prevention of Canine Liver Disease

It’s important to note that liver disease in dogs is preventable. There are steps you can take to ensure your dog stays healthy. Here are some tips to help protect your dogs against liver disease:

  • Feed a balanced diet
  • Avoid feeding raw meat
  • Don’t give your dogs prescription drugs without consulting your veterinarian first.
  • Make sure your dogs get plenty of exercises
  • Monitor your dog’s stool for parasites
  • Check your dog’s drinking water regularly
  • Consider adding supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids
  • Get regular veterinary care

Frequently Asked Questions

The average lifespan of a dog with liver problems is three years. Dogs with chronic liver disease have a shorter lifespan than dogs without chronic liver disease, and this is because they cannot process nutrients properly due to the damage done to their livers. They also develop complications such as vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss.

A study found that dogs diagnosed with chronic liver disease lived an average of 2.8 years after diagnosis. However, some dogs survived longer than others; some were still alive at ten years old, and others died before age five.

The final stages of liver failure in dogs can be devastating and heartbreaking. The signs and symptoms are wide-ranging, based on the underlying cause. For example, a dog may experience weight loss, decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, jaundice (yellowing of gums and skin), fatigue, increased abdomen volume due to fluid accumulation, and poor coordination.

Yes, dogs can heal from liver disease; dogs have a solid immune system and are remarkably resilient. This means that they have a good chance of recovering from any illness. However, if your pet gets sick, you should immediately take them to the vet. If you do not get treatment right away, the condition may worsen. The best way to treat your dog’s health issues is to ensure they eat healthy food and drink plenty of water. It would be best if you also kept them active.

If your dog has been diagnosed with acute liver disease, there are many things you can do to help him recover. First, you should give him lots of love and attention and ensure he gets enough exercise and playtime. Also, try to avoid giving him too much sugar. Sugar can cause problems like obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay, leading to kidney damage and heart failure.

Talking to your veterinarian about what medications to use would be best. Several types of medication are available, and your vet will recommend one based on your dog’s symptoms. Some common remedies include antibiotics, painkillers, antihistamines, and steroids. These drugs can help reduce inflammation and swelling, relieve pain, and prevent infections.

A dog with liver failure will become weak and have frequent diarrhea or vomiting. It may not be able to move around as quickly, and its fur might be dry and thin.

A dog with liver disease can live an everyday life, but it will require close attention from a veterinarian. Veterinarians may prescribe medications or treatments to help the dog feel better and advise on lifestyle changes (such as eating a healthy diet) to prevent further health issues.

Liver failure can progress at a variable rate depending on the specific dog, underlying medical conditions, and overall health. However, dogs with liver failure typically experience increased appetite, fatigue, and vomiting as their condition worsens.

You can do a few things to determine whether your dog has liver problems. First, take him to the veterinarian and have his blood tested for any signs of infection or illness. If your dog’s blood tests return normal, he probably has no liver problems. However, if you notice that your dog is frequently getting sick or losing weight even though he’s eating the same amount of food as usual, it might be worth checking his liver health further.

The experience of pain can vary tremendously from dog to individual and even within a given animal’s lifetime. Some dogs may barely notice any discomfort, while others may be in tremendous pain and require aggressive treatment. However, it is generally accepted that dogs with liver failure experience significant distress and often seek ways to alleviate their symptoms (such as lying down or resting).

Seizures can signify many diseases in dogs. Some common causes of liver disease that may cause seizures include fulminant hepatitis, primary biliary cirrhosis, and hepatic amyloidosis. It is essential to consult with a veterinary doctor if you notice any changes in your dog’s behavior or health, especially if the episodes of seizure activity are becoming more frequent or severe.

Acute liver disease is a sudden and severe liver inflammation in dogs. Toxins, drugs, viruses, bacteria, genetics, or other internal medical conditions can cause it. Acute liver disease can be life-threatening and requires immediate veterinary attention. Symptoms vary depending on the underlying cause but may include vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice (yellowing of gums and skin), loss of appetite, lethargy, increased drinking and urination, abdominal pain, or bloating.

There needs to be more information available on this subject, with limited research focusing specifically on liver disease in dogs and its potential effects on the eye. However, little research shows that liver Disease in dogs can cause eye problems, including reduced vision and blindness. It’s important to note that these are only preliminary findings. Further study is needed to determine if these results are consistent across different liver diseases or are associated with one specific kind of Liver Disease.

Severe liver disease in dogs can cause various symptoms, including itching. It is unclear why liver disease might cause itching, but it may be related to the increased production of histamines or other chemicals that can trigger an itch response. If your dog is scratching excessively and seems irritated by the skin sensations, you should consult a veterinarian to rule out any underlying cause of liver problems.

One of the most effective ways to naturally dog liver disease is with dietary changes. Feeding your dog a high-quality diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables will help keep their liver healthy. In addition, supplementing your dog’s diet with omega-3 fatty acids can also help promote healing.

Panting is a common symptom of liver disease in dogs but can also be a sign of other health problems. If your dog is panting excessively and has difficulty breathing, he may need to see a veterinarian.

There is no definitive answer as to whether the liver disease in dogs can cause blindness, but it is possible. Enslaved hepatocytes may damage the optic nerve and result in blindness. Chronic liver disease may also decrease blood flow to the eyes, which can cause permanent vision. Therefore, your dog must undergo regular veterinary exams and tests so any signs of liver disease can be identified and treated immediately if necessary.

The prognosis of liver disease in dogs depends on the underlying cause, severity, and type of liver condition being treated. Treatment options can range from simple dietary changes to medication or surgery, depending on the diagnosis and symptoms.

For most mild cases, a good diet and regular vet visits are needed for successful long-term management. However, if the disease is caused by poor nutrition, a change in diet may be enough to improve your pet’s health.

In more severe cases, your veterinarian may suggest medications or other therapies help the liver heal itself. In rare cases, surgical interventions may be necessary.

The prognosis for dogs with liver conditions depends mainly on how early it was detected and how quickly appropriate treatment was administered. The earlier it’s caught and treated, the better your pet’s chances of recovering from an otherwise life-threatening condition.

However, many types of canine liver disease have severe consequences if not appropriately managed, such as cirrhosis, coma, or death. Therefore, regularly monitoring your pet’s health is essential to helping them quickly recover if any signs of liver disease are detected before they become too severe.

Liver disease in dogs can cause gas because the liver breaks down food and turns it into energy. When the liver is not working correctly, this process can lead to gas buildup in the intestines.

Different foods are better or worse for various types of liver disease in dogs. However, some general recommendations include feeding a diet low in sugar and fresh vegetables and fruits. Some specific foods that may benefit dogs’ liver disease include broccoli, green beans, apples, pears, avocado oil, garlic cloves, whole grain bread and cereals.

Cholestatic liver disease is caused by the buildup of bile in the dog’s liver. This can happen when there is an obstruction to the flow of bile from the gallbladder or when there are problems with how bile is processed. Cholestatic liver disease can be severe and lead to death if not treated quickly.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this veterinary website is intended for general educational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a licensed veterinarian for any concerns or questions regarding the health and well-being of your pet. This website does not claim to cover every possible situation or provide exhaustive knowledge on the subjects presented. The owners and contributors of this website are not responsible for any harm or loss that may result from the use or misuse of the information provided herein.

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