Liver Diseases In Dogs

An Introduction

If we ask you to name the vital organs of the dog, you will probably count on organs such as kidneys, heart, lungs, or brain. There are ninety percent chances that you might forget the humble liver. For most, this organ is not more than just a large, muddy brown colored brown matter of tissues sitting without motion in the abdomen. The fact is the liver is as vital as an organ as any other organ in the body.

The liver takes the central responsibility in the body, and so is susceptible to a wide variety of disorders. Health conditions of the liver can threaten the health of the dog, so it's imperative to be aware of the different issues of this organ. An owner with full awareness can prevent a variety of health issues in the liver of the dog.

Signs and Symptoms

The liver is a great multitasker. It detoxifies the blood, metabolizes the sources of protein, helps break down drugs, stores glycogens, and vitamins, manufactures essential chemicals for blood clotting, and not to forget it also produces bile acids necessary for digestion. Because of its passive role in so many bodily functions, diseases of the liver can manifest as a variety of symptoms depending on a function being affected.

Jaundice is the most common sign of liver diseases. When one suffers from Jaundice, there is visible yellowish tinge on the skin of the body.

The liver produces something called the bilirubin, which is by-product when red blood cells break down. When the liver doesn’t function as it should, then bilirubin stays and builds up in the serum and makes way for the yellowish appearance of the affected animal.

Hepatic Encephalopathy is another common indication of liver diseases. It refers to the collection of some neurological signs, and are seen in pets with liver diseases.

Signs include things like disorientation, seizures, pressing of the head, depression, personality changes and blindness.

Other common symptoms are gastrointestinal symptoms.

These include a decrease in appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting, loss of weight, an escalation in drinking and frequent urination, and changes in stool colors.

Some dogs may develop retention of fluids in the abdomen area, called as ascites.


The vet will suggest some diagnostic tests for the dog to determine the presence of liver diseases in the dog. Most commonly done tests are blood tests, abdominal tests, Xrays, an analysis of the urine.

Types of Liver Disorders

Vessel Abnormalities: In small dogs, one of the most common types of liver issues are congenital disabilities such as congenital portosystemic shunt. In this case, a blood vessel that bypasses the liver gets disrupted, causing a severe buildup of toxins. In senior dogs, there is the presence of acquired shunts, which develops when there is a backup of blood pressure in the liver due to cirrhosis or hypertension.

To get around the jammed region, new vessels grow to bypass the area having the blockage, but on the way, these new vessels sidestep the liver themselves. Treatment will depend on the anatomy of the shunt. It can have one massive vessel outside the liver.

Endocrine Disease: There are few diseases of the endocrine system which can affect the liver. Conditions such as Diabetes Mellitus, hyperadrenocorticism, or hyperthyroidism can cause impairment of the liver and needs treatments for the underlying endocrine diseases.

Infectious Diseases: It is because the complete volume of serum passes through the liver, the organ is prone to suffer from different contagious illnesses. Various viruses, bacterias, fungi and parasites can affect the liver. The most prevalent condition is canine hepatitis and causes scarring and inflammation. The use of vaccines can prevent this.

Liver Masses: Our canine pals are susceptible to different liver masses. A dog can acquire liver cysts in its birth or during its lifespan. Surgical intervention is often curative.

Liver Cancer: Cancers of the liver can be classified into two categories. Firstly, primary tumors which mainly develops in the liver, and the secondary or the metastatic tumors, which spread from any other part of the body to the liver. Depending on the type of cancer, location, size, fatality rate, etc. treatments will include things like surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or the combination of all these procedures.

Breed of specific liver conditions

Few breeds are predisposed to liver conditions. Copper storage liver diseases is a standard issue in races such as Doberman pinschers, Bedlington Terriers, West Highland white terriers, and Skye terriers.


Not all the liver diseases can be prevented, but few precautions can reduce the risk of specific development. Dogs should get the vaccine for canine hepatitis, and for some dogs, leptospirosis. Keeping the pet away from the known toxins can help a lot in combating the condition. The owner should be aware of the signs and symptoms of liver diseases.

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