The Dog Owner’s Guide to Canine Liver Disease

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Canine liver disease is a leading cause of death in dogs and should be taken seriously by dog owners. The liver is in charge of a variety of vital body functions, and any issues with the liver will have an impact on your dog’s overall health and well-being. You can listen audiobook of this article from here.

Functions of the Liver

The liver performs several critical functions in your dog’s health. Some of these essential functions include blood detoxification, waste removal, and the production of bile to aid in food digestion. The liver is involved in nearly all body processes and is a strong resilient organ that continues to function even when liver disease in your dog is in its early stages.

The liver is involved in almost every biochemical pathway that allows growth, fights disease, supplies nutrients, provides energy, and aids reproduction. To do all of this work, liver cells undergo thousands of chemical reactions per second. Because the liver is involved in so many processes, it is an obvious target for diseases. The liver’s function is critical to survival.

Natural treatment for liver disease and liver detoxification in dogs

A healthy liver is essential for dogs because it detoxifies any chemicals or pesticides to which they may be exposed, as well as toxins in the food they scavenge and chemical prescription drugs.

Milk for Dogs Thistle is essential for dogs suffering from liver disease, as well as those taking medication for:

Steroids for heartworm prevention

Anti-inflammatory and pain relievers

There are no known side effects: gentle enough for long-term use

For most dogs, one bottle provides a two-month supply.

Every second of life, the liver processes raw materials and manufactures the body’s building blocks. It both recycles old materials and detoxifies body waste. Because of the importance of the liver in the dog’s body and the far-reaching effects of its activity, symptoms of liver disease are often non-specific and unpredictable. The liver is vulnerable to many diseases, including degenerative disease, viral and bacterial infections, neoplastic disease (tumor), and toxicity.

Liver conditions are difficult to diagnose because the liver has an incredible capacity for life preservation, which means it can easily continue to function even if up to 70% or 80% of the liver is affected by disease. It has an incredible reserve capacity, which often means that by the time liver disease is diagnosed, it is very advanced, and in the worst cases, the condition is untreatable. While it is extremely beneficial that the liver can keep your dog alive in the face of an overwhelming infection or tumor, it also means that the option of treating symptoms early when a better outcome could be expected is rare. However, because the liver is the only organ in your dog’s body capable of complete regeneration, the chances of complete recovery are high if treatment is successful.



The liver is the organ in charge of fat, carbohydrate, and protein metabolism. This is done in conjunction with the circulatory, lymphatic, and endocrine (hormone) systems. A healthy liver is essential for metabolism.


Except for those produced by the immune system, all proteins are produced by the liver. It accomplishes this by combining amino acids to form protein. Albumin is the primary protein produced by the liver.

Normal albumin levels in the bloodstream are required for a variety of bodily functions. It can cause fluid in arteries and veins to leak out and pool in the abdominal and chest cavities if it is not properly produced by the liver. Albumin also transports calcium, vitamins, hormones, fatty acids, bilirubin, and many drugs throughout the body.

Low protein levels are a recurring finding in liver disease. This low level occurs only when the liver has been diseased for an extended period of time, as previously stated; the liver has an amazing ability to continue working while diseased.


The liver regulates blood glucose levels with the help of the hormones insulin and glucagon. Insulinoma or diabetes mellitus cause abnormalities in blood glucose levels (sugar diabetes).

Glycogen is the name given to glucose that is stored in liver cells. It serves as a reservoir when carbohydrate intake is low (fasting or starvation). Glucose can also be produced by the liver from proteins or fats. When your dog has liver disease, his body may struggle to regulate blood glucose levels, resulting in hypoglycemia (low blood glucose). Because of these abnormalities, calorie intake and diet are critical aspects of liver disease.


The liver controls the amount of fat (called fatty acids) in the bloodstream. Excess carbohydrate and protein is converted to fatty acids. The liver creates cholesterol from fatty acids, which is required for many functions, including the production of sex hormones and cortisol.


There may be times when your dog’s liver has to work extra hard to combat toxicity. Any type of poisoning, such as weed killer or anti-freeze, will have a serious impact on your dog’s liver as it tries to flush out the poison. Sadly, the effects of poisoning are often too severe for the liver to combat, and the dog dies or is euthanized as a result. It is critical to keep your dog away from any toxic substances and to be aware that dogs do not tolerate some drug medications as well as humans, so take care not to give any medication that has not been prescribed by your veterinarian. Even so, some drugs are quite aggressive and may harm your dog’s liver if he is receiving other treatment.

Detoxification is an important function of the liver. Depending on the substance being detoxified, a complex process takes place in the liver cells. The body inactivates and eliminates the offending toxin. It will either pass through the kidneys and be excreted in urine, or it will be secreted into bile and excreted in feces.

Metabolism of Bile

Electrolytes, cholesterol, bile acids, bilirubin, and globulins are all components of bile. Hepatocytes produce it, which is then secreted into liver channels and stored in the gall bladder. Drugs are eliminated in bile, red blood cells are recirculated through the bile system, and fats are absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream only when bile is present.

When red blood cells degrade and are recycled, bilirubin is released from their hemoglobin. This bilirubin is recycled by the liver, spleen, and bone marrow, with the liver salvaging some of the compounds and excreting the rest in the bile. Toxic bilirubin binds to albumin and is detoxified and excreted. This will eventually reach the intestines and be broken down by intestinal bacteria, imparting the dark color to stools. If the bilirubin cannot be excreted from the gallbladder (due to a clog in the bile duct), the stool will be very light in color.

Excess bilirubin in the bloodstream causes jaundice, which is a yellow discoloration of the mucous membranes and skin that can occur with liver disease.

Bile is required for proper absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K from the intestines. As part of the liver’s function, these vitamins are stored in the liver and converted to active compounds.

Clotting of the Blood

Proteins, which are synthesized by the liver, initiate and maintain blood clotting. A weakened liver is unable to synthesize these proteins, potentially leading to bleeding problems. Vitamin K is also required for these clotting mechanisms.

System of Red Blood Cells

The liver removes old or damaged red blood cells from circulation and is involved in iron storage and hemoglobin breakdown. As a result, chronic liver disease causes anemia in the majority of cases. The liver (along with the spleen) is a blood storage organ. If there is a significant blood loss, the liver expels this blood into the bloodstream to help compensate.

System of Reticuloendothelial Cells

The inside of the liver is lined with cells known as Kupffer cells. These cells function as part of the immune system. They remove and degrade substances brought into the liver by the portal vein. Bacteria, toxins, nutrients, and chemicals are examples of these substances. When the liver becomes ill, it is unable to perform this function, resulting in the accumulation of toxic substances such as bacteria, chemicals, or drugs. This can lead to further complications, such as septicaemia, a condition in which there is an excess of bacteria in the bloodstream. Antibiotics are frequently used in the treatment of liver disease for precisely this reason, depending on the specific diagnosis.


Many vitamins are stored in the liver and only perform their functions when activated by the liver. These include some of the B vitamins and Vitamin C, as well as the previously mentioned A, D, E, and K.


If your dog is injured and receives a blunt blow to the front of the abdomen, he or she may develop canine liver disease. The most common cause of this type of injury is a dog being hurt in a car accident. A fractured liver lobe can bleed into the abdomen, potentially leading to death from internal bleeding. A bruise (contusion) that heals on its own is a more common occurrence. Heatstroke, diaphragmatic hernia, and liver lobe torsion can all result in liver damage.


This severe inflammatory disease can cause digestive enzymes to leak into the liver, resulting in disease. When there is pancreatic inflammation, the close proximity of the pancreas to the liver and bile ducts results in some degree of hepatitis. When the pancreatitis is treated, the liver disease will improve.


Anemia reduces the amount of oxygen available to liver cells, causing them to die.


Hepatitis is a liver inflammation. Hepatitis can be caused by a variety of antagonists, including trauma, bacteria, viruses, poison, or bile.

Infectious Hepatitis

Infectious hepatitis is caused by adenovirus or herpes virus. It is spread from dog to dog through oral contact and ingestion of contaminated materials. It typically causes a transient non-specific illness characterized by lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. It can sometimes progress to a full-blown case of severe hepatitis. Treatment helps your dog fight the virus. Routine vaccination can help prevent infectious hepatitis.

Bacteria, viruses, and fungi are all examples of microorganisms.

Bacterial infection is common in many liver problems, so antibiotic therapy is often the first line of defense. Specific diseases include infectious canine hepatitis, canine Herpes virus, Leptospirosis, abscesses, histoplasmosis, coccidiomycosis, and toxoplasmosis.

There are several known bacterial causes of hepatitis. The treatment is based on a correct diagnosis and the administration of antibiotics. According to research, bacteria is a normal inhabitant of the liver and only becomes a problem when the liver is under attack from other sources.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that is common in wildlife and can be transmitted to domestic dogs and humans through contaminated water. It is extremely dangerous and can be fatal, but routine vaccination is the best preventative measure to take.


Unfortunately, some parasites can infect your dog’s liver. A lot depends on your geographical location, as some areas have a higher risk factor. Diagnosis is typically symptom-based, with fecal examination and standard diagnostic techniques for liver disease. The appropriate parasiticides are used as treatment.

Chronic Hepatitis

Some dog breeds have a genetic predisposition to chronic hepatitis. This disease is most common in Bedlington Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, and West Highland White Terriers. Copper levels that are abnormal and toxic are stored in the liver. The disease progresses in a variety of ways, with some dogs experiencing acute hepatitis and others experiencing end-stage cirrhosis of the liver.

A liver biopsy is used to make a diagnosis. Treatment includes the use of copper binding and anti-inflammatory drugs, as well as dietary changes to reduce liver inflammation.

Modification to limit copper intake


These worms can obstruct blood flow into the liver, resulting in liver failure. A routine and regular de-worming program for your dog can help prevent this. In general, any disease that causes right-sided heart failure can also cause liver problems.


The ingestion, injection, or inhalation of a toxic substance that harms the liver causes liver disease. It is natural for an overload to be harmful due to the nature of the liver, which has a detoxification function.

There are some factors that increase the likelihood of toxicity. Female dogs are more vulnerable than males, fatty diets are more dangerous, and high exposure to toxic chemicals, pesticides, and so on are all factors that put your dog at risk. Continuous exposure to these toxins may result in death, but there will almost certainly be severe inflammation of the liver cells. The damaged tissue caused by the inflammation will be replaced with fibrous scar tissue. In severe cases, this could lead to liver cirrhosis.

Toxins include many common drugs, such as anabolic steroids, chemotherapy drugs, some antibiotics, glucocorticoids, anaesthetics, parasite control drugs, and phenylbutazone.

Some drug-induced hepatitis is a predictable side effect of the drug, whereas other cases of hepatitis are considered an unexpected or abnormal side effect of a given drug. This is difficult to diagnose unless there has been a known exposure to the drug or toxin and testing has been performed. A biopsy will confirm liver destruction, inflammation, and fibrosis, but it will not identify the causative agent.

Different dogs have different tolerances for drugs, insecticides, and so on. Collie sheep dogs, for example, will be fatally poisoned if they consume ivermectin, a common parasite control product for worms in cattle, horses, and sheep, while the rest of their canine companions will be unaffected.

Drugs that wreak havoc on the liver

Dogs are extremely sensitive to cortisol and will develop liver lesions after long-term or multiple-dose therapy for a disease such as Cushing’s disease. While cortisol is an effective treatment for Cushing’s disease, the side effects may cause liver damage. If signs of liver disease are detected during treatment, cortisol therapy can be discontinued; the liver disease will improve, but the lesions may take months to heal.

Anticonvulsant medications such as phenobarbital, primidone, and phentoin may cause liver disease in 6 to 15% of all dogs on anticonvulsant therapy. The severity of liver inflammation varies with drug dosage. The severity of liver disease is variable and unpredictable. The removal of the drug treatment is treatment for the liver.

There are numerous chemical compounds that are toxic to the liver, and many common treatments for ailments such as arthritis, heartworm, worms, parasites, and epilepsy, to name a few, may cause some degree of liver damage.

Abnormalities in the Portal Vascular System

This is a congenital defect that occurs in young dogs and puppies when blood passes from the digestive tract into the bloodstream without being detoxified by the liver. The symptoms of this condition vary, but warning signs include youth, malnourishment, and chronic illness, as well as poor tolerance to medication and anaesthetics and pica (eating unusual items). A full veterinary workup, including specialized X-rays, laboratory tests, and a history, is used to make the diagnosis. The only treatment is surgical intervention to correct the circulation abnormality.


Cancer can develop directly in the liver (primary) or spread from elsewhere (metastatic or secondary) via the circulatory or lymphatic systems. The portal vein and the hepatic artery are the two blood supply routes to the liver. Because of the increased blood supply, a tumor in another organ is more likely to spread to the liver. Because of the liver’s remarkable endurance, liver cancer is usually detected after it has spread.

Other than cancer, secondary liver disease can be caused by hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus, pancreatitis, Cushing’s disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Cirrhosis of the Liver

Cirrhosis of the liver is the end result of several liver diseases. Cirrhosis can be caused by a variety of liver diseases. It is most likely to occur in copper storage diseases of the liver, as a result of chronic hepatitis, as a breed-related disorder (Terrier breeds, Dobermans, Labradors, Cocker Spaniels, and Standard Poodles), as a side effect of anti-seizure medication, and in some deworming treatments. Cirrhosis can develop after leptospirosis or infectious canine hepatitis, but it is a rare complication in these cases.

Diseases in Brief

Among all of the medical conditions that your dog may face, chronic hepatitis is one that can strike without warning, so dog owners must be aware of the symptoms. This disease can exist for a long time without causing symptoms. When clinical signs appear, it is likely that the liver’s size and function have been significantly reduced. Even when things are this bad, the condition can be managed. Recommendations include a low to moderate protein diet, drug therapy, and supportive therapy with vitamins and natural products such as milk thistle.

All of the diseases mentioned above progress and gradually destroy the liver cells, resulting in scarring and fibrous tissue in the liver, also known as cirrhosis. Even with cirrhosis, many dogs live for extended periods of time. At this stage, determining the underlying cause of the disease is difficult.

New and Emerging Liver Diseases

Hepatocutaneous Syndrome is a condition in which the liver becomes inflame

This syndrome is characterized by skin cell degeneration, which is most likely caused by nutritional imbalances caused by metabolic abnormalities caused by pancreatic tumors or severe liver dysfunction.

It primarily affects older dogs who exhibit clinical signs of a syndrome primarily of skin disease, though some dogs will exhibit symptoms of illness such as lethargy, poor appetite, and weight loss prior to the skin eruptions. Skin lesions commonly appear on the muzzle, lower legs, and footpads. Lesions can also appear on the lips, earflaps, elbows, and genitalia. The majority of lesions consist of crusting, erosions, or ulcerations, but blisters can also occur. Footpads are frequently severely thickened and fissured, causing pain and rendering the dog lame.

The diagnosis is based on your dog’s history, physical examination, blood tests to identify abnormalities such as elevated liver enzymes and low protein levels, and a skin biopsy. Abdominal ultrasound may reveal a “honeycomb” pattern of the liver due to liver degeneration or, less commonly, a pancreatic tumor.

The skin lesions will normalize if a pancreatic or liver tumor is found and surgically removed. Because this type of tumor spreads quickly to other parts of the body, surgery is not a complete solution. Because surgery is not an option in cases of end-stage liver disease, the goal of therapy is to improve quality of life and reduce painful skin lesions through supportive care and good nutrition. Milk thistle is beneficial as a natural support element. Your veterinarian will recommend a treatment plan that may include fluid therapy, amino acid infusions, and a customized course of minerals, protein, and enzymes. Unfortunately, despite supportive care, the disease progresses and has a poor outcome, with a one-year survival time in most cases.

Idiopathic Vacuolar Hepatopathy

This is a condition seen in older dogs. These older dogs’ livers contain an abundance of glycogen. Dogs are living longer lives as a result of better nutrition, vaccination, and deworming, and they are developing geriatric diseases and other previously unknown conditions. Increases in progestin steroid hormones are thought to cause liver changes. Almost every dog diagnosed with this condition appears to live a long life free of liver disease. Recently, studies have revealed that a disproportionate number of Scottish terriers have liver changes, indicating a breed predisposition to this condition. They may have a genetic defect in ALP production.

Gallbladder Mucocele

Gallbladder mucocele is most common in smaller breeds and older dogs, with Cocker Spaniels being the most commonly affected. Most dogs exhibit nonspecific clinical signs such as vomiting, loss of appetite, and lethargy. Abdominal pain and hyperthermia are common symptoms. The majority of dogs will have elevated serum total bilirubin levels. An ultrasound will confirm the diagnosis.

Liver Disease Symptoms in General

Liver disease symptoms are subtle, and your dog may show very few signs. The alert owner can learn to recognize any unusual signs and advanced symptoms. If you have any concerns about your dog, do not wait; instead, consult your veterinarian as soon as possible because the earlier liver disease is detected, the faster it can be successfully treated.

Dogs with liver diseases exhibit a wide range of physical symptoms. Very few of the symptoms are specific to liver disease, but are symptoms of a variety of diseases and conditions that can affect the liver. In the early stages, the symptoms of liver disease are extremely subtle. Your dog may exhibit all, some, or all of the following symptoms.

Appetite suppression

Loss of appetite is always cause for concern, and a veterinary surgeon should be contacted as soon as possible.

Recurrent abdominal or gastrointestinal upsets

Any vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation should be taken seriously, especially if it occurs intermittently.

Depression or lethargy that worsens over time

When your dog refuses to play or go for walks and has a sluggish demeanor, this can be a serious symptom.

A swollen abdomen

This could indicate that there is fluid in your dog’s abdomen as a result of changes in his circulation.

Feces that are pale gray in color.

Bile is responsible for the characteristic brown color of feces. If the liver does not process bile properly, the feces will be unpigmented and grayish in color.

Urine in the color orange

Inadequate bile processing results in high levels of bilirubin excretion in the urine, giving it an orange color.


Any pale or white skin or visible tissue turns yellow. This is due to biliary pigments accumulating in the body as a result of the liver’s inability to process them.

Problems with bleeding

Many of the proteins required for proper blood clotting are produced in the liver. When these proteins are depleted or absent, the ability to clot blood decreases. Any signs of bleeding that do not stop easily should be cause for concern, and your veterinarian should be contacted right away. If your dog has any small swellings or bruises, this could be an indication of a blood-clotting problem.

Symptoms of the brain

Behavioral changes, seizures, aimless pacing or circling, pressing the head against a wall, or stargazing are all frightening symptoms that may be caused by toxicity that causes the liver to fail. As soon as possible, contact your veterinarian.

Abdominal Ache

This is due to the stretching of the liver capsule. When you lift your dog up, you will most likely notice that the liver is sore and tender. By examining your dog, your vet will be able to tell if the liver is swollen.

Weight loss that lasts a long time All of the necessary life force building blocks are processed by the liver. If it is not functioning properly, bodily systems are jeopardized, and the body is unable to maintain itself.

Increased Water Consumption and Urination

These symptoms are most likely caused by large shifts in serum and kidney salt balances.

Blood Pressure

According to recent research, dog liver disease can also cause high blood pressure. If your dog is diagnosed with canine liver disease, this will need to be monitored.

At the Veterinarian

If your dog exhibits any of the symptoms listed, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Because your dog’s liver is such an amazing organ, it can function even when severely ill. This vital organ is intimately involved in all other bodily functions. The liver is extremely resistant to viral and bacterial attacks, but symptoms will appear even if another condition is causing the primary illness. Dog liver disease is frequently the result of a primary illness in another part of your dog’s body.


To make a diagnosis, your veterinarian will draw on his or her experience and knowledge of anatomy and disease. Taking known facts into account, such as the dog’s age and breed, vaccination status, worming program, toilet habits, and so on, they will be able to eliminate certain diseases and use tests to arrive at a diagnosis and how affected your dog’s liver is by disease.


Early signs of liver disease are subtle, so it is a good idea to get into the habit of taking your dog for annual routine check-ups that include blood work, especially if he falls into a high risk category for canine liver disease, such as breed predisposition or is over eight years old. It is important to remember that your dog may not exhibit any obvious signs of canine liver disease, which is why a regular blood or urine test may provide you with an early warning. In many cases, indirect evidence from laboratory tests can point to the presence of liver disease.

Always provide your veterinarian with all relevant information. Nothing is too small or insignificant, and the more facts you can provide, the better your chances. If, for example, you have been using weed killer in the garden or spilled some antifreeze in the garage that the dog may have ingested, or you have to admit his diet is less than ideal, go ahead and tell your veterinarian everything you know because, at the end of the day, you know your dog best.

Physical Examine

When your veterinarian examines your dog, physical examination findings may include a distended abdomen due to liver enlargement. This symptom can also be indicative of other diseases, so keep that in mind. There may be enlarged lymph nodes, which could indicate a secondary bacterial infection or the spread of a primary liver tumor. Bruising may be seen under the skin or after a blood sample is taken due to the liver’s effect on your dog’s blood clotting mechanism.

When inflammation or infection is present, canine liver disease is sometimes accompanied by fever, as indicated by a rectal temperature of 103 degrees. A full body examination, as well as routine blood and urine tests, will detect all signs and symptoms.

If the results are inconclusive, additional blood and diagnostic testing may be required to be certain of the diagnosis. Many different levels of liver enzymes are tested and compared to normal levels.


X-rays can reveal increased liver size, decreased liver size, liver abscesses, abnormal mineralization, and circulatory abnormalities (using special dyes).


Ultrasound is one of the better techniques for diagnosing dog liver disease because it can see the circulation of the liver, the bile duct system, the density of liver tissue, and the size of the liver.

Liver biopsy

While this is surgery, it is most useful for diagnosing canine liver disease because liver tissue can be examined and tested to provide a conclusive diagnosis and treatment plan based on the findings. A needle biopsy or a full laparotomy can be used to examine your dog’s liver. The liver will regenerate these tiny pieces of liver taken for testing, making it a low-risk procedure for your dog.


The treatment required in a case of canine liver disease will be determined by the cause of the condition. For example, if trauma was the trigger, hospitalization while the dog recovers from the trauma may be all that is required. Antibiotics, on the other hand, may be required if a bacterial infection is at the root of the disease. Furthermore, when liver disease is caused by another medical condition, such as cancer or anemia, these additional medical circumstances must be considered.

In addition to medications, dietary changes and supplements can be very beneficial when attempting to treat canine liver disease. Dietary changes can include adjusting the amounts of proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates, fats, and minerals that a dog consumes. This will ensure that your dog receives the nutrition he requires while also reducing stress and workload on the liver. Vitamin K can help control bleeding disorders, whereas vitamin E, as an antioxidant, helps to remove free radicals and prevent further damage to your dog’s liver.

Certain natural remedies can also be very beneficial in the treatment of canine liver disease. Natural herbs and substances have properties that aid in blood purification, the stimulation of digestive enzymes, and the protection of the liver from toxic substances. Some of these substances have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Milk thistle is another natural ingredient that has been shown to be very effective in cases of canine liver disease. This natural substance, like vitamin E, acts as an antioxidant, stimulates the production of new liver cells, and helps to prevent certain toxins from attaching to the liver. As a result, many natural substances and remedies can be extremely beneficial to dogs suffering from liver disease.

Never use alternative therapies unless you have received a proper and specific diagnosis from your veterinarian. Learn more, Click Here.

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