Saturday, January 28, 2012

Primer On Liver Disease In Dogs

Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhDand Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS

Liver disease in your dog can be a serious condition. The liver performs many necessary functions in your dog, making it one of the most important organs in the body.

It plays key roles in digestion and metabolism for your dog. It helps clear the body of toxins, poisons, and waste material. It is also involved in production or storage of protein, vitamins, and blood cells.

Viral or bacterial infections can cause inflammation of the liver, which is a condition known as hepatitis. Certain chemicals, toxins, and drugs can also damage the liver.

Severe damage can cause the liver to scar, so that it can no longer function as it should, which is a serious condition known as cirrhosis. 

Other causes of liver disease in dogs include cancer, parasites, and metabolic conditions such as diabetes.

Dogs with mild liver problems may show no obvious signs of illness. However, in more severe liver disease, signs can vary widely and include loss of appetite, vomiting, fluid buildup in the abdomen, bleeding problems, yellow coloration of the eyes and gums (jaundice), and possibly nervous system problems.

Diagnosis is based largely on blood tests that measure enzymes released during liver inflammation, the bile acids that cause jaundice, and the levels of protein in the blood.

Treatment depends on the underlying cause and the severity of the problem. 

In mild cases, your dog may respond well to rest, proper nutrition, and appropriate medications to treat infection or inflammation. In more serious disease of liver disease, your dog may need to be hospitalized and receive fluids intravenously.

In most cases, your veterinarian will recommend changes to your dog's diet.


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