Canine Liver Failure

Canine liver failure develops from a serious liver disease. Dogs that lose more than 80% of their liver function are diagnosed with liver failure. Liver failure can be prevented in many cases and it is important to be aware of the causes and triggers of this fatal disease. The liver is a vital organ that has the functions of toxin filtering as well as energy, nutrient and fat distribution in the dog's body.

Canine Liver Disease

Liver disease is the precursor of liver failure, and the signs should be identified in order to prevent liver failure. The causes of liver disease may be idiopathic, but it can also come about by exposure to toxic materials or chemicals. Liver disease may occur due to an underlying condition such as cancer, diabetes, Cushing's disease or internal infections. Certain drugs may also contribute to the development of liver disease (such as steroids or sedatives administered constantly). Obese dogs have liver disease more often than dogs with a normal weight.

The symptoms of canine liver disease may be subtle in the early stages, but will intensify as more and more liver cells die. The symptoms include:

  • Chronic vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Lack of appetite
  • Darker urine
  • Pale feces
  • Swollen abdomen, due to the inflammation of the liver
  • Lack of activity
  • General state of weakness

Symptoms of Liver Failure

The symptoms of liver failure will include the symptoms of liver disease, but may be more intense. In addition, the dog may also display:

  • Yellow mucous membranes, gums and eye whites (a condition also known as jaundice)
  • Pale gums
  • Dark brown urine
  • Excessive salivation
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Fluid retention
  • Bleeding in the stomach, intestines and gums; the blood may be visible in the vomit, urine, feces or saliva
  • Lethargy
  • Confusion and lack of coordination
  • Seizures
  • Coma

All of these symptoms might not develop, but any of the above should be an alarm signal.

Treatment Options

Liver failure is not a reversible condition and there won't be treatment options available. However, the vet will recommend liquid therapy and a change to a wet diet that will help comforting to the pet and improve the quality of his remaining life.

Prevention of Liver Failure

Liver failure can be prevented by identifying the first symptoms of liver damage and administering treatment in a timely manner. If detected in the early stages, liver disease can be reversible with treatment and a suitable diet. The diet should be poor in fats and contain easily digestible food. This should allow the liver to recuperate.

To prevent liver disease, the dog shouldn't be exposed to toxic materials (food or inhalants) and should have a balanced diet with a moderate amount of fats.

Liver disease cannot always be prevented, but it may be identified so that it won't develop into liver failure.