Causes of Liver Inflammation in Dogs

The cause of liver inflammation in dogs is sometimes idiopathic and at other times, it’s due to the presence of underlying diseases. It’s essential that the inflammation is diagnosed and treated early as the liver is a crucial organ that performs vital functions such as the removal of toxins from the blood, the production of bile and the metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Thus, a diseased liver can severely compromise the health of your pet.

Symptoms of Liver Inflammation in Dogs:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Blue tint of the eye
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination 
  • Swollen abdomen

Causes of Liver Inflammation

There are 2 types of liver inflammations that occur namely, acute and chronic. Acute inflammation of the liver is generally caused by a virus known as the adenovirus. This virus can lead to inflammation of the liver cells. It can impair liver function and cause cell death.

Chronic inflammation of the liver occurs over a long period of time. During this time the liver cells are destroyed due to the age of the dog or an underlying disease. In addition, some breeds such as the Doberman and the cocker spaniel are predisposed to chronic inflammation of the liver. Apart from these causes there are a few other factors that lead to canine liver inflammation.

Trauma to the Abdomen

Trauma to the abdomen can cause inflammation of the liver. This condition might heal on its own or may prove fatal if severe.


Since the pancreas are situated near the liver, pancreatitis can also lead to inflammation of the liver. This condition will resolve once the pancreatitis subsides.


When a dog is anemic, there is a decreased amount of oxygen supplied to the liver cells and this gives rise to inflammation of the liver.

Infections of the Liver

Infection of the liver by a virus known as adenovirus often causes inflammation of the liver. Bacteria and fungi can also cause this condition which is otherwise known as hepatitis.


Heartworms can block the flow of blood to the liver. In such cases treatment of the primary cause reverses liver inflammation.


Cancer, either primary liver cancer or one that has metastasized to the liver, can cause inflammation of the liver. Prognosis in such cases is not good.

Toxins from Medications

Medications such as antibiotics, acetaminophen, chemotherapy drugs and anesthetics can cause hepatitis in dogs.

Metabolic Diseases

Other metabolic diseases such as diabetes, Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism can cause hepatitis.

Diagnosis of Liver Inflammation in Dogs

The vet can diagnose both acute and chronic liver inflammation with the help of tests such as a physical exam, a medical history, and blood tests that check the levels of liver enzymes. A biopsy of the liver can help the vet determine whether the inflammation of the liver is acute or chronic in nature.

Treatment for Dog Liver Inflammation

Treatment is aimed at flushing out the toxins from the body with the help of intravenous fluids. Besides this, the treatment also aims at preserving the function of the surviving liver cells. Antibiotics are generally prescribed to prevent further infections. In most cases, the underlying cause of the liver inflammation is treated first.

You should feed your pet a diet that’s ideal for dogs suffering from liver disease as it lessens the burden on the liver and helps speed up recovery.