The 5 Most Common Dog Liver Diseases

The dog liver is the largest organ and it is involved in almost every biochemical reaction in the body. Its primary function is removing toxins from the blood and it can continue to function in this capacity, even with extensive damage-up to twenty-five percent tissue loss.

Disease, trauma or a toxic reaction can damage or compromise the liver. Liver disease-any medical disorder of the liver-can cause a variety of symptoms:

  • Anorexia and weight loss
  • Anemia and bleeding disorders
  • Jaundice
  • Dog vomiting and diarrhea-possibly accompanied by blood
  • Frequent urination; possible orange-colored urine
  • Light-colored stool
  • Pacing, circling, lethargy and other behavior changes
  • Swelling of the abdomen

5 Most Common Dig Liver Diseases

  1. Infectious Canine Hepatitis (ICH): ICH is caused by an adenovirus that is present in the environment. Many dogs are exposed to this virus, develop antibodies and never show signs of illness. It is most common in puppies under the age of one year. Spread orally and nasally, ICH is prevented with a series of effective shots (the DHLPP series) given during the first six months of life.
  2. Chronic Active Hepatitis: Chronic Active Hepatitis is really several similar conditions. Also known as Chronic Canine Inflammatory Hepatic Disease (CCHID), the cause is believed to be the leptospirosis bacteria. Symptoms are often vague, but most of the signs listed above are present in varying degrees. A low protein diet is usually recommended for dogs suffering from CCHID. Untreated, cirrhosis of liver and liver failure can occur.
  3. Porto-systemic Shunt (PSS): Ammonia is a byproduct of food processes and muscle activity. Normally metabolized by the liver, dogs with PSS do not detoxify the ammonia adequately. It enters the bloodstream and has toxic effects on the brain. Some breeds are more prone to this disorder, including Irish wolfhounds, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, Miniature Schnauzers, Australian Cattle Dogs,Retrievers, Cairn Terriers and Old English Sheepdogs.
  4. Copper Toxicosis (Copper Storage Disease): Certain breeds of dogs, specifically Bedlington Terriers, West Highland Terriers and occasionally Dobermans and Skye Terriers, have a genetic defect that causes the liver to accumulate copper. Normally, bodily copper levels are maintained by the production of bile. This disease causes symptoms similar to CCIHD. Left untreated, inflammation and scarring of the liver can lead to liver failure.
  5. Cancer: In a dog, cancer of the liver takes two forms: a benign tumor known as an adenoma or a malignant tumor known as carcinoma. Surgery and chemotherapy are the most common treatments for these forms of liver disease.

Use anti-inflammatories with care. Certain prescription arthritis medications have been implicated in liver disease and failure in dogs.