Diagnosing Liver Damage in Dogs

Liver damage in dogs is a potentially fatal condition and an early detection can save the dog’s life. If the condition is detected while the liver is affected in a lower percentage (less than 50%), the dog has high chances of recovery. The diagnosis of liver damage may be done based on a few symptoms and clinical tests.

Symptoms of Liver Damage in Dogs

The symptoms are an essential component of the liver damage diagnosis.

The symptoms of liver damage may be specific to this disease, but the dog may also present a few additional symptoms that are not necessarily linked to liver problems.

Watch out for the following symptoms:

  • Yellow eye whites (jaundice), which indicates a liver disease
  • Tongue, mouth and other mucous membranes with a yellowish hue
  • Polyuria and polydipsia (more frequent drinking and urination), caused by the incapacity of the liver to eliminate toxins and high toxin concentration in the blood flow
  • Dehydration, despite the polydipsia
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen liver, which can be visible and can cause a swelling of the abdominal area
  • Chronic vomiting
  • Liquid stool or constipation
  • Blood in the stool or urine
  • Bad breath
  • Seizures
  • Excessive drooling
  • Sudden fainting

Complete Blood Count

A complete blood count can help the vet detect the liver damage and the possible underlying condition causing the liver damage.

The findings will help the vet decide what additional tests to perform.

Urine and Stool Analysis

An analysis of the urine and the stool can give conclusive results on whether the dog has liver damage or not. The urine may contain a high concentration of proteins or other essential substances and may also contain traces of blood.


X-rays are necessary to detect any possible tumors or cell growths that affect the liver and may cause liver damage. The x-rays will be performed with a special device created for veterinary use and if the dog is not cooperative, the vet may use anesthesia.

Liver Biopsy

A liver biopsy can be performed if the vet suspects a tumor that causes the liver damage. The biopsy will be performed by making an incision in the liver area and taking a small amount of liver tissue. If the vet detects a tumor on the x-rays, tissues from the tumor will also be taken and analyzed by a cytologist.

The test will also establish how much of the liver is damaged.

Additional clinical tests can be performed if the vet fails to identify the underlying condition causing the liver damage. The tests will determine the best course of action.

If the liver damage is not advanced, it may be reversed with a change in diet and liquid therapy. If more than 80% of the dog’s liver is damaged, the damage is not reversible and the dog will die eventually.