Dog Liver Disease Prognosis

Dog liver disease is one of the major causes of deaths in dogs. Liver disease can be caused by ingestion of commercial dog food, preservatives, additives, pesticides or other toxins.

The Liver and Its Functions

A dog’s liver is a major organ that removes toxic wastes from the body. It also helps in the storage of nutrients, the regulation of temperature and the circulation of blood. It is also known to regulate metabolism and the digestion of food. The liver can function effectively even when 70 percent of it is damaged. Thus, it can function well even when a major portion of it is injured or damaged. As a result, disorders of the liver are detected very late.

The liver is the only organ in the body that entirely regenerates itself. This means that if liver disease is diagnosed in the early stages and treated, the prognosis for complete recovery is very good.

Symptoms of Liver Failure in Dogs:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Orange colored urine
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of weight
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Enlarged abdomen
  • Fluid retention in the abdomen
  • Weakness
  • Jaundice
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Lethargy 
  • Depression

Prognosis of Canine Liver Disease

The prognosis of canine liver disease depends on the type of disease and the stage at which the disease is detected. The earlier the disease is diagnosed, the greater are the chances of complete recovery. Since many of the symptoms of liver disorder are similar to symptoms for other diseases such as diabetes mellitus and hyperthyroidism, diagnosis is generally delayed.

Types of Liver Disease

There are different types of liver diseases such as liver cancer, liver shunt and hepatitis that develop in pets. Out of these diseases, hepatitis presents itself in two forms namely, chronic and acute. Acute hepatitis is caused by the accumulation of toxins that arises due to trauma, acute pancreatitis or anemia. This condition presents good prognosis due to the liver’s ability to regenerate itself given sufficient rest and a modified diet. The cause for chronic hepatitis may be idiopathic or due to a weakened immune system. The prognosis for this condition is variable and generally poor.


Cirrhosis is the end result of idiopathic chronic hepatitis wherein part of the liver becomes dead. If the pet is given a modified diet and supportive care, he can live for nearly one year.

Liver Shunt

This is a genetic disorder in which the blood enters the blood stream without passing through the liver. The toxins are therefore not removed. If replacement surgery is performed, the prognosis for liver shunt is very good, with a 95 percent chance of complete recovery.

Idiopathic Liver Disease

Idiopathic liver diseases or liver conditions caused by a weakened immune system have poor prognosis despite the administration of a modified diet that boosts the immune system.

Primary and Secondary Liver Cancer

Primary liver cancer originates in the liver while secondary liver cancer originates in another organ and spreads to the liver. The prognosis for both is very poor and depends on how much of the liver is damaged by the disease before the initiation of the treatment.

Prognosis of liver disease in dogs depends on the amount of time that has elapsed between the onset of the symptoms and the administration of the treatment. Dogs that respond well to the treatment in the initial days have a better chance of recovering completely.