Fatty Liver Disease in Dogs

Fatty liver disease is a condition which occurs most often in cats, but dogs can also suffer from it, even though the incidence is lower. Also called hepatic lipidosis, the fatty liver disease is a condition which is characterized by excessive fat in the liver cells, abnormal bile flow in the liver and deficient hepatic function.

Fatty Liver Disease in Dogs

Serious deterioration of the hepatic function can affect the liver’s capacity of detoxifying the bloodstream and of turning raw fat into nutrients that are beneficial for the body.  Therefore, toxins accumulate inside the body and can cause further complications.

If fat is deposited into the liver cells, the liver turns yellow, greasy and its size increases. As the condition develops, jaundice becomes visible. It can occur as a primary event (idiopathic hepatic lipidosis) or secondary to other pathological processes, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Starvation
  • Obesity
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Cancer
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Pancreatitis

Fatty liver disease can often result in generalized liver failure if it occurs as a primary condition.

If a secondary disease, it tends to resolve as soon as the primary cause is cured. The canine fatty liver disease can present serious risks for dogs because it might lead to complications which consist in the rapid release of high amounts of fat into the bloodstream caused by the rupture of the fat-laden cells in the liver. The fat will most probably obstruct the arteries. Since fatty liver disease can cause further complications or it can be a sign of another more serious disease, it is strongly recommended to make an appointment with your veterinarian the moment you spot the first symptoms in your pet.

Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease

 The main symptoms of the fatty liver disease in dogs will include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Jaundice (yellow pigment typical for liver diseases in the ears, eyes, gums)
  • Vomiting
  • Salivating abundantly
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Depression

Causes of Canine Fatty Liver Disease

Even though the main cause of fatty liver disease has not been determined yet for cases when it happens as a primary disease, there are several factors that influence it:

  • Starvation
  • Obesity
  • Genetic predisposition

Toy breed dogs are mostly exposed to hepatic lipidosis after a long period of starvation. The level of sugar in their blood drops considerably, they become hypoglycemic and this can be lethal.

Treatment of Fatty Liver Disease in Dogs

For treating this condition, proper dietary recommendations should be followed. Diet restrictions usually consist in a highly nutritious diet rich in soy-based or milk-based proteins which should provide the energy required by daily activities and prevent the livers cells from storing fat. It should also stimulate the liver to release the fat it accumulated.

Proper administration of fluids is also important. It might be necessary to maintain a controlled diet for a longer period of time, but in the great majority of cases this condition is reversible.