Liver Inflammation in Dogs

Liver inflammation in dogs is often referred to as hepatitis or canine liver disease, however all forms of verbiage essentially indicate the same thing: the liver is inflamed. The liver plays a contributory role in metabolism and energy conversion and storage. It also produces bile to help metabolize and break down the toxins ingested from food. Because the liver is a large storage facility, it can take years for the true effects of liver inflammation to be seen.

Etiology, Cause and Classification of Liver Inflammation in Dogs

Liver inflammation in dogs can be either acute or chronic and can stem from many other health-related conditions. In instances of acute liver inflammation, or failure, the culprit is usually a virus known as the adenovirus. There are various types of the adenovirus, but all of them have the ability to affect the liver, cause inflammation, and destroy liver cells and function.

Chronic liver inflammation or failure, on the other hand, develops over a long period of time as the liver cells are destroyed due to an underlying health condition, advanced age, or breed predilection. In this case, it can take longer for the symptoms to become identifiable, and secondary health conditions usually prevail to warrant medical attention. The breeds that appear to be most predisposed to this condition include the Doberman, the Standard Poodle and the Cocker Spaniel.

Symptoms and Signs of Dog Liver Inflammation

Both acute and chronic cases of liver inflammation warrant medical intervention. The key to making treatment as successful as possible is to recognize the signs as they begin to appear. Because cases of acute and chronic liver inflammation affect the body differently, symptoms can vary with each type.

Symptoms of acute liver inflammation in dogs include:

Symptoms of chronic liver inflammation in dogs include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased fluid intake
  • Increased urination
  • Abdominal distention and discomfort

Diagnosis and Identification

Diagnosis of both acute and chronic liver inflammation in dogs can typically be made with the results of a blood test. The blood test will check the current levels of the liver enzymes (AST, ALT, GPT, alkaline phosphatase and bilirubin) in the blood to determine if they are normal or elevated. The ALT liver enzyme is most commonly elevated in dogs with liver inflammation. This test cannot, however, determine the type of liver inflammation that is present. In order to determine whether the condition is acute or chronic, a biopsy of the liver must be performed.

Implementing Treatment

At this present time, there are no medications available that can actually stimulate the growth of new liver cells. Once the liver cells have died, there is no way to bring them back, so treatment of liver inflammation in dogs is directed towards preserving the remaining, functioning liver cells and treating secondary conditions.

In most cases, intravenous fluids will be used to help flush the body of toxins that have backed up into the bloodstream. Home care generally includes implanting a low protein diet to reduce the digestive load on the liver and antibiotics to help prevent infection in the bloodstream.