Symtoms of Chronic Liver Disease in Dogs

Liver disease in dogs is the major cause of fatality as it can disrupt the functioning of various vital processes of the body such as digestion, growth, excretion and the detoxification of blood.

Canine Liver

The liver is the largest organ of your dog’s body and the only organ that can completely regenerate itself even if as much as 70 percent of it has been damaged. Regeneration of the liver is only possible if the disease is treated in time. Liver failure only occurs after 80 percent of the liver is damaged.

Since the liver performs many functions such as the production of bile, detoxification and purification of blood, removal of waste and digestion, it’s prone to damage and is afflicted by a variety of diseases.

Causes of Chronic Liver Disease in Dogs:

  • Bacterial and viral infections
  • Genetic predisposition in breeds such as cocker spaniels and terriers
  • Inbreeding
  • Dental infections
  • Toxins ingested such as preservatives, chemicals and additives in commercial dog food, pesticides and medications such as cortisone, steroids and antibiotics
  • Poor nutrition
  • Trauma
  • Over-vaccination
  • Copper accumulation
  • Existing health conditions
  • Ear and skin infections 
  • Altered blood flow to the liver as a result of congenital abnormality or heart disease

Symptoms of Chronic Liver Disease in Dogs

The symptoms of chronic liver disease in dogs are varied and although there might be a few behavioral changes, your pet will generally appear normal. You should be concerned if you notice a loss of appetite in conjunction with recurring bouts of diarrhea, vomiting and constipation.

Another symptom to watch for is urine that’s dark yellow in color as this is indicative of incomplete processing of bile and high levels of bilirubin in the urine. Incomplete processing of the bile will also manifest itself in discolored feces (pale gray in color).

More Symptoms of Chronic Liver Disease in Dogs

Besides the symptoms mentioned above, dogs with chronic liver disease also suffer from weight loss. This is in part due to their loss of appetite and also due to the fact that the liver is diseased and can’t digest food thoroughly. Since there is accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, dogs with chronic liver disease generally have a swollen belly. This is often accompanied by pain in the abdomen.

Other symptoms include:

  • an increase in thirst and urination
  • depression
  • lethargy
  • aimless circling and pacing
  • bleeding problems

These bleeding problems arise due to a deficiency of a protein in the liver that’s responsible for the clotting of blood. Jaundice is another symptom and is presented by yellowing of the skin, the eyes, the nails and the gums.

Since the liver controls various functions of the body, it’s an important organ of the body and it’s best not to self medicate your pet but take him to a vet and have the cause and progress of the disease diagnosed and treated at the earliest.