Liver Disease in Dogs
Definition of Liver Disease
The liver is a large organ located in the front of a dog’s abdomen, just behind the chest cavity. It filters blood, secretes bile, detoxifies wastes and stores sugars from dietary carbohydrates. No single thing causes liver disease; it can be genetic, infectious, toxic, cancerous or of unknown origin. The liver can be damaged by exposure to insecticides, rodenticides, lead, selenium, arsenic, iron, phosphorus and toxic plants. Ingestion of antifungals, pain killers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, anticonvultants, antibiotics, anesthetic gases, dewormers, corticosteroids and diuretics can also contribute. Liver disease follows a fairly predictable course. As liver cells die, they are replaced by scar tissue. The liver becomes large, firm and rubbery, an irreversible condition called cirrhosis. Some dogs don’t act sick for years, while others become bloated and jaundiced, with yellow skin, orangey mucous membranes and brightly colored urine from bile and bilirubin build-up in the blood. The stool may turn putty-colored and the dog may have blood clotting problems. As the liver loses its ability to function, the dog will become extremely sick and ultimately die.
There is no one cause of canine liver disease. It can be chronic or acute in onset and can be familial, hereditary/genetic, infectious, toxic, cancerous or of unknown origin, among others. Liver damage or disease can be caused by many things, including the following:There are thousands of toxic substances that can damage the liver if ingested. Any heart or circulatory problem affecting blood flow to the liver can also cause liver disease.Regardless of its cause,
The liver executes some of the most complex and vital functions in a dog’s body. It metabolizes fats, carbohydrates and proteins and is involved in the production of essential blood clotting factors. It synthesizes a number of key enzymes and helps remove ammonia from the bloodstream. The liver also stores vitamins and minerals and aids in the digestion and detoxification of circulating wastes, drugs and poisons.The clinical signs of liver disease (medically referred to as
When presented with a dog that just “ain’t doing right” (in veterinary speak, a dog that is “ADR”), the first thing that most veterinarians will do is take a complete history of the dog’s background from its owner and then conduct a thorough physical examination. She will be looking for any observable abnormalities, such as distended abdomen, pale mucous membranes, poor coat condition, dehydration, signs of jaundice, behavioral changes and/or neurological changes. She may be
The liver is unique in that it has a large reserve capacity and more regenerative capability than almost any other organ. As a result, canine liver disease typically can be treated, or at least managed, if a diagnosis is made early. Treatment depends upon the underlying cause of the condition. The goals of treating liver disease are to eliminate harmful toxins (or minimize their detrimental effects on the liver), promote healing and regeneration of