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.