Causes of Chronic Canine Hepatitis
“Idiopathic” means of unknown origin, and this disease is often referred to as idiopathic canine hepatitis, because the cause or causes of chronic canine hepatitis are not known. Many experts think that it may have an autoimmune component, which means that a weakened or overactive immune system may play a leading role. The hypothesis is that for some reason, a dog’s immune system is stimulated to make antibodies against its own liver cells, which in turn starts a severe and irreversible inflammatory process that kills the vast majority of liver cells and, ultimately, progresses to liver failure and death. Unfortunately, there is little research to support this theory at the present time.
Certain pharmaceuticals, including some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), pain medications, antibiotics, anesthetics, dewormers, corticosteroids and anticonvulsants, can cause damage to a dog’s liver that may eventually progress to chronic hepatitis. Certain infectious microorganisms, as well as a number of chemical, plant-based and other toxins, can contribute to this disease. For example, the bacteria that causes leptospirosis, and the canine adenovirus that causes infectious canine hepatitis, can ultimately lead to a chronic state of hepatitis. Cancerous tumors of the liver are common contributors to hepatitis. Copper-associated hepatitis, which appears in certain breeds, is thought to be caused by some inherent genetic defect in the animal’s ability to metabolize copper. Hereditary factors are thought to play a role in certain specialized forms of hepatitis found in several breeds, including Cocker Spaniels and Bedlington Terriers, among others.
Preventing Chronic Hepatitis
There is no real way to “prevent” chronic canine hepatitis. However, early diagnosis and treatment of the disease may prolong a dog’s survival time and prolong the onset of painful symptoms. This, in turn, may help to extend the period of time during which the dog has a pain-free, comfortable and fairly normal quality of life.