Symptoms of Chronic Hepatitis in Dogs

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015
Chronic Hepatitis

How Chronic Hepatitis Affects Dogs

Chronic canine hepatitis is always a progressive disease. However, the liver has an enormous reserve capacity; in fact, up to 70% or 80% of liver tissue must be destroyed before the liver will fail. Most dogs with hepatitis will not feel sick (or at least will not show outward signs of feeling sick, which is really all that we can assess) until a very substantial portion of their liver is destroyed. Once that happens, the dog will have systemic symptoms – which means that it will show generalized signs of feeling poorly rather than symptoms that are associated with an isolated organ or body system. While it is difficult to say how a dog with chronic liver disease “feels,” once it develops observable signs, irreversible and severe liver damage has already occurred. It is safe to say that this disease is capable of causing a dog to suffer a great deal of discomfort and pain.

Symptoms of Chronic Hepatitis

When a dog develops clinical chronic hepatitis, the signs will vary depending upon the nature and extent of liver damage that exists at that time. Typically, once signs are recognizable, the disease has become very advanced. The signs of chronic hepatitis are fairly generalized and may include one or more of the following:

  • Vomiting (vomitus may be bloody)
  • Diarrhea (feces may be bloody)
  • Lack of appetite (inappetence; anorexia)
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Disorientation
  • Excessive frequency and/or volume of urination (polyuria)
  • Excessive frequency and/or volume of water intake (polydipsia)
  • Enlarged liver (hepatomegaly)
  • Ascites (retention of free fluid in the abdominal cavity)
  • Abdominal distension (from an enlarged liver and/or fluid retention)
  • Abdominal pain and tenderness
  • Tucked-up belly (from pain)
  • Jaundice (yellow skin, mucous membranes, whites of the eyes [sclera] and feces; also called “icterus”)
  • Nose bleeds (epistaxis)
  • Abnormal skin bruising
  • Spontaneous bleeding from mucous membranes (especially the gums)
  • Poor body condition
  • Poor coat condition
  • Neurological signs (lack of coordination, circling, seizures, coma; reflects hepatic encephalopathy)

Dogs at Increased Risk

This disease is most commonly seen in middle-aged and older dogs, over 3 years of age. Female dogs are overrepresented in the affected group; the reason for this association is still a mystery. Certain breeds have a predisposition to developing chronic hepatitis. These include the Labrador Retriever, Standard Poodle, Scottish Terrier, Cocker Spaniel, West Highland White Terrier, Bedlington Terrier, Keeshond, Skye Terrier and Doberman Pinscher.

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