Much like with us humans, our dogs’ liver performs essential day-to-day functions like breaking down toxins in their body and storing specific vitamins. Without a healthy liver, dogs can face a multitude of health problems like Cirrhosis and other liver diseases.
Thankfully, liver disease in dogs is treatable and preventable. Let’s take a look at what liver disease really entails and how it can be prevented and cured.
What is Liver Disease?
Liver disease is generally a result of a malfunction in your dog’s liver.
There are, however, several different ways your pup’s liver can fail. For instance, a buildup of bile can obstruct the flow of bile from the liver to the gallbladder. A portosystemic shunt, or simply a liver shunt, can also occur when blood in your pup’s body bypasses the liver and is not adequately detoxified.
In addition, as your pup grows older, they tend to be more susceptible to liver tumors that can affect your dog’s quality of life even when benign.
Causes of Liver Disease
What exactly causes liver failure in dogs? In truth, it can be hard to tell as different types of liver disease are a result of different issues.
Some common causes of liver problems in dogs include exposure to poisons or toxic substances, overexposure to heat and bile duct obstruction from inflammations, infections, tumors, gallstones or even thickened bile.
However, certain chronic liver illnesses like Chronic Active Hepatitis can be caused by an overactive immune system and a build-up of copper (usually as a result of your dog’s genetics). Other chronic liver diseases like Leptospirosis are caused by fungal, parasitic, viral and bacterial infections.
Preventing Liver Disease
While there are many potential symptoms of liver failure, many of these symptoms only show up when the disease has already progressed too far. Which is why – getting your pup vaccinated early, followed by routine health checkups are so important in combating such fatal diseases like Leptospirosis and Canine Adenovirus.
Regardless, keeping a close eye on your pup will help you catch symptoms early and prevent liver disease. Here is a list of possible signs of liver failure in dogs to look out for:
- Jaundice, or a yellowing of the eyes, tongue, skin or mucous membranes
- Vomiting / Loss of Appetite / Diarrhea
- Distended Abdomen
- Unsteady gait / walk
Diagnosing Liver Disease
If your pup exhibits any of the above symptoms or is generally unwell, the best course of action is to get them to a vet as soon as possible.
There, your vet will order lab work like testing your pup’s blood in order to check on your dog’s liver and organ function. Signs like your dog’s blood sugar levels, cholesterol and levels of urea nitrogen can also be indicators of liver disease.
For issues like tumors, abdominal imaging like X-rays are necessary and your vet may also recommend a liver biopsy to check for bacteria or cancer cells.
Treating Liver Disease
Once your vet has confirmed that your pup does suffer from some type of liver disease, they will probably be able to work with you on the best treatment plan for your dog.
This generally includes providing plenty of fluids and electrolytes for your pup, restricting their daily activity and prescribing certain medications and liver supplements like Dr. Mercola’s Liver and Kidney Support Supplements. For issues like bile duct obstructions or liver shunts, surgery may be required. But fret not, these surgeries generally have a high success rate!
However, not all shunts and liver diseases can be fully cured such as cases of chronic active hepatitis. Thankfully, with a strict diet and prescribed medication, chronic liver disease in dogs can be easily managed.
There are four general goals when it comes to liver diets:
- Provide adequate nutrition to maintain your dog’s energy and health
- Promote regeneration of the liver and reduce stress on it
- Reduce the probability of complications where toxins in the body affect the brain
- Inhibit liver damage by preventing accumulation of harmful substances like copper
Carefully chosen out of the box diets like The Honest Kitchen’s Keen Whole Grain Turkey Dehydrated Recipe are great for your dog’s liver as they’re formulated with essential ingredients that contain moderate protein, zinc, and vitamin E that are particularly beneficial in supporting your pup’s liver function. But do make it a note to check with your vet on whether this diet is suitable for your pup according to their diagnosis.
Liver disease may sound scary for you and your pup, but with adequate care and good consultation with your vet, your pup will be on the road to recovery in no time. Meanwhile, watch over your pup and make sure to help boost their general health now and help your pup prevent liver illnesses.
Tammi writes articles about anything from data analytics to animal health, and loves doing the occasional craft. But most importantly, she loves hanging out and doing photo-shoots with her dog.