Stages of Liver Failure in Dogs

dog liver failure stages_canna-pet

Liver failure, also referred to as liver disease, is a common condition that can affect your furry companions. Although this disease can be hard to avoid completely, it is important that you understand the ins and outs of the condition so you can properly treat your pup at the first onset of their illness.

The liver is the largest organ in both dogs and humans. Because of this, the body depends on the liver to function properly and to help other organs with their regular processing. Unfortunately, when the liver is damaged, a plethora of side effects can spring off and cause other more severe issues to occur within the body as well.

This article will go over the stages of liver failure in dogs as well as the symptoms to look out for. The sooner you can identify the signs, the faster you can get them onto their road of recovery.

Symptoms of Liver Failure in Dogs

A dog suffering from liver disease may not show any signs until the problem has escalated beyond repair. If a dog is showing any of these symptoms below, it may be because they are suffering from liver complications.

stages of liver failure in dogs_canna-pet

Causes of Liver Disease in Dogs

There is not a single culprit that causes liver disease in dogs, which means diagnosing the issue can be difficult in its early stages. Like with all health conditions, age and genetics can be major contributors, however, there are also many other causes of liver disease to be aware of. Other possible causes may include:

Stages of Liver Disease in Dogs

Stage 1

The first stage of liver disease is usually characterized by abnormal inflammation. When any part of the body becomes inflamed, that usually means that the particular organ is trying to heal itself from either an injury or an infection. Although symptoms of liver inflammation can be hard to detect, veterinarians can usually tell through a thorough examination.

If caught early, a vet can usually find the source and treat it before it develops further. Most vets will prescribe medication or a change in diet to treat stage one of liver disease.

Stage 2

stages of dog liver failure_canna-pet

The second stage of liver disease occurs when fibrosis is present. Fibrosis occurs when the irritated and inflamed liver begins to harden and scar. A healthy liver that is in stage two of liver disease will start to turn healthy tissue into scar tissue.

Once fibrosis begins to take a toll on the body, it will restrict the blood flow and further the damage to the liver. This stage is when blood abnormalities will be able to be identified through a blood screening test. This is also the last stage where treatment can make a major impact on the prognosis of your dog’s condition.

Stage 3

At this point in the disease, the scar tissue has left a permanent mark on the liver that cannot be healed on its own. This stage is known as cirrhosis. Once cirrhosis begins to affect the body, the dog is most likely to show more severe symptoms. In most cases, vets dealing with stage three liver disease will work to preserve the remaining healthy cells that are left.

Stage 4

The last and final stage is liver failure. At this point in the disease, the dog’s liver can not function properly, and the dog is in a very severe condition. Once a dog has reached this stage, the primary concern is making them as comfortable as possible.

If you think your dog is suffering from liver disease, the best thing you can do as their owner is to take them straight to the veterinarian. Once they can diagnose the issue and start a treatment plan, the faster they will be able to cure the underlying problems.

For more severe cases of liver disease, do whatever you can to make your dog as comfortable as possible. Even though their prognosis may be hard to handle, you should still do everything in your power to give them a relaxed and comfortable environment during their final days or months.



  1. “Liver Failure (Acute) in Dogs – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost.” WagWalking, Accessed 30 Dec. 2017.
  2. Heather. “Liver Disease in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, Stages, and More.” ASPCA, 6 Mar. 2017, Accessed 30 Dec. 2017.
  3. “End Stage Liver Disease in Dogs.” VetInfo, Accessed 30 Dec. 2017.
  4. Burnette, Cate. “Stages of Liver Disease in Dogs” Cuteness, 9 Feb. 2017, Accessed 30 Dec. 2017.
  5. “Liver Disease in Dogs.” PetMD, Accessed 30 Dec. 2017.



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