Liver disease and liver failure in dogs have similar signs, but liver failure occurs when liver disease is at an acute stage. Because the liver is meant to cleanse and detoxify the blood, when the organ fails to perform correctly, it can cause several systemic problems with digestion and metabolism.
Acute liver failure in dogs may be the result of poisoning, infection, or some other kind of liver-related illness. Chronic inflammation in dogs can cause damage to the liver over time. This spectrum of causes of liver failure means it can happen at any stage of life. Sometimes symptoms aren’t detected until it’s reached a more progressed stage. Although the liver can regenerate and build new, healthy cells, when there’s too much dead tissue, it can cause scarring.
While liver failure can’t be cured or reversed, medication is often prescribed to help dogs deal with pain or other symptoms. A change in diet can also alleviate stress on the liver and reduce the occurrence of symptoms. If your dog is experiencing symptoms of liver failure, speak with your veterinarian about treatment options. You’ll want your dog to be as comfortable and pain-free as possible.
This guide will outline symptoms of liver failure in dogs and discuss causes, diagnosis, and treatment as well. Liver failure isn’t necessarily a condition you can prepare for, but you can look out for signs to help address the problem as soon as it’s detected. The more information you can learn about the health of your pet, the better equipped you’ll feel caring for him.
Symptoms of Liver Failure in Dogs
When your dog is showing signs of liver disease or liver failure, it’s important to make an appointment with your veterinarian right away. Limited or delayed treatment can affect other important organs like the brain. Liver failure requires immediate treatment in order to help preserve the quality of life for your dog.
Symptoms include vomiting, loss of appetite, and weight loss. If your dog is vomiting frequently or has bloody stool or urine, an emergency trip to the veterinarian is typically required. Additionally, if your pet seems disoriented or has developed aggressive behavior, this also could be symptomatic of problems with the liver.
Any of these symptoms can occur seemingly out of nowhere and develop quickly. Since dogs can’t communicate through words, you must be extra aware of their actions and behaviors to detect when there’s a problem. Under these circumstances, it’s better to get your dog checked out sooner rather than later. In some cases, liver disease may begin slowly and turn into liver failure if not properly treated.
These symptoms could also be indicators of other problems in addition to or instead of liver failure. Speaking with a veterinarian will help you receive a more accurate diagnosis, so the treatment that follows will be effective for the condition your dog actually has. For example, although vomiting is a severe reaction to something that isn’t agreeing with your dog, it doesn’t automatically mean liver failure.
You’ll want to track your dog’s symptoms and write down any contextual information about changes in your dog’s physical presence or behavior leading up to the symptoms. The more details you can provide at the time of your dog’s veterinary assessment, the more helpful it will be.
Causes of Liver Failure in Dogs
Immediate causes of liver failure are most commonly associated with your dog being accidentally poisoned by antifreeze, herbicides, insecticides, or alcohol. Some types of mold and algae may also cause infections that could subsequently lead to liver failure.
Certain breeds like West Highland White Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, and Doberman Pinschers are prone to endocrine disease that may lead to liver failure. Cushing’s disease and diabetes are also more common in West Highland White Terriers, which may lead to cysts on the liver. Consult with your veterinarian about diseases your dog’s breed is predisposed to.
The causes fall on a fairly wide spectrum of severity, which means that liver failure can occur in any dog at any time. Prevention can help keep toxins limited for your dog, which will help maintain your pet’s overall health.
Diagnosis of Liver Failure in Dogs
When you take your dog in to see the veterinarian, it’s best if you’ve kept a record of your dog’s symptoms and timing. For example, if your dog has experienced a decreased appetite, when did it begin? When did you dog last eat and how much did he eat? If he’s been vomiting more frequently, how often does it happen per day? These specifics will help give your veterinarian a more complete picture of how to plan treatment for your dog.
The signs and symptoms of liver failure may be obvious in your dog, but your veterinarian will run blood work and take urine samples to assess the level of liver failure your dog is experiencing. At this time, your dog’s doctor can also check for hormone imbalances, infectious diseases, and any signs of poisoning.
It’s important that your dog’s medical history is up-to-date with any conditions your dog currently suffers from as well as a history of medications and allergies to medications. Through an accurate medical record, the veterinarian will also know which vaccinations your dog has received and any abnormalities or problems with different medicine or supplements previously experienced.
Once your dog has been officially diagnosed, there may be more than one medical condition that applies. And, based on the stage of liver failure your dog is in, the veterinarian will recommend a treatment plan to help minimize symptoms, ease pain, and provide your dog as best quality of life as possible.
Treatment of Liver Failure in Dogs
When your dog is experiencing liver failure, there is a buildup of toxins that must be eliminated quickly. The veterinarian may schedule an enema or diuretic to clean out the system more quickly. Or, if your dog has been unable to eat as part of the symptoms of liver failure, he may need to have fluids and nutrients given intravenously. When symptoms have started to stabilize, the next phase of treatment likely will include treating the condition.
Medications, such as antibiotics or antifungal medicines, may be the answer to alleviate viral, bacterial, or fungal infections.
The type of treatment prescribed will be based on your dog’s overall health and current condition. Treatment can take a toll on his body, in addition to already suffering from liver failure. Also, there are certain risks associated with surgery or long-term medication as treatment solutions.
Your veterinarian will run through all options of treatment for your pet and give your projected quality of life associated with the treatment and timeline of recovery. Voice your concerns and feel free to ask questions about each step of the process. When your dog is dealing with liver failure, you’ll want to keep him as comfortable as possible, but also, do all you can to help improve his health.
Dogs with Liver Failure
A liver failure diagnosis requires a change in lifestyle for your pet. It means detoxifying the home as much as possible and providing your pet with clean water as much as possible. The more you can help your dog keep his liver clean, the more you can keep symptoms at bay.
When you receive the diagnosis from your veterinarian, he or she will also recommend the frequency of checkups your dog will need to keep on track with his medication and see if any changes need to be made. In some cases, your dog’s condition is treatable and his recovery can mean an extended life span. But in oth