Your pup’s livers are their first and best defense against a world full of toxins and infectious agents. The liver acts like the body’s filter, keeping the blood free of noxious or damaging properties, promoting healthy digestion, and producing essential bile, proteins, and enzymes. Considering the liver’s role as the bodily defender, there is a good chance that it may become damaged in its constant fight against its countless environmental and viral attackers.
This damage, if left untreated, can cause liver failure (also known as acute hepatic failure) in dogs and lead to a whole host of disastrous side effects that may even result in death. The symptoms of liver failure in dogs, when recognized, should galvanize the owner into immediate action. Most dogs will require hospitalization if liver failure occurs and the road to recovery can be long and painful.
Symptoms of Liver Failure in Dogs
If your dog is suffering from liver failure, then they will show a number of symptoms and signs that should hint towards their deteriorating condition. However, some of these symptoms may seem like they are due to other causes and may be misinterpreted as food poisoning, acid reflux, or other less serious illnesses.
It is incredibly important to be wary when self-diagnosing your pup, as waiting too long before seeking professional medical assistance can cause undue suffering for your pooch and may even risk its continued survival. Here are the visible signs and symptoms of liver failure in dogs:
- Vacant eyes
- Blood in the stool or urine
- Jaundice (yellowing) of the eyes, gums and tongue
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Sudden and increased thirst
Showing any of these symptoms will usually cause concern for the dog owner but may not galvanize them into seeking medical help. This is a big concern as allowing liver failure to occur can end in brain damage as infected or toxic blood poisons your pup’s brain. Hepatic encephalopathy is a serious and irreparable condition that will alter your dog’s moods, behavior, and cognitive functions.
The effects on your dog’s digestive and nervous systems will be similarly adverse. If you do recognize any one of these symptoms as a threat or identify them in combination, your veterinarian should be consulted and, more often than not, extensive blood, urine and biochemical tests will be run as well as x-rays and ultrasounds. These tests should be able to pick up the non-visible symptoms of liver failure in dogs, these include:
- Low blood sugar
- Protein synthesis impairment
- Low nitrogen levels in the blood
- High liver enzyme occurrence in the bloodstream
- Presence of ammonium urate in the urine
- High plasma ammonia concentration
- Blood platelet abnormalities
- Abnormal coagulation
- Liver tissue necrosis
- Blood clotting issues
- Brain damage
Prevention and Treatment of Canine Liver Failure
Since most liver damage in dogs is caused by outside agents, it is essential to keep your puppy’s environment free of such toxins and hazards. These can include household cleaning agents, flame retardants, and pesticides. Diet is also incredibly important to ensure liver health and escape the predations of liver damage.
A diet high in fat and additives can overwhelm the liver’s functions and allow other toxins to seep in. Switching to natural foods without additives, supplements, or preservatives can go a long way towards preventing the root causes of liver disease that may result in liver failure. Vaccinating your dog against canine hepatitis will also help to ensure liver health.
If your dog is suffering from liver failure, it will be essential that they are admitted to a hospital for monitoring and testing. Treatments include the administration of fluids and electrolytes and oxygen supplementation and replacement. Feeding through a catheter may be essential to those patients who have been suffering through the condition long enough that they can no longer support normal digestive activity.
Talk to your veterinarian about the signs and symptoms of liver failure so you know what to look out for. It can be easy to misinterpret symptoms of liver damage as signifiers of less serious conditions. Your dog’s liver is essential to his continued ability to thrive, with the right amount of concern, prevention, and healthy habits you can ensure it keeps functioning for a long, long time.