Canine Liver Disease

Written by Amy Hall
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Canine liver disease can happen in dogs of all ages, breeds, and sizes. However, there are certain breeds that tend to be more prone to developing liver disease. Such breeds include: Skye Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, West Highland White Terriers, and Cocker Spaniels. If you begin to notice any changes in your dog’s behavior, such as loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, pacing or seizures, darker urine, pale stools, or pain when the abdomen is touched, see your vet immediately.

In dogs, there are several potential causes of liver disease. In many cases liver disease is secondary to another illness present in the body. Let’s take a look at the possible causes of liver disease in dogs. Trauma, such as a severe blow to the abdomen (such as by being hit by a car), can bring on liver disease in dogs. Heatstroke is another contributing factor to canine liver disease. It is always important to provide your dog with fresh water, plenty of shade on hot days, and regular exercise during the cooler portion of the day. Likewise, never leave your dog in the car when the temperatures outside are hot.

Other causes of canine liver disease are heartworms, environmental toxins, anemia, pancreatitis, infection, hepatitis, and cancer. In order to determine what the exact problem is, tests will need to be performed on the dog. A physical exam will reveal if the liver is enlarged. If liver disease is present, the dog may show discomfort when the abdomen is palpitated by the veterinarian. A rectal temperature greater than 103°F could signal liver disease as well. Enlarged lymph nodes may be indicative of cancer of the liver in the dog.

Tests for Canine Liver Disease

A blood panel is a host of tests that are used to make an accurate diagnosis of canine liver disease. It is recommended that dogs eight years of age and older should be given these blood tests even if there are no symptoms present that would indicate liver disease. Blood panel tests check both red and white blood cell count, total protein, bilirubin, and certain enzymes that when elevated are indicative of liver disease.


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