Liver Disease in Dogs

Liver disease in dogs, especially chronic liver inflammation, is unfortunately rather prevalent. Chronic liver inflammation is often called chronic-active hepatitis. It is a chronic disease but the dogs tend to suffer repeated flare-ups that resemble acute liver disease. This page takes a look at the symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment of canine liver disease.

Liver Disease in Dogs The liver is a large organ and is one of the most important organs that plays a significant role in a number of different physiological processes.

Did you know that the liver performs over 500 different tasks? Talk about multi-tasking! For example, the liver is where impurities in blood (e.g. drugs, chemical additives in foods) are filtered and detoxified.

It also processes food; stores glycogen (sugar source for your dog), blood, vitamins, and iron; synthesizes proteins; and manufactures bile for fat digestion.

As the liver performs so many diverse functions, any liver disease in dogs can have a huge negative impact on their overall health.

Possible Causes of Liver Disease in Dogs

Canine liver disease can have a gamut of causes, including the following:

  • Since the liver metabolizes a lot of chemicals and toxins, excessive amounts of some chemicals and toxins can put a huge burden on the liver that can eventually lead to liver problems.

    Some substances that contain problematic chemicals and toxins include flea control products, herbicides and pesticides, as well as toxic amounts of lead, arsenic, phosphorus, iron, and selenium.

  • Prolonged and excessive use of some medications can also cause liver disease in dogs.

    Such medications include corticosteroids, antibiotics, antifungals, worming medications, diuretics, NSAIDs, epilepsy medications (anticonvulsants), and testosterone preparations.

  • Various viral or bacterial infections.
  • Heatstroke.
  • Physical injuries (e.g. a blow by a car).
  • Congenital disease (e.g. liver shunt, and copper-associated hepatitis).
  • Other physical problems, such as anemia, Cushing's disease, heartworm and heart disease, pancreatitis, and cancer.

Symptoms of Canine Liver Disease

The symptoms are as diverse as the functions of the liver - and in the early stages, the symptoms are rather subtle.

Some classical symptoms include:

  • GI imbalances (e.g. diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, bloating, bad breath)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Excess urination
  • Excess thirst
  • Excessive drooling
  • Personality change (e.g. depression, lethargy, anxiety, loss of enthusiasm for life)
  • Skin problems (e.g. acne, psoriasis, rashes)
  • Jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes)
  • Seizures (in advanced stages of the disease)


As can be seen above, many of the symptoms of liver disease are similar to those of other diseases. Therefore, in order to make a diagnosis of liver disease, a number of diagnostic procedures will have to be carried out.

Common diagnostic methods involve:

  • Blood tests to check on a number of different aspects of a dog's blood, including red and white blood cell levels as well as the levels of certain enzymes. For example, the enzymes alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) often appear in elevated amounts in a dog suffering from liver disease.
  • Bile acid test
  • Urinalysis
  • Radiology and ultrasound

Conventional Treatment

Obviously, treatment for canine liver disease depends on the cause of the condition.

For example, if injury as a result of physical trauma was the cause, hospitalization while the dog recovers from the impact of the trauma may be all that is required.

When, on the other hand, the liver disease is caused by another medical condition such as cancer or anemia, these additional underlying medical conditions will need to be dealt with as well.

In any case, a dog with liver disease should be under professional veterinary care. However, for many chronic liver diseases, conventional medicine seems to have little effect.

Corgi Puppy

Natural Remedies for Liver Health in Dogs

Natural remedies such as herbs and homeopathy are effective in treating liver disease in dogs. If your dog has been diagnosed with liver disease, therefore, consult with a holistic veterinarian and try to work out a holistic treatment program for your dog.

Get more information on some such natural remedies from this page.