Sunday, June 09, 2013

Liver Problems in Dogs

Liver is the largest organ not only in the human body, but also in a dog's body. The liver is situated in the abdomen behind the diaphragm in dogs. The liver is one of the most important organs as most of the biochemical pathways that help in growth of the animal, supply of nutrients to the body, immunity against disease, energy production, etc. are carried out in the liver.

As the liver is involved with so many biochemical processes of the body, it tends to be affected by many diseases and problems. There are many liver problems that may affect dog health. Let us see some of the causes.

What Causes Liver Problems

Older dogs suffer from many liver problems, but even younger dogs may suffer from liver diseases. If there are any anatomical abnormalities of the liver due to genetic defects, it may lead to many serious dog health problems. The other causes include infections like canine viral hepatitis, leptospirosis and other diseases. Bacterial infections that enter the liver through bile ducts, lead to jaundice, rise in body temperature and abdominal pain in dogs also lead to liver problems. If the dog is poisoned or suffers from food poisoning, the toxins may damage the liver and cause liver disease. 

Symptoms of Liver Problems
The symptoms of liver problems are variable in each individual canine. The commonly observed symptoms include:

  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Jaundice
  • Excessive thirst and frequent urination
  • Soft gray-white feces
  • Abdominal distention due to ascites
  • Liver enlargement
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Prolonged bleeding, in case of injury

Treatment for Liver Problems
Treatment is mostly supportive and symptomatic. The vet may administer intravenous or subcutaneous fluids for prevention of dehydration and providing nutrition and medicines to control vomiting.

The medications for treatment of liver problems in dogs, depends on the extent and cause of liver damage. As liver is the organ that breaks down medicines, a non-functional liver requires low medicinal doses. In case of chronic hepatitis, corticosteroids are administered to lower the inflammation and scarring. It also helps stimulate hunger and makes the dog feel healthy. Antibiotics are prescribed to cure any secondary infection due to liver problems.

For treating copper storage disease, penicillamine and zinc acetate are given to lower the copper levels in liver. The vet may advice medications to control vomiting, nausea and prevent ulcers in the stomach and intestine. Furosemide is a diuretic that is used to treat ascites. Electrolytes are used to prevent intravenous and subcutaneous fluids.

Dietary Supplements

The dog diet is altered to help the dog obtain the required amount of nutrition and calories. If the dog suffers from copper storage disease, he will be kept on a low copper diet. The dog should be given optimum qualities of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. The dog food should contain chicken, fish and eggs, as protein source. You should include easily digestible carbohydrate as a source of energy. Do not feed the dog any food with high artificial additive and include low levels of phosphorous and sodium in diet. 

You need to stay alert about the various symptoms of liver problems. Many times the symptoms of liver problems in dogs are overlooked and the disease reaches a critical stage. Speak to the vet regarding any problem related to the liver.


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