Liver Inflammation (Chronic) in Dogs

Cecilia de Cardenas
Mar 13, 2009
3 min read
Image: Photo Grapher / via Image Bank

Chronic, Active Hepatitis in Dogs

Hepatitis, a medical condition used to describe long-term, ongoing inflammation of the liver, is associated with an accumulation of inflammatory cells in the liver and progressive scarring or formation of excessive fibrous tissue in the liver (fibrosis). These biological changes can lead to decreased functioning of the liver.

Another cause for hepatitis, inherited copper-storage disease of the liver, occurs in Bedlington terriers and other breeds. The average range of onset is from two to ten years, with average age of occurrence around six years old. In cocker Spaniels, it is more common in males, but otherwise, copper storage disease of the liver appears to have a higher incidence in females than in males.

Symptoms and Types

  • Sluggishness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive urination and excessive thirst
  • Yellowish discoloration of the gums and moist tissues of the membranes
  • Fluid build-up in the abdomen
  • Poor body condition
  • Nervous system signs - such as dullness or seizures caused by accumulation of ammonia in the system due to the liver's inability to rid the body of ammonia

Causes

Diagnosis

You will need to provide your veterinarian with a thorough history of your dog's health leading up to the onset of symptoms. Any information you have about your dog's genetic background and parentage will be helpful as well.

Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam on your dog, including a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, an electrolyte panel and a urinalysis. The bloodwork will enable your veterinarian to look for impaired kidney function.

The appearance of the liver will change in certain diseased states. Your veterinarian will use X-ray and ultrasound imaging to visually examine the liver and may use the opportunity to take a tissue sample for biopsy.

Treatment

If your dog is severely ill it will need to be hospitalized and given fluid therapy supplemented with B vitamins, potassium and dextrose. Your dog's activity will need to be restricted during the treatment and recovery phase. Talk with your veterinarian about whether cage rest is the best option. The dog will also need to be kept warm.

Medication to increase elimination of fluids from the body will help to decrease fluid build-up in the abdomen, and medications may also be prescribed to treat infection, decrease brain swelling, control seizures, and decrease ammonia production and absorption (from the intestines to the rest of the body). Enemas can be used to empty the colon. Zinc may also be supplemented if necessary.

Your dog should be switched to a diet restricted in sodium, and supplemented with thiamine and vitamins. Rather than two or three main meals per day, you will need to feed your dog several small meals a day. If your dog is suffering from a lack of appetite that continues over several days, you will need to talk to your veterinarian about using an intravenous feeding tube. This should be done to assure that your dog does not suffer further from muscle wasting.

Living and Management

Your veterinarian will schedule follow-up appointments according to your dog's underlying disease state. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your dog's symptoms return or worsen, if your dog loses weight, or if your dog begins to show a poor body condition.

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