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Canine Liver Disease

Canine Liver Disease

Canine liver disease is one of the top five leading causes for the death of dogs. The symptoms are usually so mild that by the time the condition is diagnosed it is already in the advanced stage. Keep yourself informed about the causes, symptoms, and treatments, so that you are ready to deal with it, in case it strikes your pet.
Debopriya Bose
The liver is an important gland that is involved in almost all the processes of the body. It helps in blood purification, waste removal, and digestion by producing bile. Due to its role in a number of functions of the body, it is prone to damage by a variety of ailments. Studies reveal that almost 3% of the canine diseases, diagnosed by veterinarians, is related to the liver.

As the liver performs wide ranging functions, and works closely with other processes of the body, it is susceptible to damage by a number of factors. Some of the common factors are:
  • Poor diet.
  • Bacterial infection.
  • Trauma.
  • Prescription drugs.
  • Harmful substances in the environment.
  • Over vaccination.
The symptoms of canine liver disease are neither specific nor predictable. They are wide ranging and subtle. Other than a few minor changes in the behavior, your dog might behave in a normal way. Hence one should be very vigilant about changes in one's pet's behavior. All, few, or just one of the following symptoms may be caused due to a diseased liver:
  • Loss of appetite and intermittent, recurring diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation.
  • Orange urine due to high levels of bilirubin, as the bile can't be processed properly.
  • The feces are pale gray in color. The feces have their normal brown color due to the bile pigments present in them. However, as the bile is not being processed properly the feces appear pale gray.
  • Chronic weight loss as the liver cannot process the building blocks of the body.
  • Swollen belly due to fluid accumulation in the abdomen.
  • Depression and lethargy.
  • Jaundice marked by yellowing of skin, gums, and the white part of the eyes.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Increase in thirst and urination.
  • Behavioral changes like aimless circling, pacing, or head pressing.
  • Bleeding problems due to decrease in the amount of blood clotting protein in the liver.
Although the symptoms are mild, timely treatment can be very helpful, as the liver is the only organ that is capable of complete regeneration.
  • Dietary changes: Changing the diet, to supply adequate amount of energy and nutrients that facilitate cell regeneration, plays an important role in treating canine liver diseases. However, any change in the diet should be based upon the diagnosis. As one of the functions of a liver is to break down complex chemicals, reducing the intake of chemical preservatives and additives can lessen the workload of the organ. Foods like chocolate, sugar, tomatoes, and bones should be avoided when your dog is suffering from such an ailment. A daily vitamin and mineral supplement is helpful. However, if the dog is suffering from copper storage diseases, the supplement should not contain copper. Ensuring Vitamin K intake can help solve bleeding problems. Vitamin E can also be included in the diet as it is an antioxidant that removes free radicals.
  • Medication: If the disease had been caused due to a bacterial infection, antibiotics are prescribed. In case of more serious medical problems like cancer or anemia, additional medical care is required. However, if it has been caused due to trauma, just hospitalizing the canine till it recovers may be enough.
  • Natural Remedies: Sometimes, homeopathic and herbal treatments can also be used for their antibacterial and anti fungal properties. Some of these naturally occurring substances have helped the damaged cells to regenerate and aid in the detoxification of blood. For example, milk thistle extracts are useful in case of liver damage, caused due to toxins.
Even if you think that your dog is suffering from such a condition, it is advisable that you do not administer treatment on your own, as it should be based upon the cause and the extent of the damage caused. Your dog's health is safest in the trained hands of a veterinarian.

Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.