Certain dog breeds such as retriever, Doberman, or Great Dane are prone to liver disease. Especially with older dogs, an annual liver check is indispensable due to their health vulnerability. 

Here it may even make sense if you have a check carried out in consultation with the veterinarian. Depending on the cause, the vet will adjust the treatment.

If bacterial infections lead to illness, the vet uses antibiotics. On the other hand, if parasites are the trigger, your vet will prescribe antiparasitic drugs for your darling.

If the causes are hormonal disorders or blood circulation problems, the treatment is much more complicated. If the disease through which the liver was first damaged is not cured, no complete cure is possible.

Dog Liver Failure Stages

The liver’s high blood capacity is an advantage but also a disadvantage in the event of illness. When there is a drop in liver performance, external symptoms do not appear immediately.

The liver can be seriously ill and still does not hurt. This is one of the biggest problems with canine liver disease. Liver dysfunction or liver inflammation is not easy to spot and is often diagnosed too late.

Once it has reached a chronic stage, it is usually no longer completely curable. Liver diseases are often very easy to get out of control in the early stages.

Dog with liver failure is often shaking. Abnormalities such as tiredness, diarrhea, jaundice, or weakness attacks only show up when the liver is already severely affected. The liver still fulfills its function and, in the best case, can repair its own damage.

However, this also means that you always go to the vet at the first signs. This is because if inflammation or poisoning progresses, liver cells die, and scar tissue forms.

Over time, this leads to cirrhosis of the liver, which results in life-threatening liver failure. Treatment at this stage will also no longer lead to healing.

The sooner you become aware of the signs of liver disease, the better the chances of recovery.

There are many different liver disease stages in dogs, caused by a wide variety of functional disorders or liver cell damage. The most common canine liver diseases include:

  1. Coagulation disorder
  2. Jaundice
  3. Portosystemic Liver Shunt (PSS)
  4. Inflammation of the liver (Hepatitis)
  5. Cirrhosis of the liver

Coagulation disorder

If the liver cannot produce enough coagulation factors or if the body consumes them more, the dog can develop a coagulation disorder (coagulopathy). It can be life-threatening if the dog bleeds to death. A typical example of this is what is known as coumarin poisoning, which is caused by ingesting rat poison.

Jaundice

Jaundice is not a disease on its own but rather a symptom. The cause is the increase in bile pigments in the blood, which are increasingly visible as yellowish-orange deposits in the mucous membranes and t in the eye’s dermis (sclera). The triggers for this symptom are classified as follows:

  • Pre hepatic jaundice (cause “in front of the liver”): increased concentration of blood pigments due to the destruction of red blood cells (hemolysis), for example, due to an infection
  • intrahepatic jaundice (cause “within the liver”): liver cell damage or dysfunction
  • Post-hepatic jaundice (cause “behind the liver”): Disturbance of the bile outflow due to, for example, tumorous changes

Portosystemic Liver Shunt (PSS)

A liver shunt is a pathological vascular abnormality of the liver, which is congenital in most cases. Diverting the blood no longer flows through the liver but is transported directly into the main vein via a vessel (shunt). This condition deprives the liver of important nutrients and toxic substances such as ammonia.

Inflammation of the liver (Hepatitis)

Liver inflammation can be acute or chronic. The most common causes include viruses such as canine adenovirus 1 (CAV-1), which causes hepatitis contagiosa canis (HCC), bacteria, protozoa, and poisons.

Cirrhosis of the liver

Liver cirrhosis is the end-stage of chronic liver disease. Due to the long-term damage, a firm scar tissue forms, which permeates the liver like nodules. The consequences are circulatory disorders and further functional damage that cannot be reversed.

Dog Liver Disease Life Expectancy

Dog’s life expectancy with liver diseases vary. It depends mainly on the diet keepers give.

In the long run, what damages the liver is an improper diet, coupled with a lack of exercise. In the meantime, many dogs are overweight, so that fatty liver can occur here.

The fatty degeneration of the liver ensures that it no longer works properly. The functions are limited and toxic, and waste materials in the normal scope are no longer guaranteed.

It is, therefore, important that you regularly go to the vet for check-ups with your darling. Always remember that a liver disease not only leads to a loss of quality of life but can also be fatal in individual cases.

Therefore, a balanced diet – always adapted to age – is just as important as sufficient exercise. With this, you already have many threads in hand to prevent or recover your dog from getting liver problems.

What to Feed a Dog With Liver Problems 

If your dog’s liver has been damaged, it has to be relieved with an easily digestible, low-fat diet. No free fatty acids or toxins should be produced in the intestine through diet, as these put additional strain on the liver.

Your four-legged friend’s food must be high-quality, good-quality food. Here are three tips for dieting canine liver disease:

  1. Only feed fresh and not dried out dog food.
  2. The following foods and herbs are advisable if your dogs have a liver disease: milk thistle, artichokes, dandelion, cottage cheese, low-fat quark, fresh vegetables – especially leafy vegetables.
  3. Avoid butter, coconut, and palm oil, as well as foods rich in sodium and copper. A day of fasting is also a useful idea in a regeneration phase to relieve the liver.

Dogs with liver disease must reduce the amount of meat in the feed. However, this must be of particularly high quality and easy to digest, as is the case with veal and fish. Offal is taboo, but the grain is allowed.

Fruit and vegetables rich in vitamins should be part of a good meal. Since germs in the feed lead to stress on the liver, it is very important to pay attention to hygiene when dieting for dogs with liver disease and feed only flawless feed. It is also advisable to divide the daily ration into smaller meals.

Can Dog Recover Liver Failure

Dogs can recover from liver failure. However, not all dogs can fully recover their liver conditions.

Therapy depends on the type and severity of liver disease and usually occurs over a longer period for successful treatment. Since the liver has a high potential for regeneration, the dog can recover in many cases, even in acute liver diseases.

The most important treatment goal is to restore the liver’s metabolic function so that it can fulfill its task as a detoxification organ again. For this, you must first eliminate the causes of liver inflammation or liver disease.

Antibiotics help against bacterial infestation, and antidots can provide relief in the event of poisoning. The liver is capable of regeneration. However, once parts of the liver have been destroyed, they will usually no longer regenerate.

Then, the still functional parts have to take over the work. Chronic liver disease often requires lifelong supportive therapy.

The diet plays a great role in the treatment of dogs with liver problems. The feed should stress the part of the liver that is still working as little as possible.

Therefore, food for dogs with liver disease is often low in protein but must contain essential nutrients. The right composition is crucial.

Finally, it does not always fix all the consequences of an illness, but the quality of life and life expectancy of affected dogs can increase significantly. Another important measure is that keepers must pay close attention to their animal’s weight, as excess weight puts an additional strain on senior dog liver problems.