Liver problems in dogs: symptoms and prevention

Liver problems in dogs can appear at any age and can be triggered by multiple causes, such as infectious diseases or hormonal disorders.

Liver problems in dogs are difficult to spot. In addition, they occasionally appear as a secondary disease. This means that the dog may have a disease that secondary to the liver, which is usually reflected in the biochemical analysis of the blood.

The liver has many functions related to the metabolism of certain nutrients, such as proteins, carbohydrates and fats. In addition, it is also involved in the metabolism of vitamins and minerals .

Another indispensable function of the liver is its ability to eliminate various toxins and drugs carried by the blood, as well as the function of forming and eliminating bile.

Symptoms of liver problems in dogs

When a liver begins to lose its functional capacity, a number of symptoms appear. Not all of them need to be present and can sometimes be mistaken for symptoms of another disease. Symptoms that dogs with liver problems can develop are:

  • Apathy . The dog may appear tired, with a lack of vitality and a desire to move.
  • Lack of appetite . We can see that the dog has little desire to eat or, at least, not as much as usual.
  • Dehydration. Even if he drinks water as he usually does, since the liver is not functioning properly, the water does not hydrate the body’s cells. We can tell if a dog is not hydrated if we pinch a flap of skin on the back and notice that it takes some time to return to its position .
  • Change in the color of the mucous membranes. When there is a deficiency in the liver, the dog’s mucous membranes tend to turn yellow . This is known as jaundice.
  • Weight Loss . The dog can lose weight due to a lack of appetite, coupled with improper metabolism of nutrients.
  • Chronic or recurrent vomiting. As the liver problem increases, other symptoms appear. This is the case with vomit, which is usually yellow and frothy.
  • Polydipsia and polyuria . These terms refer, respectively, to an increase in the amount of water ingested and urine excreted.
  • Ascites . An accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, produced by a decrease in serum proteins and an increase in venous tension.
  • Diarrhea .
  • Neurological signs . Due to the accumulation of toxins in the blood from lack of liver function, these can affect the brain, causing inflammation in this organ.

Diseases that cause liver problems in dogs

When symptoms of liver disease appear, our first thought is that there may be a problem or deficiency in the function of this organ. However, when a liver problem is detected through blood tests, we need to rule out other possibilities .

Some of the conditions or diseases that can cause liver damage are:

  • Intoxications . During a routine walk, our dog is unfortunately exposed to intoxication with multiple substances, some consciously placed and others not. If we visit urban parks or agricultural areas, the dog can become poisoned with herbicides, insecticides or fertilizers. They can also ingest poisonous substances intended for other animals.
  • Infectious hepatitis . This disease is caused by canine adenovirus type 1 (CAV-1). This virus is transmitted by the body fluids of sick animals, such as urine, feces or saliva. It has no specific treatment, only life support, and can sometimes become chronic.
  • Leptospirosis . The cause of leptospirosis is a bacterium that can be transmitted to humans, that is, it is a zoonotic disease. It is transmitted through contact with the fluids of infected animals or with water. In addition to the liver, it also affects the heart, kidneys and lungs .
  • Filariasis . It is a roundworm infection that can affect organs such as the heart, lungs, skin, or eyes. It is a zoonotic disease transmitted by insects and secondary to the liver .
  • Cushing’s syndrome . The Cushing’s syndrome is a hormonal imbalance that can occur in some dogs. The adrenocortical glands begin to excessively produce the hormone cortisol, which can affect certain organs such as the liver.
  • Diabetes mellitus . This disease is characterized by the total or partial absence of insulin in the blood. Second, it can increase the risk of developing liver inflammation or scarring.

How to prevent

When liver problems in dogs are a consequence of other diseases, when those diseases are treated, the liver also benefits. Each disease has its own method of prevention. For example, in cases such as filariasis or other diseases transmitted by insects, it is sufficient to use repellents and avoid the areas where these insects live.

Sometimes, hormonal diseases such as diabetes or Cushing’s syndrome are caused by poor nutrition and, in many cases, lead to obesity. Hence, keeping your pet healthy, well fed and exercised is essential for their body to function properly.

Finally, liver failure sometimes occurs, as well as kidney failure, in older dogs. It is true that age does matter, but proper nutrition is a priority. We must not forget that the liver belongs to the digestive system of the dog and can be influenced by many factors.

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