Liver Disease in Dogs

The liver is an important organ for your dog. It helps with digestion and blood clotting, and it removes toxins from his system. If it's not working right, it can make your companion sick. But liver disease can often be treated and managed.

Symptoms

It's easy to miss the symptoms of liver disease. They're similar to those for other problems.

Your dog's symptoms may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Increased thirst
  • An unstable walk
  • Increased need to pee
  • Confusion
  • Yellowish eyes, tongue, or gums (jaundice)
  • Signs of weakness
  • Blood in his pee or poop
  • Seizures
  • Ascites (a build-up of fluid in the belly)

If your dog's liver disease isn't caught early, it can lead to a serious brain condition called hepatic encephalopathy.

What Causes Liver Problems

Sometimes liver disease can happen as a result of aging. Sometimes it's genetic. But it can also be brought on by infection or trauma to the area. Some diseases and medications can hurt your dog's liver.

Other causes of liver disease may include:

  • Some plants and herbs such as ragwort, certain mushrooms, and blue-green algae
  • Molds that grow on corn
  • Untreated heartworms
  • Diabetes
  • Issues with the pancreas
  • Long-term use of painkillers
  • Fatty foods

If your dog has some symptoms of liver problems, your vet may ask you about his diet and medications. The vet may want to do blood tests and X-rays or an ultrasound to get a picture of what is going on with your dog's liver. He may also want to take a biopsy -- remove a small tissue sample for testing.