First Signs Of Liver Disease In Dogs

The liver is one of the most important organs in your dog’s body. It doesn’t only filter the toxins from their system but helps with blood clotting and digestion. So, if something goes wrong, your furry companion will suffer greatly.

Fortunately, in most cases, we can treat and manage liver disease in dogs. Maybe you didn’t know, but this organ has an amazing ability to regenerate itself in the early stages of illness. Now, let’s learn how to spot this condition in our pups and take some action before it develops into a full-blown disease.


Liver disease in dogs – what is it?

This could be any abnormality in the liver preventing it from working properly. So far, vets have managed to isolate several types. For instance, we have a bile duct obstruction which happens when something blocks tubes that transport bile from the liver to the gallbladder.

Another condition known as liver shunt happens when blood from the spleen, pancreas, intestines, and stomach bypasses the liver and doesn’t go through the detoxification process. Some types of autoimmune diseases can also affect this organ. And, let’s not forget tumors which are typical for senior dogs.

To ensure your pet’s liver works properly, vets perform a bile acid test. This examination helps them determine the reason behind various health issues.


Dog liver disease symptoms

Depending on the type of illness, different symptoms may appear. Usually, there are no symptoms until the condition has progressed significantly, so regular blood work is crucial, especially in older dogs.

Pay attention to the following symptoms:

  • Seizure
  • Fever
  • Unsteady gait
  • Distended abdomen
  • Diarrheao, loss of appetite, vomiting
  • Lethargy

Jaundice is one of the common signs indicating something is wrong with your pup. Please note how their skin, tongue and eyes look. If they show signs of yellowing, something abnormal is happening with your pet’s liver.

Also, neurological issues, like loss of balance or seizures, should be checked by a vet immediately.

Dog Liver Disease Symptoms


Liver problems in dogs – causes

Sometimes this condition can be a result of ageing. Other times it could be genetic. Let’s not forget that infection and trauma can cause different health issues in canines. Also, medications and diseases are one of the common reasons why dogs struggle with a damaged liver.

But, let’s see the type of illnesses that can affect your pooch and what led to their development.

Acute liver disease: if your dog has been exposed to some poison or a toxic substance, they may suffer from this condition. Never expose your pet to excessive heat, like in a hot car, if you want them to be healthy.

Some toxins can cause liver failure in dogs, leading to organ damage or even death.

As we mentioned earlier, bile duct obstruction is one of the common problems. It can happen due to inflammation, a build-up or a tumor.

Chronic hepatitis can happen as an immune response, or it can be caused by an infection or toxins. This is something you should pay close attention to because the damage caused by chronic hepatitis might not be a condition your dog can quickly recover from.

Parasitic, fungal, bacterial and viral infections can also cause problems. Make sure your dog is vaccinated, otherwise, they may suffer severe organ damage.


How to set up a diagnosis?

If you suspect your dog is suffering from liver disease, your vet will order lab work and check other organs as well. Enzymes like ALT and AST found in the blood can show signs of illness. Additionally, bilirubin levels, a substance located in bile along with albumin, can offer information about your dog’s overall health or their liver condition.

On the other hand, cholesterol, blood sugar and urea nitrogen levels may also confirm there is a problem. That’s why a complete blood count is crucial to determine the presence of inflammation or infection.

Eventually, you can take your pup to have an x-ray or ultrasound, which might reveal bigger health issues like tumours in the liver or in surrounding tissue. In this case, a biopsy is a recommended procedure to check whether there are cancer cells or bacteria.



Treatment options will mostly depend on the type of disease and level of damage. Usually, vets recommend intake of electrolytes and fluids and limited activity. Supplements and medications are often part of this process.

In some cases, medication like ursodiol is used to cure bile duct obstruction. Unfortunately, it is often the only option. It has a high success rate, especially for liver shunts, and has the potential to cure the majority of dogs. However, for some pups, this might not be an option; they will have to live their whole life on a special diet and drugs.

When it comes to infections, antiviral drugs and antibiotics are usually administered. Other conditions like chronic hepatitis cannot be cured, and it’s often managed with a restrictive diet and medicines. Cancer or tumours may demand surgery, chemo, or the use of drugs.

Let’s not forget the best liver supplements Australia, which play a vital role in your pet’s health. They have a remarkable ability to help your pooch deal with any symptoms that come along their way. However, before using any supplements, make sure to contact your vet.

How long can dogs with this condition live?

It’s hard to say, and no one will give you a straight answer because this is a complex matter. For instance, canines with benign tumors are usually cured with surgical procedures.

However, when it comes to chronic inflammatory liver disease, there is no cure. But your pet can still have a decent life with proper diet and medications.

Unfortunately, if your dog is diagnosed with liver cancer, the chances are very slim. Again, it all depends on the type of cancer and whether chemo can help or not.


How to prevent liver damage in your pet?

While the liver is under a lot of stress, there are still things you can do to make sure your dog has a long and happy life. We will list a couple of useful things you should pay attention to.

Get rid of the toxins from your pup’s environment

By this, we mean avoiding unnecessary drugs, chemicals, pesticides, and shots, while focusing on a healthier alternative. Now might be the right time to assume a different approach and remove traditional care that leads to toxin overload, not only in skin and hair but also in the liver.

Pay attention to your canine’s diet

If you buy processed food, you are feeding your four-legged friend with toxins. Artificial minerals and vitamins found in dog food may additionally stress this organ. On the other hand, kibbles that feature a lot of grains tend to have cancer-causing molds mycotoxins.

Even if you buy a kibble free of grains, it may still contain toxins and pesticides. In some cases, you will notice compounds like acrylamides and heterocyclic amines. These are the worst things for your pet’s liver.

Try to include food like raw and fresh ingredients, cooked meals or food that doesn’t contain artificial vitamins and minerals.


Prevent Liver Damage

Add dog liver support supplements

They are great because these supplements break down fat-soluble toxins.

Beetroot powder

Beetroot is packed with antioxidants, nutrients, iron, magnesium, vitamins A, B6, C, and folic acid. Also, it’s rich in soluble fiber, which makes it highly beneficial for the liver and digestive system of canines. 

Beetroot powder is designed to slow down deterioration of the liver while boosting healthy bile production.

Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle or silymarin, helps liver regenerate itself, while guarding cells from oxidation and toxins. It’s a great way to support your pet’s health if they already have a confirmed liver disease.


Remember free radicals? Well, they can’t only harm humans, but dogs as well. Antioxidants are crucial because they protect cells from free radicals, which can cause liver disease or cancer in your pet. That’s why you should consider giving your pups supplements rich in antioxidants.

Schisandra chinensis extract

Native to China, this apoptogenic herb can stimulate your pet’s resistance to emotional, environmental, and physical stressors. This plant contains chemicals that can improve liver function in ageing and ill dogs. It can also be used as a preventive treatment.


How to cleanse your canine’s liver?

If your dog eats a natural, raw, unprocessed diet, you should cleanse their liver twice a year! In any other way, four times a year is a must, especially if your pooch is on drugs for parasite prevention, gets regular shots, and eats processed food.

To sum things up…

If you believe your pup is sick, don’t hesitate to call your vet right away. We hope that some of the things we named here will help you and your four-legged companion combat this serious and demanding condition.