The early signs of liver disease are nonspecific.
They include loss of appetite, weight loss, and chronic intermittent vomiting and diarrhea. Vomiting is more
common than diarrhea. Drinking and urinating more often than normal may be the
first signs, and the principal reason for seeking medical attention.
In the early stages of liver disease the liver swells and enlarges. As the
disease progresses, the liver cells die and are replaced by scar tissue. The
liver then becomes rubbery and firm. This condition is called cirrhosis. It is
not reversible. Before the liver reaches this terminal stage, it can recover
from damage and heal itself to the point where your dog
has normal liver function. This is possible if proper treatment is instituted
early on; the extent of recovery depends on the exact cause of the liver
damage. Eighty percent of liver cells must die before the liver begins to fail.
The signs of liver failure are jaundice, hepatic encephalopathy, ascites, spontaneous bleeding,
and dependent edema-swollen lower limbs. Treatment of liver failure is directed
toward treating the liver disease that is causing it.
Dogs are very expressive animals. They communicate when they’re feeling happy, sad, nervous, fearful and angry, and they use their faces and bodies to convey much of this information. Dog body language is an elaborate and sophisticated system of nonverbal communication that, fortunately, we can learn to recognize and interpret. Once you learn how to “read” a dog’s postures and signals, you’ll better understand his feelings and motivations and be better able to predict what he’s likely to...
With impaired liver function, bile accumulates in the blood and tissues,
staining the tissues yellow. This can be seen in the yellow appearance of the
white of the eyes and in the mucous membranes of the gums
and tongue. The inside of the ears is another area where yellow pigment can be
detected. Bile excreted in the urine turns the urine dark brown (the color of
Jaundice may also result from the breakdown of large numbers of red blood
cells, such as in acute hemolytic anemia. Post hepatic
bile duct obstruction can also cause jaundice.
This is a type of brain dysfunction caused by high levels of ammonia and
other toxins in the blood. Ammonia is a byproduct of protein metabolism, and is
normally removed from the bloodstream by a healthy liver. When the liver is
sick, ammonia accumulates to toxic levels and exerts a poisonous effect on the
Dogs with hepatic encephalopathy develop incoordination, sporadic weakness,
disorientation, head-pressing, behavioral changes, drooling, stupor, and mental
dullness. Symptoms tend to wax and wane. They become more severe after a
high-protein meal. Seizures and coma occur when
hepatic encephalopathy is advanced.
Ascites is the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen. In a dog with liver
disease, it is caused by low serum proteins and increased pressure in the veins
that supply the liver. A dog with ascites has a swollen or bloated look.
Thumping on the abdomen produces a dull, flat sound.
Spontaneous bleeding occurs in dogs with advanced liver disease. Common
sites of bleeding are the stomach, intestines, and urinary tract. Blood may be
noted in the vomitus, stools, or urine. Punctate (pinhead-size) hemorrhages may
be seen on the gums. Bruises can appear under the lips and skin. Major blood loss from
spontaneous bleeding is relatively uncommon, but uncontrollable bleeding can be
a serious problem if the dog is injured or requires surgery.