The Main Symptoms of Liver Disease in Dogs

Liver Disease in Dogs
The liver is a vital organ which performs a number of essential functions in the body of a dog. The main function of the liver is blood detoxification. It also plays an important role in removing waste products from the dog’s system and similarly helps metabolizing fats, proteins and carbohydrates. The liver also helps in carrying out a number of biochemical processes which help the immune system to fight diseases. Therefore, when the liver is crippled, it is like crippling the entire dog’s system as some of the most important processes will not be taking place. The clinical symptoms of liver disorders in dogs are quite variable due to the liver’s extensive interaction with other organs in its and its extraordinary regenerative capacity.

Symptoms of Dogs Liver Disease in Dogs

Some dogs do not reveal clinical manifestations of the liver damage in the early stages of the disease. However, when the symptoms start developing, they are never specific. The extent of any symptom does not practically relate to the extent of liver damage due to the fact that the liver is intimately involved with so many vital body functions and that particular symptom might be due to the abnormality in another organ. With this in mind, some of the symptoms of dog liver disease are as follows

Gastrointestinal Symptoms

The first important symptom of a liver disease is loss of appetite also called anorexia. The dog will start eating less. Along with this, it will also have gastrointestinal upsets such as diarrhea, constipation and vomiting. This occurs especially due to the abnormal metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates after the liver has malfunctioned. The dog will also lose weight, anemia will kick in and finally it will become inactive and lethargic.


The moment bile released from the gallbladder is obstructed; it leads to accumulation of toxic bulirubin in bloodstream. This leads to jaundice in dogs also called icterus. This will cause the white part of the dog’s eye and the mucus membranes in the tongue and the gums to turn yellow. This will follow with the dog starting to pass bright yellow orange colored urine as a result of bilirubinuria.

Stool Color

The dog will start passing grey colored feces. The secreted bile contains cholesterol, bile acids, electrolytes, globulins and bilirubin. Bulirubin is a toxic substance which is usually detoxified in the liver. However, when the liver fails to detoxify and excrete it from the system, the dog starts passing a pale gray stool. This indicates that the bile ducts are obstructed by the liver disease.

Neurological Changes

When the liver fails to detoxify the toxins in the body, it causes the toxins to circulate in the body hence ending up in the brain. This leads to a number of neurological changes in the dog. Such changes include a number of behavioral changes like aggressiveness, restlessness seizures ataxia mental dullness and in severe cases coma amongst many other changes.

Bleeding Disorders

Liver failure will lead to coagulation problems in the dog a condition known as coagulopathy. The liver disease is going to affect the stomach and the duodenum of the dog leading to gastrointestinal hemorrhage. This is where you will start seeing blood in the dog’s stool, urine and even in its vomit.

The dog will start developing ulcerated crusted sores on its footpads thus walking will start becoming a problem. You will also be able to observe redness between the toes of the dog, a condition known as 

The other clinical symptoms include bad breath, swollen belly; enlarge liver, excessive urination and excessive thirst.


The treatment options for dog suffering from liver disease vary depending on the cause of the condition. These treatments options include;

Dietary Modification

This is usually recommended to ensure that the dog receives caloric and nutrient intake necessary to ensure liver regeneration to manage the body processes. Such dietary modification will include protein regulations to reduce the levels of ammonia circulating in the body. The attending veterinarian will recommend the diet and this amongst many diet modifications should play an important role in helping the dog recover.

Treatment of Copper Related Hepatitis

Liver disorder related with an abnormal accumulation of copper should have the copper ingested minimized. The attending veterinarian may recommend the appropriate supplementation diet which helps to remove these elements from the blood.


The dog can be taken for a drug therapy. For instance, Glucocorticoids have been used in the past to prolong the survival of dogs having liver disorder due to their immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory 

The other common treatments are supportive care which is often accompanied with other treatments, blood transfusion and surgery when the dog has an identifiable liver or gall bladder mass.
In conclusion, always remember that only a skilled veterinary professional can access the dog and perform tests to determine the cause of their liver disease.