What Causes Liver Damage in Dogs?

A veterinarian can diagnose a treat a dog with liver damage.
Heartworm disease is a common cause of canine liver damage.
Some veterinarians believe that most conventional dog foods lack proper nutrients needed to maintain liver health.
Old age may be a cause of liver damage.
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  • Written By: Patti Kate
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 19 January 2015
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Liver damage in dogs may be caused by various factors, including old age. A common cause of canine liver failure is heartworm disease. This can be prevented, however, with preventative medication. Toxicity from chemicals and other substances may cause irreparable liver damage in dogs. Heatstroke can also cause liver failure or permanent liver damage in dogs.

As a dog ages, vital organs, such as the liver and kidneys, may begin to lose function. An elderly dog may begin to show signs of liver damage due to other illnesses such as bacterial or yeast infections. Advanced heart disease in an elderly dog may cause liver damage as well.

Dogs that are given certain prescription medications to control a chronic ailment may suffer from liver damage. Symptoms may be mild in the early stages and become progressively worse over time. Some signs of liver disease in dogs are weight loss and bloating around the abdomen. Jaundice may also occur in a dog with liver damage.

Automobile accidents and falls often contribute to liver damage in dogs. When a dog receives blunt force trauma to the abdomen, the liver may become torn or ruptured. Internal bleeding may occur, and in some cases surgery may be necessary to save a dog's life. A bruised liver may heal completely without any treatment.


Liver damage in dogs may also be genetic. Some canine breeds are predisposed to conditions that may cause stress or impairment of the liver. According to experts, certain breeds of terriers, as well as dalmatians and cocker spaniels are especially vulnerable.

Viral hepatitis in dogs can be a serious or life-threatening condition. If the virus goes undetected and untreated for an extended period of time, hepatitis may damage a dog's liver. The effects of canine liver damage due to viral hepatitis may be reversed in the early stages, if treated with antibiotics and other medications. A veterinarian can diagnose the disease and prescribe proper treatment to prevent liver damage from progressing.

Canine liver cancer will often cause hepatic failure in dogs. Cancer of the liver is most common in old dogs, although a young dog may stand a greater chance of survival if the condition is discovered in the early stage. Dogs with liver cancer may undergo chemotherapy, although it is generally not recommended for an old dog.

Some veterinarians believe diet plays a key role in proper canine liver function. Experts believe dogs that consume commercial dog food as a main diet may lack the proper nutrition essential for liver function. A veterinarian may recommend a specially formulated diet for a dog showing signs of liver damage.



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