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Dog Liver Disease

Veterinarian Reviewed on June 2, 2012 by Dr. Janice Huntingford

Dog Liver Disease (Canine Liver Diseases)

Signs and Symptoms

The liver is a large organ that plays a significant role in your dog’s health. It is involved in detoxification, digestion, and fighting diseases, just to name a few of its many tasks.

Canine liver disease is a relatively common disorder, especially among older dogs. As a pet owner, knowing what symptoms to look out for can help you quickly identify a potential problem.

Some of the most typical symptoms of this condition include decreased appetite, weight loss, excessive thirst, distended abdomen, excessive urination, dark or orange urine, grey or pale stool, depression, and lethargy.

In advanced stages, a dog may suffer from convulsions and jaundice. This involves the yellowing of a dog’s gums, skin, and the whites of a dog’s eyes.

If you notice your dog exhibiting any of the above symptoms and warning signs, it’s imperative that you alert your veterinarian immediately so that a firm diagnosis can be made and a proper course of treatment can be initiated.


In order to make a diagnosis of liver disease, a number of diagnostic procedures will have to be carried out. For this reason, there are many different techniques that veterinarians may employ when examining a dog suspected of having liver disease.

The most common diagnostic method involves blood tests. Such tests can check on a number of different aspects of a canine’s blood, including red and white blood cell levels as well as the levels of certain enzymes. A bile acid test and a urinalysis may also be conducted.

Other diagnostic tools include radiology and ultrasound. Radiographs can be helpful with identifying physical abnormalities of a dog’s liver, such as unusual size or trauma. In some cases, surgery may be employed. This allows a veterinary doctor to explore the liver directly and also to obtain a sample for a biopsy.


Canine liver disease can be caused by a multitude of different factors and conditions. Sometimes trauma, such as a blow from a car, can be the trigger. Drugs and toxins, such as pesticides, can also be factors. Many dogs develop liver disease as a result of other medical conditions, such as cancer.


The course of treatment required in a case of canine liver disease will depend upon the cause of the condition. For example, if trauma was the trigger, hospitalization while the dog recovers from the impact of the trauma may be all that is required.

In addition to medications, dietary adjustments and supplements can be very useful when treating your dog. Dietary changes can include adjusting the amounts of proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates, fats, and minerals that a dog ingests. This will then ensure that the canine patient is receiving the nutrition it needs and will also help to decrease the workload of the liver.

Certain homeopathic remedies can also be very helpful. Natural herbs and substances such as milk thistle, burdock and greater celandine have properties that assist with the purification of blood, the stimulation of digestive enzymes, and the protection of the liver from toxic substances.

However, it is always important to carry out any form of treatment under the supervision of a qualified veterinary doctor.

Read also: Dog Ruptured Anterior Cruciate Ligament
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Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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