Of the top five leading causes of non-accidental death in dogs, according to DogPro.com, canine liver disease may already have reached an advanced stage when diagnosed. As a large gland, the liver performs essential bodily functions. It produces bile for digestion, detoxifies blood and removes waste.
Symptoms of Liver Disease
Canine liver disease may show a variety of subtle symptoms, which can also indicate multiple diseases and conditions. Signs include abdominal or gastrointestinal upsets, abdominal pain, anorexia, bleeding, pale gray feces, hepatic encephalopathy or severe neurological signs, jaundice (icterus), orange urine, increased water consumption and urination and weight loss.
Liver disease can result from a variety of causes, including anemia, trauma, pancreatitis, bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasitic infection, chronic hepatitis, chronic active hepatitis, hepatoportal fibrosis, heartworms, toxins, glucocorticoid hepatopathy, metabolic diseases and cirrhosis. A dog with swollen legs and a limp may indicate bone cancer, another cause of canine liver disease.
Testing and Diagnosis
A veterinarian may use a variety of test for the diagnosis, including biopsy, complete blood count, liver enzyme levels, ultrasound and urine analysis. Examination findings may include distended abdomen, anemia, bruising, fever, enlarged lymph nodes, skin infections, wounds that do not heal or yellowish discoloration.
The cause of canine liver disease helps determine the treatment. Dogs may benefit from antibiotics, chelating agents, dietary adjustments and dietary modification (feeding tube), electrolytes, fluids, homeopathic remedies and long-term monitoring.
Liver Disease and Bone Cancer
A dog suffering from limping that is gradual and prolonged may have bone cancer (osteosarcoma). Seek immediate medical attention. Treatment may include radiation or chemotherapy. While chemo can stop production of new cancerous cells, a side effect can include liver or kidney disease, diarrhea, hair loss, nausea and secondary infections.