What You Need to Know about Liver Problems in Dogs

If you are a responsible pooch owner, you should know about liver problems in dogs.  Yes, that’s right, dogs get liver problems as well.  Of course, you don’t see very many dogs drinking it up at the bar (unless the local frat has brought their mascot in with them), but they too get problems.

So what are the signs that your dog might have liver disease?

Jaundice: Medically, jaundice in dogs like in humans, is characterized by a yellowish tinge to the skin.  An increase in biliruben combined with a degradation of red blood cells causes this color change in the skin.  Icterus, the technical term for jaundice in dogs, is a sure sign of some sort of advanced liver problem.  Since the liver is a resilient gland and will withstand quite a bit of compromise, the sign of its malfunction indicates a serious problem that you need to deal with immediately.

Although it is serious, if properly addressed many liver problems need not be fatal.  The liver can regenerate itself.  So if you remove the cause of the problem in time, your dog has a good chance of living many more healthy years.

Pale Gums: Another sign of liver problems in dogs is pale gums.  Because of dog fur, an owner might easily not notice the signs of jaundice, but if you also notice sudden change in the color of your dog’s gums, this is also a sign of liver problems.  Any sudden change like this is sign for worry.  Since many dogs will not “act sick” even if they aren’t feeling well, it is a good idea not only to take your dog in for regular vet exams but also to monitor your dog’s health yourself for such problems and take you dog in at the first sign of something like this.  Unfortunately, like jaundice and most symptoms listed here, pale gums are also a sign of an advanced liver problem.

Fluid build up: Another sign of liver problems in dogs is the build up of fluid in the abdomen.  This is an indicator of several different kinds of problems, but if you notice it in conjunction with the other problems listed here, a liver problem could be the likely cause. Even if you notice this symptom by itself, it is a serious symptom that you should see a veterinarian about immediately!

Weight loss:  If your doggy friend starts looking a bit thin even though you haven’t changed his diet, he may have liver disease or some other sort of digestive problem.  Unexplained weight loss is always a bad indicator of health and is a red flag that something is wrong.  Take your pooch to the vet as soon as you notice this symptom.

Lethargy: Although it is normal for an aged dog to have less energy than a younger one, if you notice a sudden change in your dog’s energy level this also is a bad indicator. When a highly active dog suddenly sits around napping for prolonged periods or no longer wants to play, this is the dog’s way of telling you something is wrong with his system.

Loss of Appetite: In the extreme stages of liver disease, dogs may show a lack of interest in food.  Any time that dogs stop eating without a clear cause, this is a sign of a serious problem.  Dogs who lose their appetites may also have an obstruction or some other serious digestive problem that needs professional help immediately.  Delaying even a day may lead to death or other serious complications.

Causes of Liver Disease in Dogs

Liver disease in dogs has a host of different causes from accidental poisoning to physical blows to the abdomen. Your dog could also get a viral or bacterial infection that compromises the liver. Even poor diet or over vaccination can contribute to liver disease.  In addition, some dogs are simply born with a genetic predisposition to liver disease.

Any and all of these could be the cause of your dog’s liver disease, so if you notice the typical symptoms listed above or if you see evidence that you your dog has had an abdominal injury or ingested something from your medicine cabinet or from the yard, take you dog in to your vet immediately.