Liver Disease & Your Dog

The liver is a multi-purpose organ. Although the liver looks like a simple brown mass, it is a remarkable and complex organ that serves many essential functions.

Because of its behind-the-scenes role in so many important bodily functions, liver disease can manifest as a wide variety of symptoms depending on the vital function affected.

The livers essential functions include: metabolizing, storing, producing, breaking and eliminating.

How the liver works

Your dog's liver performs many important functions. In one sense, it acts as a filter for the blood, to strain out harmful particles and bacteria. A major portion of the blood is carried through the liver.

When it becomes swollen due to infection or more serious conditions such as cancer, it can't filter the blood efficiently.

That forces some of the fluid portions of the blood to seep out into the abdomen. Chronic (long term) scarring of the liver does the same thing.

Liver Disease & Your Dog

The fluid in your dog's abdomen (called ascites) could be caused by other problems as well.

These are very grave symptoms, which is why maintaining good liver health in your dog can be a real lifesaver.

Did you know: You can look for early symptoms of liver problems by examining your dog's gums on a regular basis. If you notice changes in the colour of the gums(yellowish colouring indicates jaundice) this can be an early warning sign that your dog's liver is getting behind in its work.

The plumbing inside your dog's liver may be swollen internally and the normal bile pigment (yellow colour) isn't being pumped into the intestines where it belongs, so it's ending up in her blood instead and you can see this manifest in the tissues of your dog's mouth.

If it's not working right, it can make your companion sick. But liver disease can often be treated and managed.

It all sounds terrible, but a lot of pets with abdominal fluid and jaundice can be helped.

Liver Disease & Your Dog

Symptoms of liver disease

It's easy to miss the symptoms of liver disease. They're similar to those for other problems.

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Increased thirst
  • An unstable walk
  • Increased need to pee
  • Confusion
  • Yellowish eyes, tongue, or gums (jaundice)
  • Signs of weakness
  • Blood in their pee or poop
  • Seizures
  • Ascites (a buildup of fluid in the belly)

Liver Disease & Your Dog

Causes of liver disease

Liver disease can have a number of different causes. This includes:

  • Viral or bacterial infection
  • Cancer of the liver (hepatocellular carcinoma)
  • Cysts or gallstones, which can obstruct the bile duct
  • Endocrine diseases including diabetes, Cushing’s Disease, or hyperthyroidism
  • Trauma to the liver due to an accident or heatstroke
  • Ingestion of a toxic substance


With special diets, medication and possibly surgery, you may improve your dog's quality of life and a long term management plan can be discussed with your vet.

The liver is so important and if you diagnose liver problems too late, the prognosis is far more serious.

Have your dog's health regularly checked and always be prepared to adjust your dog's diet in accordance with their age, lifestyle, breed and activity levels.

Liver Disease & Your Dog

Treating liver problems can be an expensive affair and be warned, older dogs become far more prone to liver problems once they've hit 8 years of age.


Diet, in particular, is essential for helping to keep your dog's liver under less stress.

Dietary management is the cornerstone of treatment and long term management of the canine liver disease.

Its purpose is to reduce the build-up of the waste products of protein processing, which cause many symptoms of this condition.

Liver Disease & Your Dog

A diet regime should include the following: Easily digested carbohydrates, such as rice (to provide energy), high-quality and easily digested sources of protein such as eggs, four to six small daily meals, and sufficient food to prevent weight loss (some dogs may need force-feeding).

Dog insurance

This is the high-risk period in your dog's life. Ensure your dog early, this can not only save you a fortune in vet fees.

It can give the peace of mind that should anything happen (particularly at the serious end of the dog liver health spectrum) you will be able to afford the most appropriate treatment and protect your dog long into their old age.

If you are worried that your dog may be suffering from liver disease or may have symptoms, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a vet. Book an appointment for your pet as soon as possible.

Further Reading & Sources: What you should know about your dog's liver

Liver Disease In Dogs: Symptoms And Causes
Liver Disease In Dogs - Pdsa
Liver Disease In Dogs | Vale Vets
Liver Disease Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment In Dogs | Petmd
Liver Disease In Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, Stages, And More
Liver Disease In Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment | Daily Paws
Disorders Of The Liver And Gallbladder In Dogs - Dog Owners - Msd
Veterinary Manual
What To Do If You Suspect Liver Disease - Veterinary Practice
Liver Disease In Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & More | Hill'S Pet
Liver Disease In Dogs - Dog Diseases | Hill'S Pet

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