Prognosis for liver failure in dogs

Updated November 21, 2016

The prognosis for liver failure in dogs is highly variable. The condition can be treated if caught early, and the dog can continue to live a healthy life with continuing long-term veterinary care and dietary restrictions. Other cases are fatal.


Liver failure in dogs is defined as a loss of 75% or more of total liver function. This is the last stage of liver disease before death, though not all cases of liver failure result in death of the dog. Dogs of all breeds and ages are susceptible to developing liver failure.


The prognosis for liver failure in dogs depends upon a number of variables. The underlying cause of the liver failure is the primary concern. Several disorders can lead to liver failure in dogs; these include medications, reactions to toxins, hepatitis, shock, and cardiovascular disease. If the liver failure originated elsewhere in the body, the prognosis will be different than for a dog whose liver failure originated in the liver.

Time Frame

As with most canine diseases, early detection leads to more effective treatment and a better outlook. Unfortunately, many other canine diseases mimic the same symptoms as liver disease, meaning that the dog may be too far into advanced liver failure for treatments to work by the time he or she has been diagnosed.


Adequate treatment upon diagnosis will affect the dog's lifespan. The first step of any veterinarian's plan will be to treat any disorder(s) that caused the liver failure. Complications of liver failure such as brain swelling, disorders of the central nervous system, and clotting disorders need to be treated in order to prolong the dog's life as well. These treatments come primarily in the form of medications prescribed by the veterinarian.

Dietary Changes

Dogs with liver failure are put on protein-restricted diets. These diets need to be designed carefully to prevent malnourishment and muscle loss. These diets are available in prescription form, but can be substituted with homemade diets upon advice of the vet.

Longterm Care

A dog with liver failure will need to have long-term care for the remainder of his life. Blood monitoring on a daily basis is standard, but will frequently change to weekly or monthly screenings as the condition improves.

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About the Author

Since 1994 Carrie Glossmanz has been writing freelance articles for publications such as "Animal Fair," "Delicious Living" and "Diabetes Health." Glossmanz is a Registered Dietitian and earned her Master of Science in nutritional sciences with an emphasis on clinical nutrition from the University of Kentucky.