How to manage liver disease in dogs

Written by richard toole
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How to manage liver disease in dogs
Liver failure is common in dogs. (dog image by Michal Tudek from

Liver disease is a common ailment that can affect dogs of all breeds. Liver or hepatic failure is normally defined as the condition when a dog's liver has lost 75 per cent or more of its functionality. Since there are not any normal parameters associated with liver disease, such as age, sex, or breed, it is very important for dog owners to recognise early symptoms of liver failure and learn how to treat it in the future for the dog's remaining years.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Antibiotics
  • Prescription dog food
  • Vitamin supplements
  • Milk thistle

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  1. 1

    Look for symptoms of liver failure in your dog. Some of the more common symptoms include weight loss and decreased appetite; polyuria (increased urination), and polydipsia (increased drinking or thirst). Some other symptoms to look for are abdominal distension, grey coloured stool, dark urine, diarrhoea, vomiting and a yellow colouring of the dog's gums, skin and whites of the eyes.

  2. 2

    Take your dog to the veterinarian. The veterinarian will run blood tests and urine tests to determine liver values of your dog, which will determine treatment. Normal treatment includes IV fluids to help flush toxins from the dog's body, as well as an array of antibiotics and supplements to help the liver do its job effectively.

  3. 3

    Change your dog's diet. Often a dog with liver failure will need to be placed on a prescription diet that specifically helps support liver function. Your veterinarian will recommend which prescription food best suits your dog.

  4. 4

    Give medications and supplements. In addition to prescribed antibiotics and fluid therapy, you are also encouraged to give your dog supplements that aid liver function. Vitamin K can help prevent bleeding disorders associated with compromised liver functions, and vitamin E works as an antioxidant and helps remove free radicals, preventing further liver damage. Milk thistle helps grow new liver cells and prevents toxins from invading the liver.

  5. 5

    Have your dog checked frequently. Even if you do everything possible to help aid your dog's liver, it can still lose more and more of its ability to do its job. The only way to know if the liver is getting worse is to take your dog to the vet for regular blood and urine tests. These tests will also allow the veterinarian to determine what treatments are working and what might need to be changed.

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