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Liver Failure in Dogs

Signs that a dog has the liver disease can vary and include loss of appetite, vomiting, stomach ulceration, diarrhea, seizures or other neurologic problems, fever, blood clotting problems, jaundice (a yellow tinge noticeable in the skin, mucous membranes, and eyes), fluid collection in the abdomen, excessive urination.

The liver is an organ that carries various functions in the dog. According to Doctor Hanen Abdel Rahman, the liver is capable of performing up to 1,000 tasks. Among the main tasks, the liver detoxifies the body by removing waste products; it produces several proteins responsible for the correct functioning of the body; it helps with digestion, and it stores several vitamins and minerals. It is understandable why when the liver fails, it produces a variety of symptoms that can affect almost any part of the dog’s body.

Definition
Liver failure takes place when there is a loss of hepatic function greater than 75 percent. In other words, the liver has a great ”reserve capacity,” which means that it is still capable of functioning well even when a good part of it has been affected by the disease. While this is a great quality of the liver, the negative side is that once symptoms of liver failure arise, it is generally too late to treat. Yet, another great quality of the liver is that it is the only organ in the body that is capable of regenerating itself. Therefore, if a hepatic disease is caught early enough, there can be good chances of recovery.

Symptoms
Dogs affected by liver failure generally develop the following symptoms: vomiting, diarrhea, ascites (enlarged abdomen due to the presence of fluids), weakness, lethargy, bleeding, seizures, and ultimately coma. Jaundice, in particular, also known as icterus, is often a hallmark sign of liver disease. It is characterized by the yellowing of the skin due to an accumulation of bilirubin in the body. It can be seen in particular around the white of the eyes, inside the ears, near the abdomen and inside the mouth.

Diagnosis
Dogs presenting symptoms possibly suggesting liver failure will undergo a series of tests. A complete blood count, a biochemical profile, serum bile acids, ammonia levels, and a urinalysis may be tested veterinarians may decide to run. Further diagnostic tests may consist of a liver biopsy, X-rays, an ultrasound, and even an exploratory surgery.

Treatment
Dogs affected by liver failure are generally hospitalized and offered aggressive supportive care. Fluids, electrolytes, and dextrose are given to hydrate, fix metabolic imbalances, and help raise low blood sugar. If there is excessive vomiting, dogs are offered anti-emetics; antibiotics are provided as necessary; diuretics may be given to help reduce the level of ascites, and vitamin K may be given if there are blood clotting disorders. Special nutritional support and a prescription diet may be provided as well.

References
The prognosis largely depends on the extent of liver damage and the time frame between early symptoms rebellion and treatment initiation. All prescribed medications must be given as directed and owners must adhere to regular follow-up appointments. In general, dogs that respond well to aggressive therapy during the first few days have more chances to recover well.

Can the dog recover from liver failure?
It cannot be reversed. Before the liver reaches this final stage, it can recover from damage and recover itself to such an extent that the dog has normal liver functions. This is possible if proper treatment is carried out early; the extent of recovery depends on the exact cause of liver damage.

Extreme fatigue or energy loss
One of the most common signs that a dog may die is severe energy loss. Usually, a dying dog will lie in one place without moving too much. This place may be a quiet corner of your home or a secluded place, and it may not be a place to lie usually.