If your pup's liver becomes inflamed for longer than six weeks the condition is referred to as chronic hepatitis. In today's post, our Pleasant Hill vets share more about the causes and symptoms of canine chronic hepatitis in dogs.
What is hepatitis in dogs?
Hepatitis in dogs is classified into two categories:
Infectious Canine Hepatitis
Infectious canine hepatitis is an acute contagious disease caused by the canine adenovirus 1. This virus attacks the spleen, kidneys, lungs, liver, blood vessel lining, and sometimes other organs. The symptoms can range from a mild fever, thirst, or apathy to death.
Canine Chronic Hepatitis
Canine chronic hepatitis is associated with infectious canine hepatitis. At some point, the dog's liver has become inflamed and necrosis (cell death) has occurred.
Chihuahuas, Springer Spaniels, Beagles, Maltese, West Highland White Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, Bedlington Terriers, Skye Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, and Standard Poodles appear to be at an increased risk of developing this disease.
In some breeds, an accumulation of copper in the liver’s cells can result in chronic hepatitis. An excessive amount of copper can damage the liver’s cells and often leads to severe chronic hepatitis if left untreated.
Chronic means the infection has been damaging cells for some time (at least a few weeks). While acute hepatitis can manifest over just a few days.
Symptoms of Chronic Hepatitis in Dogs
Symptoms of chronic canine hepatitis can include:
- Sluggishness and lethargy
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Seizures, mental dullness
- Increased urination
- Excessive thirst
- Yellowish gums and moist tissues
- Abdominal fluid buildup
- Poor body condition
Causes of Chronic Hepatitis in Dogs
Dogs can develop chronic hepatitis due to a number of causes including:
- Exposure to toxins
- Infectious disease
- Immune-mediated disease
- Copper-storage disease
Diagnosis of Chronic Hepatitis in Dogs
To begin, your vet will request a detailed history of your dog's health leading up to the onset of symptoms. Any information you can provide your veterinarian about your dog's genetic background and parentage will also be helpful.
Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination on your dog, including a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count (CBC), an electrolyte panel, and a urinalysis. The bloodwork results will allow your veterinarian to look for signs of impaired kidney function.
In some cases, your vet may use X-ray and ultrasound imaging to visually examine the liver, or take a tissue sample for biopsy.
Treating Chronic Hepatitis in Dogs
Hospitalization will be necessary in severe cases so that your pup can be given fluid therapy supplemented with B vitamins, potassium, and dextrose.
Restricted activity will also be necessary during the treatment and recovery phase. Your vet may or may not recommend complete cage rest depending on your dog's specific case. Be sure to keep your dog warm while they are inactive during their recovery period.
Medications may be prescribed by your vet to increase the elimination of fluids from the body, helping to decrease fluid build-up in the abdomen. Medications may also be necessary to treat infection, decrease brain swelling, control seizures, and decrease ammonia production and absorption.
Your dog should be fed a low-sodium diet supplemented with thiamine and vitamins several times per day (avoid 2 or 3 large meals). If your dog has lost their appetite and has refused to eat for more than 48 hours, an intravenous feeding tube may be required to provide the nutrition they require to prevent further muscle wasting.
Chronic Hepatitis in Dogs - Life Expectancy
Chronic hepatitis in dogs is incurable, but with continued therapy, many dogs can live comfortably for months or even years. If your dog has chronic hepatitis, it will require regular veterinary checkups to monitor their condition and ongoing treatment so it can live a good quality of life with minimal clinical signs.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.