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Dog Liver Failure

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Dog Liver Failure

Liver failure or hepatic failure is the result of poor blood flow to a dog’s liver, the effects of drugs that are toxic to their liver or poor oxygen supply. It can also be the result of infection, chemicals and heat exhaustion. Failure of the liver can cause negative effects on other systems in the dog’s body, such as with the nervous system, the intestinal tract, the blood and the liver/gall bladder system. The instance of liver failure can be seen in dogs of all ages and breeds.

Causative Agents


• Pain medications such as acetaminophen (Dog Tylenol Poisoning), antibiotics, Dog Cancer Chemotherapy, anesthetics and anti-parasite medication


• Toxins produced by mold or fungi

• Amanita phylloides mushrooms


• Leptosporosis

• Canine hepatitis

Things such as heat stroke, Dog Cancer treatments, shock or any form of circulatory failure can also cause liver failure.

Signs and Symptoms

• A yellow tint to the skin and/or mucus membranes called Dog Jaundice

Dog Diarrhea

Dog Seizures

Dog Vomiting

• Stupor followed by coma

• Abdominal enlargement that is usually the result of ascites. This is an accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity

• Bleeding


Your veterinarian will perform a series of tests. The initial blood tests will include complete blood counts, chemical profile, ammonia levels, clotting profile, and serum bilirubin, which calculates the bile levels in the blood. Your vet will also do a urinalysis.

X-rays of the abdomen and ultrasound of the abdomen may also be done.

Surgical procedures can range from a laparoscopic exam which can visualize the area with small instruments inserted through a small incision, or an exploratory laparotomy. An exploratory laparotomy will be done by surgically exploring the abdominal cavity and all of the organs in it.


The treatment will depend on the cause. Underlying disorders that have caused the failure will determine treatment. Generally hospitalization will be initiated with fluid and electrolyte therapy. Fluids will be added for Dog Dehydration, hypoglycemia and metabolic imbalance.

Dog Cancer Dietary Supplements and nutritional support will be needed. Antibiotic therapy for infections and medicines that control vomiting will be administered. By stopping excessive vomiting, your pet will have less chance to develop further metabolic imbalances.

Diuretics will help eliminate the excess body fluids. Mannitol is a drug that prevents swelling of the brain and is often given.

Lactulose is a medication that slows down the absorption of ammonia from the gastrointestinal tract. This may be given through your dog’s mouth or in an enema. Antibiotics can also be given as an enema.

Vitamin K will assist with coagulation of the blood and prevent hemorrhage.

Home Care

Be sure to administer all of the medications that your vet has ordered. Adjust your dog’s diet as directed by your veterinarian. There will be follow-up evaluations on regular schedules to monitor the progress of the condition. It is important to keep these appointments.

Prognosis varies on the amount of liver that has been destroyed. It is also based on whether or not the underlying condition can be controlled. Complications can interfere with progress.

It is difficult to prevent liver failure. Vaccinations for hepatitis and leptospirosis may help and avoiding drugs that are metabolized by the liver will also help.

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