The ABCs of Acute Liver Failure in Canines

The primary purpose of the animal’s liver is the elimination of wastes and toxins from the body. Because of this, any disease or injury that affects it could trigger various symptoms.

This is the case for chronic liver disease, which is a condition that is characterized by the rapid and severe loss of function of the liver (i.e., 70 percent of the time or greater). Function loss is due to the massive and sudden death of the tissues in the liver, referred to as necrosis in the liver.

The ABCs of Acute Liver Failure in Canines

The most important thing to remember is that acute liver disease in your dog must be treated promptly and effectively because otherwise, your dog’s life could be at risk. Here is the essential information you must know about it.

A – About Acute Liver Failure

Although hepatic necrosis can be variable and is generally quite frequent, acute liver failure due to massive liver necrosis isn’t. The pet owners then question the reason for what happened to their pets and, in many instances, blame themselves. While this is normal, however, it’s better to consider the treatment options.
Acute liver failure impacts many organs of the body and can cause a variety of signs and symptoms, including:

Multiple symptoms can be caused by acute liver failure.

  • Diarrhea, vomiting, and blood in the feces
  • Hepatic Encephalopathy (a brain disease)
  • Jaundice and death in the tissues of the liver or bile duct (i.e., hepatobiliary signs)
  • Imbalances in the circulatory and lymphatic systems cause clotting complications

Many of these symptoms can also be present in other diseases. Your pet’s veterinarian will order multiple lab tests to determine a definitive diagnosis. These lab tests may include a complete blood workup, urine, and biochemistry analysis. They also include biopsy (i.e., the removal of affected tissue for analysis).

These lab tests can test for anemia, thrombocyte irregularities, and low blood sugar. Imaging tests such as ultrasound or x-ray can measure the size of the liver and any other abnormalities within the organ.

B – Better Health

Your beloved dog will be able to recover from acute liver failure. He can, but he should be admitted as soon as possible to ensure his recovery.

Your dog will receive fluids, electrolytes, and colloid replacements in the animal hospital. Also, oxygen supplementation will be given to him.

He will also be restricted in activity to help his liver recover from the damage. While he may continue to eat a protein-rich diet, his vet will likely give him vitamin E or K supplements.

The vet will decide whether your pet should be placed on an enteric or catheter feeding schedule. For very unstable patients, catheter feeding may be an option. However, stable patients should opt for enteric feeding.

You can also get medications to treat liver disease, such as:

  • Antioxidants
  • Coagulopathy drugs
  • Antiemetics
  • Hepatoprotectants
  • Medications for the treatment of hepatic encephalopathy

With proper medical attention, your dog should be able to recover quickly. To ensure your dog’s best recovery, you must follow the vet’s advice once your dog has returned home. Your pet can’t recover from acute liver failure on his own.

Can acute liver disease be prevented? This is a question that dog parents often ask. The answer is no, but it can be prevented. Petco and PetSmart suggest vaccinations against the canine hepatitis virus. They also recommend avoiding drugs that are harmful to the liver.

C – Causes of Liver Failure

Knowing the causes of acute liver disease is important as it can help to prevent it. The most common causes of acute liver failure are toxins, perfusion, hypoxia, and harmful chemicals and drugs.

The condition can be caused by heat overload. It’s important to keep an eye on your dog’s heat exposure indoors and outdoors.

The liver can also lose enzymes, which contributes to tissue death. If your dog is to survive, the liver can go into total failure.


These causes are often beyond the control of dog parents, so it’s not fair to blame yourself for your dog’s current situation. Even with good care and attention, canine bodies can be affected just like humans. Dog parents should learn to accept canine life and make the best of their pets.

You should also be attentive to your pet’s needs, including unusual behaviors and actions that could indicate a medical issue. While you don’t need to be a “veterinarian,” you can help your vet keep your pet as healthy and happy as possible.

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