Canine liver disease is one of the most common health disorders afflicting older dogs. The liver is an important organ which is responsible for generation of proteins from blood plasma, detoxification of the body along with removal of toxins, production of bile, digestion and the storage of glycogen. The large number of functions that it performs everyday also makes the liver prone to a number of diseases. In fact veterinarians have estimated that nearly three percent of all dog health problems are related to the liver.
While there are many factors that may damage and impair the functions performed by the liver, the most common causes are bacterial or viral infections, toxins present in commercial foods and medications, improper or inadequate diet, diabetes, hypothyroidism, pancreatitis or other metabolic diseases, heart and circulatory organ problem. Sometimes stress or trauma can also trigger a liver malfunction in dogs.
There are no specific symptoms of liver disease in dogs and most of the initial symptoms are so mild that a dog owner may not notice it at all. Some common symptoms are loss of appetite coupled with vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss. If the dog drinks more water and urinates more than usual than it might be a cause for concern.
The improper liver function also results in the accumulation of bile in the body which in turn causes jaundice in dogs. This is accompanied by yellowish tinge in the eyes, the gums and the tongue. The urine of the dog will be dark brown due to the presence of bilirubin and the inside of the ears would also appear somewhat yellowish.
Suffering from liver disease also leads to fluid accumulation in the belly thus giving it a bloated appearance and abdominal pain. Moreover the high level of toxins and ammonia in the body can also lead to hepatic encephalopathy, a form of brain malfunction in dogs. This leads to weakness, incoordination, behavioral changes such as pressing head against walls or aimless circling, lethargy and even seizures in case of advanced hepatic encephalopathy.
Dietary changes with increased vitamins, proteins and minerals along with prescribed antibiotic medications can help in treating this problem in dogs. Herbal medications like milk thistle and dandelion have also been used to resolve this problem in dogs.