Healthy Dog

Liver disease in dogs is a common condition that can have several different causes.

It can be fatal if left untreated, so it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of this condition so you can get your pet the treatment they need as soon as possible. 

What Is Liver Disease in Dogs? 

Liver disease is one of the most common health problems in dogs. 

The liver is a vital organ that helps to filter toxins out of the blood, so when it isn’t functioning properly, your dog can become very ill. 

There are many different types of liver disease, including: 


A type of liver inflammation that can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). 

Hepatitis is caused by the canine adenovirus type 1 that most dogs are vaccinated against as part of their Distemper/Leptospirosis vaccine series.


A long term (chronic) Hepatitis can cause an advanced stage of liver disease called Cirrhosis where normal functioning tissue gets replaced by scar tissue.

Portosystemic shunt (PSS)

Also referred to as liver shunt, a condition where a dog’s venous blood from the stomach, pancreas, spleen, and intestines bypasses the liver causing toxins to buildup.

Copper Storage Disease 

This is a disease where excessive amounts of copper accumulate within the liver because the liver is unable to remove enough of it from the body. 

Hepatic Lipidosis

Also known as fatty liver disease, this is when a buildup of lipids collects within the liver, which prevents the liver from working properly.

Symptoms of Liver Disease in Dogs

Liver disease is one of the most common health problems in dogs. It can be caused by a number of different things, including infections, cancer, and toxins.

There are a few different symptoms that can indicate liver disease in dogs, including: 

1. Jaundice

This is one of the most obvious signs that something is wrong with your dog's liver. 

Jaundice occurs when the liver isn't able to properly filter out toxins from the blood, resulting in a yellowing of the whites of the eyes and gums.

2. Loss of Appetite

Liver disease may cause your pet to lose their appetite. 

3. Weight Loss 

Another common symptom of liver disease is sudden weight loss, even if your dog's appetite remains normal. 

This can be caused by several factors, including decreased nutrient absorption and increased metabolism.

4. Lethargy or Weakness

Lethargy and weakness are common symptoms of liver disease in dogs. The liver is responsible for filtering toxins from the blood and converting them into waste products that are eliminated from the body. 

When the liver is damaged, it can't perform these functions as efficiently, leading to a buildup of toxins in the blood. This can cause a wide range of symptoms, including lethargy and weakness.

5. Diarrhea or Vomiting

These can be common symptoms of many different diseases, but they can also indicate liver problems.

Try our liver support for dogs 

Common Causes of Liver Disease in Dogs

Liver disease is a common condition in dogs, with a wide range of possible causes. Some of the most common causes of liver disease in dogs include infection, toxins, cancer, diabetes as well as natural occurrences like elevated liver enzymes.

1. Infection

Certain viruses, bacteria, and parasites can infect the liver and cause damage to its cells. This can lead to inflammation and scarring, eventually leading to liver failure. 

2. Toxins

Dogs can be exposed to toxins in their environment, including certain plants, chemicals, and medications.  

These toxins can cause damage to the liver cells and lead to liver disease. 

3. Cancer

Liver cancer is relatively common in dogs, especially older dogs. The exact cause is unknown, but it is thought that certain genetic factors may predispose some dogs to develop this type of cancer.

4. Diabetes 

Diabetes is one of the most common causes of liver disease in dogs. It occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot use insulin properly.

This can cause the blood sugar levels to rise and damage the liver.

5. Congenital Defects from Birth

There are a number of different congenital defects that can lead to liver disease in dogs. One of the most common is a condition called Portosystemic Shunting.

And as we explained in the liver disease types, this condition occurs when blood bypasses the liver and goes straight to the systemic circulation causing several problems like liver damage and malnutrition. 

Another common congenital defect that leads to liver disease is called Hepatic Microvascular Dysplasia.

This is a condition where the small blood vessels in the liver do not develop properly. This can lead to decreased blood flow to the liver and eventual liver damage.

How To Treat Liver Disease in Dogs?

Treatment for liver disease in dogs will vary depending on the cause and severity of the condition but may include: 

  • Medications to control severe symptoms.
  • Diet changes to make sure your pet is getting all the nutrients they need.
  • Fluid therapy to treat or prevent dehydration.
  • Antibiotics to eliminate bacterial infection.
  • Surgery to remove cysts, gallstones, or cancerous portions of the liver.

How To Prevent Liver Disease in Dogs?

There are a few things that can be done to prevent liver disease in dogs

  • Provide your dog with a healthy diet that includes all the necessary nutrients.
  • Make sure they drink enough water especially if they are prone to getting dehydrated.
  • Keep their vaccinations up to date and avoid exposure to toxins and chemicals.
  • Schedule regular exams so your veterinarian can check for early signs of liver disease.

Summary of Liver Disease in Dogs 

Liver disease in dogs is a serious condition that can be life-threatening. Early detection and treatment is the best way to ensure a positive outcome for your dog.

If your dogs are exhibiting any of the above-shared symptoms, it's important to take them to the vet for an evaluation. 

Liver disease is a serious condition that can be fatal if left untreated, so don't delay in seeking medical care for your pet.