VOSD Vet

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Cirrhosis and Fibrosis of the Liver in Dogs

Cirrhosis of the liver refers to the widespread development of scar tissue, accompanied by the formation of regenerative nodules or masses, leading to abnormal liver architecture. Conversely, liver fibrosis entails the creation of scar tissue that substitutes normal liver tissue. This ailment can be either inherited or acquired. Certain dog breeds, such as Doberman pinschers, cocker spaniels, and Labrador retrievers, are particularly prone to experiencing prolonged (chronic) liver inflammation, a condition referred to as chronic hepatitis.

Symptoms and Types

  • Seizures
  • Blindness
  • Abdominal fluid accumulation
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Poor body condition
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Presence of black, tarry stools due to digested blood
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Yellowish discoloration of gums and other body tissues
  • Possible tendency for bleeding (rare)
  • Skin lesions with superficial, ulcerative inflammation (superficial necrolytic dermatitis)

Causes

  • Prolonged (chronic) liver injury
  • Long-term (chronic) inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Drug- or toxin-induced liver injury, including copper-storage liver disease (copper-storage hepatopathy), medications for seizure control (anticonvulsants), azole medications for fungal infections, medication for intestinal parasites (oxibendazole), antibiotics (trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and long-term exposure to food-borne toxins (aflatoxins)
  • Infectious diseases
  • Long-term (chronic) blockage of the extrahepatic or common bile duct (extrahepatic bile duct obstruction) lasting more than six weeks

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian will conduct a comprehensive physical examination of your dog, considering the history of symptoms and any potential triggering incidents. Standard examination procedures include a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, an electrolyte panel, and a urinalysis to eliminate other potential causes of the disease.

A fine needle aspirate will be obtained from the liver to send a sample for cytologic analysis. In some cases, a liver biopsy performed via laparoscope may be required to establish a definitive diagnosis.

Treatment

Patients exhibiting minimal symptoms can receive outpatient treatment as long as they maintain normal eating habits. For those with more severe symptoms, hospitalization is recommended. These patients may require fluid therapy and insertion of a feeding tube if they show signs of anorexia. Electrolyte supplementation may be necessary during fluid administration, and some patients may benefit from B-complex vitamins.

In cases where abdominal fluid accumulation is present, drainage of the fluid is necessary, and dietary sodium restriction should be implemented until the cause of the accumulation is addressed.

Dogs showing signs of hepatic encephalopathy (neurological symptoms due to ammonia buildup in the blood) should have their food intake restricted, as should dogs experiencing vomiting or pancreatitis. Treatment for hepatic encephalopathy may involve the administration of soy or dairy protein along with medical therapy to improve nitrogen tolerance. Protein intake should be tailored to the individual patient’s level of hepatic dysfunction, while maintaining appropriate levels of albumin.

For patients being considered for surgery, a clotting profile will be conducted, as those with prolonged clotting times are at increased risk of bleeding, even during minor procedures.

Living and Management

Your veterinarian will arrange regular check-ups for your dog, during which blood work will be conducted, including monitoring of total serum bile acids. Your veterinarian will also assess your dog’s ongoing body condition and monitor for signs of abdominal fluid accumulation. If your dog’s abdomen appears unusually enlarged, if it displays abnormal behavior, or if it seems to be losing weight, contact your veterinarian promptly.

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