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Liver Fibrosis in Young Dogs

Juvenile Fibrosing Liver Disease in Dogs

Juvenile fibrosing liver disease presents as a noninflammatory liver condition characterized by the abnormal accumulation of extracellular matrix proteins in the liver tissue, leading to liver fibrosis. This condition primarily affects young or juvenile dogs, particularly those belonging to large breeds. Without intervention, affected dogs may progress to cirrhosis and liver failure.

The exact cause of fibrosis in this disease is still unknown, but chronic exposure to toxic bile, contact with intestinal toxins, and liver injuries are suspected contributing factors.

Symptoms and Types

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Presence of blood in stool
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Swollen abdomen (ascites)
  • Stunted growth and poor body condition
  • Increased urine frequency and volume (polyuria)
  • Heightened thirst (polydipsia) and water consumption
  • Formation of stones in the kidney, bladder, or urethra
  • Nervous symptoms possibly due to hepatic encephalopathy

Causes

Juvenile fibrosing liver disease is frequently linked to prolonged exposure to gastrointestinal toxins. Additionally, it may be associated with hemorrhagic gastrointestinal diseases (portal endotoxemia) in young dogs.

Diagnosis

Providing a comprehensive history of your dog’s health to your veterinarian, including details about the onset and characteristics of the symptoms, is essential. Following this, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination along with a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis. In some cases, elevated liver enzyme levels may be detected in biochemistry panels, while urinalysis may reveal the presence of ammonium bicarbonate crystals in the urine.

Abdominal ultrasonography will aid in assessing the structure and size of the liver, although a liver biopsy may be necessary for a more detailed analysis of the liver tissue. If there are suspicions of right-sided heart disease, your veterinarian might suggest echocardiography. Additionally, your veterinarian may collect a sample of your dog’s abdominal fluid for further analysis or perform routine coagulation tests to rule out blood coagulation disorders.

Treatment

In cases involving severe liver disease or hepatic encephalopathy, immediate hospitalization is necessary. However, treatment primarily revolves around managing the various complications associated with juvenile fibrosing liver disease. For instance, dogs experiencing fluid accumulation in the abdomen (ascites) may receive medications like diuretics to promote fluid loss. Likewise, dogs with urinary stones may require medication to address that concern. Antibiotics are administered to combat infections, and dietary supplements are incorporated to enhance the overall health of the dog.

Living and Management

The prognosis for the dog primarily hinges on the extent of fibrosis and liver damage. While fibrosis may progress as the dog ages, favorable long-term outcomes are feasible if diagnosis and treatment are promptly initiated. Routine laboratory assessments, including liver biopsies, will be essential for monitoring the dog’s advancement and the status of the disease. In the event of fibrosis recurrence, additional hospitalization might be necessary.

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