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Liver Inflammation (Chronic) in Dogs

Chronic, Active Hepatitis in Dogs

Chronic hepatitis in dogs refers to persistent inflammation of the liver, characterized by the buildup of inflammatory cells and progressive scarring or fibrosis within the liver tissue. This condition ultimately impairs liver function.

One underlying cause of hepatitis in dogs is inherited copper-storage disease, particularly prevalent in Bedlington terriers and certain other breeds. Typically, symptoms manifest between the ages of two and ten, with an average onset occurring around six years old. While in cocker spaniels, males exhibit a higher susceptibility, overall, copper storage disease affects females more frequently than males.

Symptoms and Types

  • Sluggishness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Loss of weight
  • Vomiting
  • Increased urination and thirst
  • Yellowish tint on the gums and moist tissues
  • Accumulation of fluid in the abdomen
  • Deterioration in body condition
  • Neurological manifestations – like dullness or seizures resulting from ammonia accumulation in the body due to the liver’s incapacity to eliminate ammonia from the system.


  • Infectious illnesses
  • Diseases mediated by the immune system
  • Toxic substances
  • Copper storage disorders
  • Environmental factors
  • Drugs


To diagnose the condition, it’s essential to provide your veterinarian with a comprehensive overview of your dog’s health history leading up to the symptom onset. Any details about your dog’s genetic background and parentage can also aid in the diagnosis process.

Your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination of your dog, which includes a blood chemical profile, complete blood count, electrolyte panel, and urinalysis. These tests help identify any potential kidney function impairments.

Certain diseases can alter the liver’s appearance. Therefore, your veterinarian may utilize X-ray and ultrasound imaging to visually inspect the liver and might opt to obtain a tissue sample for biopsy during the procedure.


In cases of severe illness, hospitalization is necessary for your dog, where it will receive fluid therapy supplemented with B vitamins, potassium, and dextrose. During treatment and recovery, your dog’s activity will be restricted, and you should consult your veterinarian regarding the suitability of cage rest. It’s crucial to keep the dog warm during this period.

Medication aimed at enhancing fluid elimination from the body helps reduce abdominal fluid build-up. Additionally, prescriptions may target infection treatment, brain swelling reduction, seizure control, and reduction of ammonia production and absorption. Enemas may be administered to empty the colon, and zinc supplementation might be necessary.

Transitioning your dog to a low-sodium diet supplemented with thiamine and vitamins is recommended. Instead of two or three main meals, your dog should receive several small meals daily. If your dog’s appetite remains lacking for several days, consider discussing the use of an intravenous feeding tube with your veterinarian to prevent muscle wasting.

Living and Management

Your veterinarian will arrange follow-up appointments based on your dog’s specific disease condition. Should your dog’s symptoms recur or worsen, if weight loss occurs, or if your dog’s body condition deteriorates, contact your veterinarian promptly.

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