Chronic hepatitis in dogs refers to the condition that is brought about by various disease processes that lead to the inflammation, scarring, and even cell death—especially in severe cases—of the dog’s liver. It presents itself in three stages, being a progressive disease.
In the first stage, the dog’s liver begins to swell. Liver cells undergo necrosis (cell death), and scar tissue takes the place of the lost cells. The dog shows no outward sign that something is wrong with him.
In the second stage, the liver cells continue to die. This time, the dog begins to exhibit one or few obvious signs pointing to the disease.
In the third stage, which is also the final stage, the dog’s liver has become rubbery in consistency and unusually firm. Liver cirrhosis and liver failure are now present in the affected dog.
The cause of chronic hepatitis in dogs is idiopathic, meaning it is unknown. Experts theorize an autoimmune component plays a possible factor in the appearance of the disease, wherein the canine’s immune system produces antibodies to attack its own liver cells. Certain drugs and infectious microorganisms are also suspected culprits behind the disease. Heredity is thought to be another factor as chronic hepatitis seems prevalent among Bedlington terriers, Labrador retrievers, Doberman pinschers, Scottish terriers, standard poodles, and cocker spaniels.
As mentioned, the first stage of the disease doesn’t manifest any outward sign. Thus, when signs of chronic hepatitis in dogs appear, the disease is usually in its advanced stages. Keep an eye out for these signs if you worry your old dog may be afflicted with chronic hepatitis:
Jaundice (skin, whites of the eyes, mucous membranes, among others become yellow)
Increased water intake
The signs of chronic hepatitis in canines are quite similar to signs that point to other diseases. So to be certain, take your dog to the vet immediately. Your vet will conduct tests and blood work to determine if your pet indeed has canine chronic hepatitis. If the findings are conclusive, treatment can begin.
The treatment plan for chronic hepatitis in canines is geared toward putting a halt to the disease’s progression. Other goals are to provide excellent nutrition and support to the dog and his liver, remove the primary cause behind the disease if it can be identified, and make sure the dog is pain-free and as comfortable as possible. There is no fixed treatment plan for chronic hepatitis. Each plan is unique and dependent on the specific conditions of the affected dog. Your vet will most likely prescribe medications to combat the inflammation.
Chronic hepatitis in dogs cannot be cured, but it can be managed. The earlier the disease is discovered and treated, the better. Still, this does not guarantee a complete recovery from the disease. To provide your pooch with the best possible quality of life for as long as possible, stick to the vet-approved treatment plan and make the changes in your dog’s lifestyle (e.g., diet) that your vet recommends.
Have you, or anyone you known, had a dog with chronic hepatitis? If so, please share below any tips you may have.