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Chronic Hepatitis in Dogs

Chronic Hepatitis in Dogs

Symptoms such as sudden weight loss, seizures and vomiting can all be very concerning for any pet parent and there could be many possible causes such as hepatitis. What happens when the symptoms persist? Our Bedford vets share some information about chronic hepatitis in dogs and how veterinary internal medicine can help treat this condition.

What is hepatitis in dogs?

Hepatitis in dogs is a potentially fatal condition that targets the liver of your animal. The two main types of hepatitis affecting dogs are:

Infectious Canine Hepatitis

Infectious canine hepatitis is an acute contagious disease caused by the canine adenovirus 1. This virus targets the spleen, kidneys, lungs, liver, lining of blood vessels and sometimes other organs. The symptoms of hepatitis in dogs can vary from excessive thirst, lethargy and even death if left untreated.

Canine Chronic Hepatitis

Canine chronic hepatitis is associated with infectious canine hepatitis. Hepatitis occurs when inflammation of the liver occurs and the ongoing inflammation results in necrosis (tissue death).

Like some other serious diseases and conditions, there are certain breeds of dogs that are more likely to develop this condition. Dog breeds that seem to face an increased risk of developing this disease include Chihuahuas, Springer Spaniels, Beagles, Maltese, West Highland White Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, Bedlington Terriers, Skye Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, and Standard Poodles.

In some breeds, an accumulation of copper in the liver’s cells can result in chronic hepatitis. Excessive copper can damage the liver’s cells and often lead to severe chronic hepatitis if left untreated.

The main difference between chronic and acute hepatitis is that acute hepatitis comes on quickly while dogs experiencing chronic hepatitis have been experiencing tissue damage for some time by the time they are diagnosed using veterinary internal medicine.

Symptoms of Chronic Hepatitis That Your Dog May Experience

Symptoms of chronic canine hepatitis can include:

  • Sluggishness and lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures, mental dullness
  • Increased urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Yellowish gums and moist tissues
  • Abdominal fluid buildup
  • Poor body condition

Some of the Causes of Chronic Hepatitis in Dogs

Dogs can develop chronic hepatitis due to a number of causes including:

  • Exposure to toxins
  • Infectious disease
  • Immune-mediated disease
  • Copper-storage disease
  • Environmental 
  • Drug-related

Using Veterinary Internal Medicine to Diagnose Chronic Hepatitis

To begin, your internal medicine vet in Bedford will request a detailed history of your dog's health leading up to the onset of symptoms. Any information you can provide your veterinarian about your dog's genetic background and parentage will also be helpful.

Your vet will complete a thorough physical examination of your dog, including a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count (CBC), an electrolyte panel and a urinalysis. The bloodwork results will allow your veterinarian to look for indications of impaired kidney function.

In some cases, your vet may use X-ray and ultrasound imaging to visually examine the liver, or take a tissue sample for biopsy. All of these aspects of dog internal medicine together will help to diagnose your animal and help your vet develop a treatment plan that works for you both.

Treatment Options For Chronic Hepatitis in Dogs

If your dog is in need of hospitalization, your internal medicine vet will provide them with fluid therapy supplemented with B vitamins, potassium and dextrose.

While your dog is being treated for chronic hepatitis they will need to be calm and have their activity restricted. Your internal medicine vet may or may not recommend complete cage rest depending on your dog's specific case. Be sure to keep your dog warm while they are inactive during their recovery period.

Your vet may prescribe medications to increase the elimination of fluids from the body, helping to decrease fluid build-up in the abdomen. Medications may also be necessary to treat infection, decrease brain swelling, control seizures, and decrease ammonia production and absorption.

A diet restricted in sodium, and supplemented with thiamine and vitamins should be served to your dog in several small meals a day (avoid 2 or 3 large meals). If your dog has lost their appetite and refuses to eat for more than 48 hours an intravenous feeding tube may be necessary to get your pet the nutrition they need to prevent further muscle wasting.

Prognosis For Dogs Diagnosed With Chronic Hepatitis

While chronic hepatitis cannot be cured, you can manage the symptoms in order to help your dogs live comfortably for months or even years after diagnosis. You and your vet will work together to use animal internal medicine combines with dietary adjustments and changes to their daily activity. If your pup has chronic hepatitis they will need regular veterinary checkups to monitor their condition allowing them to enjoy a good quality of life, with minimal clinical signs.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you concerned that your dog may be showing symptoms of chronic hepatitis? Schedule an appointment with our internal medicine vets today.

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