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Pet Blog

Signs of Liver Failure in Dogs

Your dog’s liver helps metabolize food and hormones while detoxifying their body. When the liver suffers from disease, it can stop doing its job and cause your dog to become very sick. If your dog’s liver stops working, they may suffer from a low appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, an abdomen filled with fluid, and jaundice or yellowing of the gums and eyes. 

What causes liver failure in dogs?

Liver failure can be caused by many conditions including the following:

  • Pharmaceuticals. Certain drugs, including non steroidal anti-inflammatories and some seizure medications, can rarely cause liver failure.
  • Toxins. Plants, as well as other household and environmental toxins, can cause liver failure. The most common plant that causes liver failure in dogs is the sago palm. Certain blue green algae and some varieties of wild mushrooms can cause liver failure as well. 
  • Infections. Some bacterial infections can cause liver failure. An example is Leptospirosis, a bacteria-like organism transmitted through the urine of raccoons and fox. Leptospirosis can cause liver failure and is treated with antibiotics and often requires hospitalization. 
  • Cancer. Tumors can cause liver failure if enough of the liver becomes compromised. 

How to prevent liver failure in dogs?

Liver failure may not always be preventable. However, here are a few steps you can take to decrease your dog’s chances of suffering from liver failure:

  • Vaccinate for disease in your area that may cause liver disease. Leptospirosis is a common cause of liver disease in dogs within the United States. It is a spirochete (bacteria-like organism) that is carried primarily by foxes and raccoons. It is often prevented with an annual vaccine. 
  • Be sure to get recommended blood tests after starting your dog on new medications. Although it’s rare, certain drugs can cause liver failure. Your veterinarian will usually recommend a blood test after starting a drug that may have this potential. 
  • Keep your dog’s environment as safe as possible.  Remove toxins in the environment including xylitol (found in chewing gum and peanut butter), household chemicals, mushrooms in the yard and other toxic plants. 

If you are concerned about your dog’s liver or other potential causes of liver disease, talk with your veterinarian. They can help formulate a plan based on your dog’s lab work and lifestyle. 

Sending you and your pup tons of love,

Dr. Angie