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Chronic Hepatitis in Dogs

Chronic Hepatitis in Dogs

If your dog's liver becomes inflamed for longer than six weeks the condition is referred to as chronic hepatitis. In today's post, our Kinston vets share more about the causes, symptoms, and treatments of canine chronic hepatitis in dogs.

What is Hepatitis in Dogs?

Hepatitis in dogs is classified into two categories:

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, the lining of blood vessels, and sometimes other organs. Symptoms can vary widely - from slight fever and thirst to extreme apathy.

Canine Chronic Hepatitis

Canine chronic hepatitis is associated with infectious canine hepatitis. At some point, the dog's liver has become inflamed and necrosis (cell death) has occurred.

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. An excessive amount of copper can damage the liver’s cells and often leads to severe chronic hepatitis if left untreated.

Chronic means the infection has been damaging cells for some time (at least a few weeks). While acute hepatitis can manifest over just a few days.

Symptoms of Chronic Hepatitis in Dogs

Symptoms of chronic canine hepatitis can include:

  • Sluggishness and lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures 
  • Increased urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Yellowish gums and moist tissues
  • Abdominal fluid buildup
  • Mental dullness

Causes of Chronic Hepatitis in Dogs

Dogs can develop chronic hepatitis due to several causes including:

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

Diagnosing Chronic Hepatitis in Dogs

Your vet 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 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.

Treatment for Chronic Hepatitis in Dogs

Hospitalization will be necessary in severe cases so that your dog can be given fluid supplemented with B vitamins, potassium, and dextrose.

Restricted activity will also be necessary during the treatment and recovery phase. Your vet may or may not recommend complete cage rest depending on your dog's specific case. 

Medications may be prescribed by your vet 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.

Chronic Hepatitis in Dogs - Life Expectancy

Chronic hepatitis in dogs is not curable however many dogs can live comfortably for months or even years with continued therapy. If your dog has chronic hepatitis they will need regular veterinary checkups to monitor their condition and ongoing treatment so they can 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.

    If your dog is displaying symptoms of canine chronic hepatitis, contact our office today to schedule an appointment with one of our Kinston vets.

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