What is Cirrhosis and Fibrosis of the Liver ?
Fibrosis and cirrhosis of the liver are serious conditions affecting the functionality of the liver. Toxins, chronic illnesses and physical trauma to the liver can all contribute to the formation of fibrosis and cirrhosis. Scar tissue from damage to the liver can build up and prevent the liver from operating properly. Indications that liver functions are reduced in your canine are an urgent situation and your veterinarian should be contacted as soon as possible to prevent further irreversible damage.
Fibrosis and Cirrhosis are terms relating to the formation of scar tissue in the liver. This is a serious condition, and should be evaluated by a veterinarian in a timely manner.
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Symptoms of Cirrhosis and Fibrosis of the Liver in Dogs
- Abdominal pain
- Black, tarry stools (due to the presence of digested blood)
- Fluid build-up in the abdomen
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Lack of energy
- Loss of appetite (anorexia)
- Orange urine
- Pale or orangish stools
- Poor body condition
- Skin lesions
- Skin ulcers
- Unexplained or prolonged bleeding
- Vomiting, sometimes with blood
- Fibrosis- Fibrosis is the formation of fibrous scar tissue within the liver. Fibrosis can sometimes be reversed or reduced by proper treatment. If the fibrosis or it’s underlying cause remains untreated then it may lead to cirrhosis.
- Cirrhosis- An irreversible liver disease that is marked by inflammation of the liver, thickening of tissue, and the breakdown in the cellular structures within the liver. If normal function of the liver reaches below 20% the disease is considered terminal. Cirrhosis can be caused by several diseases and disorders, as well as trauma to the liver via physical damage or toxins.
Causes of Cirrhosis and Fibrosis of the Liver in Dogs
There are multiple triggers for fibrosis or cirrhosis to develop in your pet. These could include:
- Bacterial infection
- Chemotherapy drugs
- Chronic gum disease
- Chronic hepatitis
- Chronic infections (anywhere in the body)
- Congestive heart failure
- Fungal infection
- Genetic predisposition (Bedlington Terriers, Chihuahuas, Cocker Spaniels, Doberman Pinschers, Labrador Retrievers, Maltese, Skye Terriers, Springer Spaniels, Standard Poodles, West Highland White Terriers)
- Heartworm infection
- Liver cancer
- Physical trauma to the liver
- Prolonged use of NSAIDs or steroids
- Viral infection
Diagnosis of Cirrhosis and Fibrosis of the Liver in Dogs
In order to make an accurate diagnosis your veterinarian will start by asking for a full history of your pet (recent illnesses, medications, behavioral changes), as well as a general physical exam, taking particular note of any abdominal swelling or pain. A complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis are likely to be ordered to discover the underlying cause of the symptoms, and a fecal sample may also be required to test for blood or parasites. Special attention will be paid to readings of anemia, indications of infection, and the liver enzymes. An ultrasound or radiograph will allow the veterinarian to visually inspect for any growths or scar tissue that may be present as well as to get an accurate measurement of the liver’s size and density. Finally, a biopsy of the affected tissue will be taken and examined at the lab to determine the condition of the liver cells themselves and to determine the proper course of treatment.
Treatment of Cirrhosis and Fibrosis of the Liver in Dogs
Treatment will vary somewhat depending on the underlying cause and the extent of the damage to the liver. Initially, supportive care will be given depending on the situation. In advanced circumstances, this could involve the hospitalization of your companion and the patient may be connected to an IV drip to maintain hydration and electrolyte balances.
In the case of fibrosis there are some medications that can reverse the damage to the liver, but in the case of cirrhosis, the focus is on slowing or halting the damage as reversing damage is not possible at this time. Any toxins that are causing damage to the liver should be discontinued immediately and medications to address any bacterial, viral or fungal infections will be prescribed. Your veterinarian may also recommend a change in diet, either to a prescription dog food meant for dogs with liver function issues or to a diet with high-quality, low-ammonia producing proteins.
Recovery of Cirrhosis and Fibrosis of the Liver in Dogs
It is important to be vigilant with your pet’s diet after a diagnosis of liver disease. Most damage to the liver is irreversible and once the liver functionality drops below twenty percent the damage is considered terminal. High levels of top-quality protein are recommended, although it does need to be a low ammonia producing food. A vitamin and mineral supplement may be recommended, however in order to prevent further damage, extreme caution should be taken when giving your dog supplements and a veterinarian should be consulted before making any changes to your dog’s diet when liver impairment is involved.
Cirrhosis and Fibrosis of the Liver Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Hello, my dog is a labrador retriever and from the past week, he hasn't been himself. Usually, he's very active but now he just lies around all the time. When he gets up and sits down, he cries out loud. To add to that, whenever he lies down he puts his down and barely lifts it up when someone walks by by like he normally does. He has severe pain in the abdomen.We took him to the vet and they said the suspect it's liver cirrhosis or cancer, but haven't prescribed any medications. They are going to perform an ultrasound to pinpoint the cause. Do you have any clue about what caused this and how to prevent it starting today?
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