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What is Enlarged Liver?

There are a number of diseases that can affect the functioning of a dog’s liver and lead to enlargement. An enlarged liver in dogs can often be accompanied by ascites, or fluid accumulation in the abdomen, in which the dog displays an abnormally swollen belly. An enlarged liver is most commonly found in older dogs. It is important to identify and diagnose the cause of an enlarged liver early, so that the underlying cause may be treated.

Hepatomegaly is clinical state of abnormal liver enlargement. Because the liver serves to filter toxins from the bloodstream, it can be affected by a number of diseases. An enlarged liver is a finding which should prompt a detailed clinical work-up for primary and secondary liver disease.

Enlarged Liver Average Cost

From 263 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $4,000

Average Cost

$2,200

Symptoms of Enlarged Liver in Dogs

Because an enlarged liver may be caused by various diseases, the symptoms may vary as well. However, some common symptoms are below:

  • Swollen belly caused by ascites, or fluid accumulation in the abdomen
  • Visible or palpable mass in the abdomen
  • Behavioral changes
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Increase in fluid intake
  • Increase in urination
  • Grayish or white, soft feces
  • Reduced appetite
  • Sudden weight loss
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Causes of Enlarged Liver in Dogs

An enlarged liver can be a symptom of one of the following diseases:

  • Hepatitis, or infection of the liver
  • Cirrhosis, or chronic disease of the liver
  • Heart disease or failure
  • Liver neoplasia
  • Cyst or abscess of the liver
  • Pancreatic tumor
  • Diaphragmatic hernia
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Heartworm disease
  • Liver neoplasia
  • Drug toxicity
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Diagnosis of Enlarged Liver in Dogs

Diagnosis depends upon a thorough report of the symptoms your dog is exhibiting, as well as any recent incidents that may have been abnormal or you suspect may have led to your dog’s change in health. The veterinarian will conduct a thorough exam, starting with weighing and comparing your dog’s weight to its normal weight, followed by a physical examination of your dog, seeking any abnormalities or signs of liver enlargement. Unless your dog is very overweight, at this stage the veterinarian will have been able to detect an enlarged liver.

The veterinarian will then conduct a comprehensive round of tests in order to identify the cause of the enlarged liver. These include a blood sample to be analyzed for a complete blood count, which checks for anemia, signs of infection, and presence of Heinz bodies, or spotted red blood cells caused by hemoglobin accumulation; and a blood biochemistry profile, which measures liver enzymes, albumin, bilirubin and cholesterol level. Additional tests will include a heartworm examination, blood coagulation test, and a bile acid test, which requires 12 hours of fasting in preparation.

More-than-likely, the veterinarian will then conduct a urinalysis, which will be analyzed to determine kidney functioning. Depending upon the initial findings, x-rays may be taken to determine the size of the liver and gallbladder and the presence of metastisis, or a cancer having spread to another area of the body such as the chest cavity, as well as ultrasounds that detect the density of the liver and the presence of gallstones in the gallbladder. In the case a tumor is found or a severe liver disease is suspected, the veterinarian may require a liver biopsy in order to obtain a sample and determine if the tumor is benign or malignant, or the proper treatment for the liver disease. In the case of suspected heart disease, advanced tests such as echocardiography and electrocardiography may be conducted.

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Treatment of Enlarged Liver in Dogs

As many different diseases may cause an enlarged liver in dogs, the treatment varies widely. In all cases, the underlying disease will be treated and care will be taken to prevent complications. Depending upon the severity, your dog may require a period of hospitalization, in the case of heart complications or advanced liver disease, or even surgery, in the case of cysts, abscesses, or tumors. Surgery will be used to remove the affected mass. A risk of surgical removal is hemorrhage, so the veterinarian will be ready in case a transfusion is needed. Additionally, liver surgery is considered an anesthetic risk, as anesthesia is processed in the liver.

Many treatments involve dehydration therapy, antibiotics and regular doses of multivitamins to promote recovery and overall liver health. Zinc and vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K will help to promote liver detoxification and health.

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Recovery of Enlarged Liver in Dogs

Your dog’s recovery will depend upon diagnosis and treatment, but your role in the recovery will regardless be to follow all veterinarian instructions and closely monitor your dog’s health and behavior.

Your dog’s prognosis depends upon the cause of the enlarged liver; however, in any case, keep in mind that the liver is the site of drug metabolism in dogs, and do not give your dog any new medication without consulting your veterinarian first. Your veterinarian may prescribe a specific diet, such as high-protein, low-salt, or continued multivitamin intake. In any case, changing your feeding pattern to small and frequent meals may be helpful for recovery.

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Cost of Enlarged Liver in Dogs

Your dog may have an enlarged liver for any number of reasons. As a result, the total cost will vary greatly. However, multivitamins (especially those that contain zinc, A, B, C, D, E and K) are essential for liver detox and overall health of your dog. Multivitamins can be bought at most pet stores and can cost between $12 and $34. The veterinarian may suggest an antibiotic to treat (or avoid) infection. Antibiotics usually cost between $15 and $53. The veterinarian may want to remove the mass surgically which may require a blood transfusion. The blood transfusion may cost $150 to $380 per unit on average. The surgery itself can cost between $2,000 and $4,000 depending on the cause of the enlargement. Your dog will likely require hospitalization that can cost between $67 and $112 with intravenous fluids. The total cost with what has been mentioned here would be between $2,237 and $4,425. The overall cost will likely be greater than the total mentioned here. The underlying cause of the enlarged liver can mean any number of tests which can add substantial cost to the total.

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Enlarged Liver Average Cost

From 263 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $4,000

Average Cost

$2,200

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Enlarged Liver Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Yorkshire Terrier

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Nine Years

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Urinating During Sleep

My dog has been peeing in his sleep, it started about 3 weeks ago. I took him to the vet and he has an enlarged liver. What could this mean? Does an enlarged liver mean liver disease? Can it go back to normal?

Aug. 31, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. An enlarged liver can be a problem, and it can also be an incidental finding. I would suspect that there were other lab work findings that your veterinarian discussed or found with your dog, that may help give a clue as to what is causing the enlarged liver. If your dog does have liver disease, that can be a problem that causes increased urination. Liver disease can be quite complicated to diagnose, unfortunately, and it would be best to discuss this question with your veterinarian, as they have much more information than I do. I hope that everything goes well with your dog and that your veterinarian is able to get to the bottom of what is going on. Do not be afraid to ask your veterinarian more questions, until you understand everything.

Aug. 31, 2020

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Pomeranian

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Fourteen Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Lower Airway Disease, Enlargement Of Right Atrium Of Heart, Enlarged Liver And Spleen, Persistent Cough

Our beloved elderly Pom, George, is headed on his way out I'm afraid. We have had numerous tests (echo, ecg, xrays) related to a persistent cough and labored breathing. The cardiology consult determined in March that it was likely lower airway disease rather than heart failure, but that degenerative valve disease was also indicated. A few days ago, we noticed his belly was quite firm. Xrays showed an enlarged liver and spleen. The vet said that it was probably due to heart failure. Any chance it could be related to drug toxicity from sildenafil?

July 9, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, So sorry to hear about your dog. I do agree with your vet that it is most likely due to his heart issue or even cancerous mass. I hope you have a few last good days with your dog.

July 9, 2020

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Lia

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Jack Russell Terrier

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13 Years

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Serious severity

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Lethargy

My JR Lia has had Cushings for a few years now and we have always managed it not too bad. She is on veterol 40mgms a day. She has been getting worse lately and after a scan she was shown to have a very enlarged liver and she is anaemic . She is 13 and I have her home but struggling to get her to eat anything . The vet advised me that her liver is so enlarged that her stomach is squashed hence she is struggling to eat. Her liver function test as not that bad. This is very distressing as you can imagine can you suggest any thing else that could be done. Thanks Anne

Sept. 16, 2018

Lia's Owner

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Missy

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Mix bread

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13 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Drinking Water
Eating More
Confused
No Movement

I have a dog that had exrays done and blood work. Everything showed to enlarged liver. Her belly is really swollen. The vet has her on a med for antibiotic, and Denemarin, and Pepcid for stomach. We are waiting to go back in 2 weeks and do another round of blood work to see if any numbers are down. But seems her stomach is getting bigger, will it go down?

Aug. 8, 2018

Missy's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

It depends on whether the liver is enlarged, congested or whether there is fluid in the abdomen causing distention; you should give the treatment as prescribed by your Veterinarian and monitor for improvement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 8, 2018

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Chloe

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Maltese

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7 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Depression
Weakness
Loss Of Appetite
Lethargy,

Chloe at this time is hospitalized. Her blood work was in normal ranges. We had her wellness exam done in June where the protein in her urine was 4.4. The protein in her urine now is I believe 21.9. She had an ultrasound yesterday where they found that her spleen and liver were enlarged. I believe today they will be preforming an aspiration of both. What exactly will this tell them? What causes this enlargement in both organs especially when the blood work is in normal range? We are worried and don’t know what to expect next.

Aug. 2, 2018

Chloe's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

I'm not really able to give you much guidance without knowing more about Chloe and her situation, unfortunately. Protein in the urine typically means either an infection, or kidney disease, and many situations can cause an enlarged liver and spleen. By aspirating those organs, your veterinarian will be able to get a better idea as to what might be causing her problem so that they can help her. Since I don't know much about her, it would be very reasonable to ask your veterinarian for more detailed explanations of what is going on, as they will be able to explain her situation and treatment.

Aug. 2, 2018

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Aug. 2, 2018

Chloe's Owner

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Brutus

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Pitbull Boxer

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8 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Weakness
Enlarged Liver
Low Energy
Pot Belly
Weasing

A little over three weeks ago now, Brutus, our 8-year old 90lb pitbull-boxer mix, presented with constipation. His energy level and food intake were very low but would eat table scraps if offered and was still drinking water. He went 3 days without having a bowel movement before we took him to the vet. Constipation was not abnormal for him. Usually a little white rice, hamburger and pumpkin seemed to do the trick. This time it did not. CBC panel at the vet's determined that his liver was not happy. He had elevated bilirubin and very high white blood cell levels. X-ray confirmed that he was not plugged up. Sent home on denamarin, metronidazole, ursodiol, prednisone, and cerenia. However, an official diagnosis was not made. About day 2 of being on medication he came back to life, not nearly normal but back. His appetite was back, he dint enjoy taking medication but dealt with it. His energy level was back to about 90% about 7 days in on medication. He actually wanted to play. 2 weeks after being on medication he took a turn for the worse. Within 24 hours he was back to being weak, no appetite, no energy, minimal bowels movements, and breathing was heavy (his breathing was normal prior to first vet visit). Took him to emergency clinic because our family vet was on vacation. They did x-rays and confirmed enlarged liver, charged me for an ultrasound even though the doctor on site was not able to read it, sent home on amoxicillin, ciprofloxacin and a pain killer. Symptoms got worse. We tried holding out until our family vet was back (Tuesday) and unfortunately, he passed away last night. Towards the end, he sounded very congested. Couldn't walk more than 3 steps without becoming weak and plopping to the floor. He refused water and food. He was vomiting bile. And at the very end, it seemed like he was trying to vomit but nothing was coming up. His tongue turned green when he was gone. What happened overnight to make him so much worse than he was originally?

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Coal

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Black goldendoodle

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12 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Not Showing Any

I have a goldendoodle who is 12.5 years old. He has never been sick, not even a cold. I took him in to the Vet last night because he was acting sluggish. Upon our checkup, I was told that he has lost 12 pounds in less than a year and that is ALP is 601 and his ALT is 2,000. He is not symptomatic at all. I can't get over the readings. To have an ALT at 2000 is unbelievable, but he acting fine. He is getting an ultrasound tomorrow. My question is why is his ALT at 2000 and the doctor's are not acting right away. Instead, I'm waiting 2 days to get his ultrasound. I love him dearly. Could it be a false reading? I was also wondering why they didn't do a urinary test on him? The xray did show an informality on his liver. These two days are taunting me. Anything would help.

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Bellamie

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Rottweiler

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7 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Constipation Followed By Diarrhea

For the past 8 months, my 7 year old rotty has had difficulty pooping. She seems constipated, trying to poop as she walks. Small bits drop and eventually, she'll have explosive diarrhea. We have tried everything, including a colonscopy. First vet gave her Cimelgex which we determined caused her to bleed internally, resulting in bloody diarrhea. Second vet was convinced that her dysplasia and spine cause her pain keeping her from squatting. Prescribed Carprofen, but no improvement. Bloody drops throughout the house. She definitely has an intolerance to NSAIDS. Most recently, a new vet opened her up thinking she had an enlarged spleen that needed to be removed. Spleen was ok, but liver was swollen with "stones". Vet believes she may have been kicked or hit by a car as a young dog creating stones. (The whites of her eyes have always been yellowish) Her swollen liver is now causing pain that makes it difficult for her to squat. For these past 2 weeks following surgery, she was definitely better, especially the first 2 days I felt like I got my dog back. She was playful and happy again. As of 2 days, she is no longer on meds, and this morning she is back to the same problem - unable to poop and sad mood has returned. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

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Stewie

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Boston Terrier

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9 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Slight Cough

I just got back from my vet. Stewie my 9yoa Boston terrier had his senior panel done. His alkp was 1766 vet was concerned and wanted an ultrasound. Results came back with an enlarged liver and 1 enlarged adrenal gland and an enlarged heart. He has been slowing down lately pants a lot but great appetite. No weight loss. Still my sweet baby! That want to test for Cushings but I am reluctant. Stewie’s medical history was an intestinal blockage that perforated on table! They told me it was a miracle that he survived the surgery! 1 year later he had another blockage but was manually manipulated and cleared. Not sure where to turn.

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Delilah

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Mixed

dog-age-icon

9 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Pain

I have a 9 year old Australian cattle dog jack Russell mutt, female. Two weeks ago, overnight, she became restless and was shaking and panting quite a bit. Started having difficulty walking down the stairs. She progressively became unable to walk seemingly because of pain over the next few hours. We took her to the vet and she had a 103.3 fever, back pain, abdominal pain, delayed response in her back leg. Xrays were normal, tick tests negative, blood results showed high WBC (26.6) with high neutrophils (24206) and high monocytes (1064), high ALT (235) and high ALP (171). They thought maybe liver infection. We had been camping two days before where she had been bitten by ticks (we live in NYC). They gave rimadyl and doxycycline for 2 weeks. She has been drinking more water (waking us up at night to have water) and a bit sore now and then. We finished the prescription this Saturday. We went on a long walk on Sunday and she again struggled to walk, eventually we had to carry her to give her a break. Does Lyme disease or liver infection seem right? We were thinking we would retest her blood in 2 more weeks, giving time for potential Lyme disease to show up.

Enlarged Liver Average Cost

From 263 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $4,000

Average Cost

$2,200