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What is Liver Failure (Acute)?

Acute liver failure is a very serious condition. It can occur suddenly, or as the end-stage of a chronic liver disease. The liver cleans and detoxifies the blood; it stores reserves of many nutrients and produces hormones that regulate digestion, metabolism and blood coagulation. Failure in the liver causes multiple systemic problems, including fluid in the abdomen (ascites), digestive ulcers, lack of blood coagulation, susceptibility to infection, and hepatic encephalopathy, a liver-related brain disease. Many different conditions can lead to acute liver failure in dogs. Poisoning and infection are some of the most common issues that will trigger a sudden illness. Many endocrine imbalances affect the liver, and cancer or chronic inflammation can slowly destroy tissue. Some factors are the result of a congenital abnormality that is present at birth. Depending on the cause, liver failure can occur at any time in a dog’s life. Some cases are reversible once the issue causing the problem is resolved. The liver is capable of regenerating itself and building new, healthy cells, but too much dead tissue causes scarring and cirrhosis. Many symptoms can be treated supportively with medications that support liver function. Diet change can also put less stress on the liver. If the condition cannot be treated, acute liver failure will lead to death.

In dogs, severe liver failure can cause dysfunction in many different systems and may even affect important organs like the brain. Veterinarians call this condition acute liver failure. It needs immediate treatment. Long-term recovery will depend on the cause.

Liver Failure (Acute) Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $1,000 - $10,000

Average Cost

$5,500

Symptoms of Liver Failure (Acute) in Dogs

Vomiting, poor appetite, and weight loss are often the first signs of chronic liver failure. A dog with these symptoms should be evaluated by a veterinarian before acute liver failure develops. Severe symptoms should be treated as an emergency.

  • Vomiting
  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Jaundice
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Ulcers
  • Ascites (fluid in the abdomen)
  • Disorientation or aimless wandering
  • Aggression
  • Excessive drooling
  • Poor coordination
  • Blindness
  • Seizures
  • Coma

Types

Symptoms of acute liver failure can appear with any condition affecting the liver. Conditions can be very sudden, or chronic and slow developing.

Sudden

– poisoning can cause immediate liver failure if there more toxins in the system than the liver can handle. Infection can also severely limit liver function quite suddenly. Occasionally necrosis, or dead liver cells, can generate sudden, acute, symptoms.

Chronic

– long term liver disease may begin slowly, but it will eventually manifest acute symptoms.

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Causes of Liver Failure (Acute) in Dogs

These are some of the most common causes of liver failure

Many types of poisoning

  • Alcohol
  • Drugs
  • Antifreeze
  • Herbicides, fungicides or insecticides
  • Rat poison
  • Some types of mold, amanita mushrooms or blue-green algae

Infectious diseases

  • Infectious canine hepatitis
  • Leptospirosis
  • Fungal infections
  • Toxoplasmosis

Chronic hepatitis

– long-term inflammation of the liver, due to copper accumulation and other causes. This condition is more common among some breeds.

  • Bedlington, Skye and West Highland White Terriers
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Standard Poodles

Endocrine disease

– these may cause or contribute to liver failure.

  • Diabetes
  • Cushing’s Disease
  • Hyperthyroidism

Liver cysts

– more common in Cairn and West Highland White Terriers

Cancer

– cancer that originates in or spreads to the liver can cause liver failure

Congenital abnormality

  • Hepatic amyloidosis – an abnormal protein, more common among Chinese Shar-Peis
  • Glycogen storage disease – caused by a genetic enzyme deficiency
  • Tendency to liver fibroses – scar tissue replaces normal liver cells
  • Vascular abnormality in the liver
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Diagnosis of Liver Failure (Acute) in Dogs

Your dog’s symptoms will probably indicate severe liver failure. Bloodwork and urine samples can show the level of dysfunction and help to determine the cause of the problem. The veterinarian will check for infectious diseases, signs of poisoning, and hormone or enzyme imbalance. X-rays and ultrasound will often show an enlarged liver and may help to diagnose cancer, cysts, or vascular abnormalities.

The veterinarian will need your dog’s medical history, including any known conditions such as diabetes, and any medications, past or present. Family history may also be important, since breed is a factor. Any potential exposure to poisoning will be extremely relevant. An exact description of your dog’s symptoms may help to indicate the source of the problem. The veterinarian will need to know the dates of your dog’s last vaccinations and any potential exposure to infections.

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Treatment of Liver Failure (Acute) in Dogs

The veterinarian will start by treating the symptoms of acute liver failure. Severely affected dogs are often comatose and will need to be given intravenous fluids and electrolytes to decrease blood toxicity. Diuretics or enemas could be given to clean out the system. If too much fluid in the abdomen is causing respiratory difficulty, a long needle may be inserted to syphon off some of the fluid. If the blood is not clotting properly, transfusion may be necessary as well as medications that balance coagulation levels such as heparin or vitamin K. Antibiotics may be given to control infection since the immune system becomes less functional with liver failure.

After stabilizing the symptoms, the veterinarian will try to treat the underlying condition. This will depend on the original diagnosis. If poisoning was the issue, the condition may reverse itself once the toxins are flushed out of the body. Liver failure that is caused by an endocrine problem can often be rectified by treating this condition. Antibiotics or antifungal medication may be prescribed for bacterial or fungal infections. With viral infections, supportive management of the symptoms may be the only treatment possible.

Surgery may be necessary to treat some causes of liver failure, such as cancer, cysts or vascular anomalies. This will depend on your dog’s overall health. Surgery will not be possible unless the symptoms of acute liver failure can be stabilized. Some conditions are inoperable, and there is always a certain amount of risk with surgery. Chemotherapy may be prescribed for some types of cancer.

Dogs that have chronic hepatitis as the result of a congenital abnormality may need long term medication. Drugs that bind to copper can help to reduce copper storage problems. Congenital enzyme and protein abnormalities usually result in a shorter life, although the condition may be manageable for a time with diet and medication.

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Recovery of Liver Failure (Acute) in Dogs

Your dog’s outlook for recovery will be based on the diagnosis of a veterinarian. Complete recovery depends on identifying and eliminating the cause of acute liver failure. Some conditions are treatable. Others will need to be managed with long-term medication that may cause significant side effects.

For most chronic liver problems with an unknown or untreatable cause, a low protein, low sodium diet is recommended. Frequent, small, carbohydrate-based meals can help to put less stress on the liver and prevent the recurrence of acute liver failure. Some veterinarians may prescribe food designed specifically for dogs with liver problems, while others will recommend a homemade diet. Antioxidants and vitamin E can also be given to support liver function.

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Liver Failure (Acute) Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $1,000 - $10,000

Average Cost

$5,500

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Liver Failure (Acute) Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Chorkie

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2.5 years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Elevated Liver Enzymes, Bloody Vomit, Urine And Diarrhea And Lethargic

Tink is our 2.5 yo. Chorkie, and for the most part a healthy, happy pup. She had 2 puppy's by c-section in February. After the pups came she had eclampsia and was treated with oral liquid calcium, recovered quickly. Other than this, she's never been sick. So today she woke me up vomiting, with bloody diarrhea and urine. She's not eating or drinking and we took her to an emergency clinic today as her regular vet is on vacation! They did labs on her and her particular enzymes ALT (226) and GLU (184) are high. What's causing this and how do I get her to eat and drink? He did give meds.

July 23, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I'm not sure what medications the veterinarian gave your dog, and unfortunately, without being able to see lab work or be able to see your dog, it is difficult to comment on what might be going on. The veterinarian that examined your dog today, seems to have a good idea what was going on, and it would be best to trust them and give the medications as directed. If they are not getting better, then it would be best to have a recheck. I hope that all goes well for your dog.

July 23, 2020

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Labradoodle

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Eight Years

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Unknown severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

After a 6 day course of Deracoxib my dog was vomiting and very ill. He had normal labs prior to Deracoxib, 10 days later his liver enzymes were through the roof. It’s been 15 days since we pulled the Deracoxib, and started him on Denamarin. He had an ultrasound of liver which showed no bile blockage, no tumors, normal size liver, normal brightness. He had a negative leptospirosis test as well so I know the Deracoxib caused this liver damage. We’ve been supporting him with subcutaneous fluids, anti nausea and he did a week of Prilosec. Appetite is low, excessive thirst still. Will he recover?

July 21, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello I'm sorry to see that your pet is struggling with liver issues. Depending on the extent of the liver damage, your pet may survive. It typically depends on the trend of his liver enzymes, whether they stay the same or go back down to normal. If he is responding to treatment well, he has a good chance. Good luck.

July 21, 2020

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Goose

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chihuahua mix

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Seven Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting Blood
Gurgling Noises In Stomach

My dog (7 years old Chihuahua mix) recently became very ill. Throwing up blood and bloody diarrhea. Took him to vet. They did extensive labs on him and they found that his liver and bilirubin levels are elevated. My question is: I eat a ton of onions and sometimes I notice that my dog will look for dropped foods. He does it every time I cook. I know he has in the past gotten a piece or two of dropped onions. If that has happened enough over the years can that contribute to the liver toxicity? He is eating well and he has good energy today.

July 30, 2018

Goose's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Onions can be toxic for the liver but normally we see large ingestions of onion which leads to haemolytic anaemia in acute cases; I don’t have the toxicology data for the effects of onion on the liver of dogs but there are many causes for high liver enzymes levels which would need to be ruled out. If you haven’t already, speak with your Veterinarian about giving Denamarin (silybin, SAMe). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM http://veterinarymedicine.dvm360.com/toxicology-brief-allium-species-poisoning-dogs-and-cats?id=&sk;=&date;=&%0A%09%09%09&pageID;=2

July 31, 2018

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Lilly

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Labrador Retriever

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8 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss
Increased Thirst
Lethargy
Increased Urination
Lack Of Appetite

About two months ago, I took my dog into the vet because she had a torn CCL. The resulting X-rays showed cancer in that same leg (but nowhere else) so we decided that amputation & chemo would be the best options. After a month of fundraising, I was able to afford the amputation and we removed the injured/infected leg. She adapted to being a tripod very quickly and was back to her happy self. About 2 weeks ago,, I stopped giving her Gabapentin because she did not seem to be in pain and I wanted to avoid the drowsy side affects. I noticed that she had been eating less of her dog food and I assumed that it was due to the lack of exercise while recovering. When consulting with the vet, they informed me that often dogs will become a little more picky after a major surgery. The cancer biopsy came back as being histiocytic sarcoma which is very hard to treat. Because of the likelihood of chemotherapy being ineffective and causing Lilly longer periods of sickness, we decided to focus on keeping her happy & pain-free. About a week ago I noticed that she was completely skipping her meals but continuing to drink lots of water. I began mixing rice/noodles in with her food and she would eat it then. When she stopped eating a rice/kibble combo, I added meat and she would go for it then. She continued to eat dog treats so I assumed that she didn't like the taste of her kibble anymore and began looking for other types of food. Yesterday morning she vomited and during the day the most I could get her to eat was a few mouthfuls of wet dog food which she then threw up an hour later. A visit to the vet late last night/early this morning and we were prescribed Cerenia for nausea and Entyce to stimulate the appetite. The vet confirmed that Lilly was not in pain but had no opinions on what might be causing her to feel sick. She said that blood tests/xrays were an option but at this point, whatever they found was unlikely to be treatable. While the entyce got her to eat a little bit (rotisserie chicken and cod dog treats), it was still nothing compared to her normal intake. Today she has been very lethargic and only gotten up to go outside or to move nap locations. Is there anything I can do or give her that will boost her energy levels and food intake? At what point should I pull the trigger on euthanasia? Is a coma caused by liver failure painful and should I wait until then to put her down?

July 25, 2018

Lilly's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

I'm not sure without knowing what is actually causing Lilly to feel sick that you can make that kind of decision. It would probably be a good idea to run a basic blood panel to see if there is something going on that you can treat before deciding, as there may be something that is treatable. It seems unlikely that her cancer is already causing her to feel so bad, but it is possible. If her blood work is normal, that narrows it down a little. I hope that you have more time with her.

July 25, 2018

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Coco

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Rat Terrier

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14 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Not Eating, Lethargy, Trembling,

Our 14 year old Rat Terrier stopped eating, became lethargic, and started urinating in the house often. After a vet visit, she was diagnosed with very high liver enzymes. two years ago, we discovered she had a pancreatic deficiency so she has been on pancreatic powder and has done very well up until this recent bought. Our vet also did x-rays but didn't find any obvious abnormalities in the liver. They recommended her to be on IV fluids for 2 to 3 days. After 2nd full days of fluids, they didn more blood work to discover it wasn't working. She sent us home with an antibiotic and anti-nausea meds. She is will not eat the prescription food that the vet gave us now (she did at first). She has to go to the bathroom often and she trembles when she is sitting up. I've asked my vet several times if we need to consider euthanizing her but I can't seem to get a direct answer yet. With her age, they said a biopsy would be too invasive. I just don't know what to do, we certainly don't want here suffering. She just sleeps and tries to eat a little. I'm worried it will be hard to balance her pancreatic disorder with this liver issue. Any insight or advice would be greatly appreciated.

July 16, 2018

Coco's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Without examining Coco and seeing all test results it is difficult to weigh in, it is important to know why the liver enzymes are elevated and whether this is due to the pancreatic issues or another cause; some products like Denamarin (silybin and SAMe) may help to lower liver enzymes but doesn’t address the underlying cause. A liver biopsy would be useful, but I agree with your Veterinarian that age and the stress is probably not worth the possible benefits; as far as euthanasia goes, I cannot really comment as I haven’t examined Coco. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 17, 2018

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Coconut

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Dachshund

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17 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Vomitting
Vomitting Diarreha
Vomitting Diarreha Siezures

My Coconut was 3 mos shy of having her 18th birthday, she lost her vision 2yrs ago, she maintained a super healthy life when suddenly 2 weeks ago I noticed she was nauseous, I thought it was allergies, she quickly got over it BUT I failed to notice she showed all signs of having an acute liver, after 24 hrs of nausea, uncontrolled bowls, unstable to walk, I rushed her to the emergency animal hospital, all blood tests were Normal Then After a cat-scan the doc found a mass by the liver, uncertain If a blood clot caused the seizures but she was more unresponsive then alert. I thought the best thing to do was release her of suffering, she passed a few days ago on 12/28th but going thru grieving I am feeling maybe I should’ve opted for surgery.... feeling devastated loosing her- praying for healing. Thanks for reading <>< eL Read more at: https://wagwalking.com/condition/liver-failure-acute#

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Baxter

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Shih Tzu

dog-age-icon

4 Years

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Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

High-Strung

My baby Baxter, is a 4 year old shitzu, he weighs 15 lbs and is a vivacious little bull. He loves to eat, sleep and play. When he was a puppy (about a year old), he was over vaccinated and went into anaphylactic shock, thank the Lord he made it through, but the whole nightmare he endured had a negative effect on his liver(or so I have been told by veternarians). He has taken meds to regulate his enzyme levels. To make a long story short, I took him in recently for his annual check-up, they took blood, (no vaccines, bc I won't ever do that again), and the Doctor said that his enzyme levels are in the 600s (highest ever, she said). I am freaking out, this is my baby, I don't want to put him through anything bad, I don't understand, he is such a pillar of health and vitality, I don't want anyone looking for a problem when he is happy and healthy. Does anyone have any advice? I don't want him sedated for an ultra sound, because of the trauma he has been through.

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Theo

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Labrador Retriever

dog-age-icon

7 Months

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Critical severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Increased Thirst
Incontinence
Increased Urination
Loss Of Appetite
Ataxic
Liver Failure

My puppy, Theo, is 7 months old. Suddenly he wasn’t acting himself. He was laying around a lot, decreased his appetite, and eventually stopped eating. I took him to the vet, twice in one week and both times they said it was gastroenteritis. Then the 5th night of these symptoms, he started drinking absurds amount of water, and had to pee every hour due to this. Every hour he drank 3 cups of water. I took him to the ER the next day and they admitted him for possible leptospirosis. His liver enzymes were over 900 and his bilirubin was 18. He was given fluids and antibiotics. Nothing was helping. The 4th day, he started losing control of his bladder and became ataxic. Keep in mind, he hasn’t ate for over a week. The vet told me that his quality of life was decreasing and that the next measures to take would be aggressive: Biopsy and NG tube. I had to make the decision to say goodbye to him. He was 7 mi the old..still a puppy..my question is why would this happen out of nowhere? 2 weeks prior to this, he was neutered, but his labs were perfect then. So what happened suddenly?

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lucy

dog-breed-icon

Lab mix

dog-age-icon

12 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Our dog was diagnosed with poss liver cancer in march. labs came back and confirmed that the levels were high. Now has been experiencing more severe symptoms such as weight loss,loss of appetite, no energy, frequent urination, fluid build up and sagging skin under abdomen.

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Dakota

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sheltie/beagle

dog-age-icon

10 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

I took my beautiful girl to the vet on Friday because she started to throw up on thursday and just wasn't herself. They did blood work, gave her fluids, a shot for nausea and a script for her upset stomach. The next morning the vet called and said her liver enzymes were very elevated and she needed meds and an ultra sound soon. We were away so I had them fax the scripts over to a vet nearby. The vet couldn't see her because it was a holiday weekend and they were short staffed. I gave her the 3 meds and had to use a syringe to give her pedialyte. She was resting and didn't seem to be in pain or having trouble breathing. Just very weak. We ran out to get some dinner and when we returned she was dead. We are so heartbroken and just want to know what could have happened. I keep blaming myself for not doing something. Im not sure what but I feel like I'm to blame. Any answers would help us to understand what happened.

Liver Failure (Acute) Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $1,000 - $10,000

Average Cost

$5,500

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