What is Liver Inflammation (Suppurative)?
The liver is an essential organ in your dog’s body as it is in our own bodies; producing bile, cleaning and storing fresh blood for emergency use, removing toxins, helping blood to clot, providing protein, and performing metabolic functions. As a matter of fact, the liver is thought to have over 1,000 functions in the body that are needed to sustain life. When your dog’s liver is infected, there may be no symptoms at all until many abscesses have formed to create enough damage to cause the liver to stop functioning effectively. Suppurative hepatitis may not be noticed until there is enough damage to the liver to cause obvious symptoms, but by that time, it may be permanent damage. This is more common in female dogs older than three years of age. Certain breeds are also more susceptible to hepatitis. Fortunately, your dog’s liver is able to function even with damage to up to four of its lobes, which means you should be able to notice the illness and get medical attention. Although suppurative hepatitis can affect any age, sex, or breed of dog, it seems to be more prevalent in female dogs over three years of age. There are also some breeds that are more commonly affected by chronic hepatitis. They are Retrievers, Terriers, Poodles, and Doberman Pinschers, among others.
Liver inflammation (hepatitis) that includes suppuration (abscesses with pus) is called suppurative hepatitis. This is usually caused by a bacterial infection that forms lesions which turn into abscesses over time. This disorder can also include swelling of the bile ducts, gallbladder stones, and death of tissue in localized areas of the liver.
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Symptoms of Liver Inflammation (Suppurative) in Dogs
The symptoms of suppurative hepatitis may be missed until the disease advances far enough to cause several abscesses and damage to the liver. Luckily, most owners know their animals well and will notice even the slightest change in their dog before it is too late.
- Appetite loss
- Dark urine
- Weight loss
- Increased urination
- Increased thirst
- Abdominal pain
- Yellowish discoloration of the skin and the whites of the eyes due to jaundice
- Distended abdomen
- Skin disorders
- Mouth ulcers
- Lesion, especially in the nose
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Change of gait
- Strange body odor
- Poor body and coat condition
Causes of Liver Inflammation (Suppurative) in Dogs
- Blocked bile ducts
- Infection from elsewhere in the body
- Liver biopsy complication
- Weakened immune system
- Liver tumors
- Pre-existing liver or pancreas diseases
The breeds most often affected by chronic hepatitis are:
- Bedlington Terriers
- Cocker Spaniels
- Doberman Pinschers
- Labrador Retrievers
- Scottish Terriers
- Skye Terriers
- Standard Poodles
- West Highland White Terriers
Diagnosis of Liver Inflammation (Suppurative) in Dogs
Diagnosing suppurative hepatitis starts with a complete physical examination of your dog which usually includes respiratory and heart rates, body weight and temperature, and blood pressure. The veterinarian will also palpate your dog’s abdomen to determine the extent of the liver inflammation and fluid retention. Give your veterinarian as much detail about the symptoms you have noticed and when they started. It is best if you provide your veterinarian with as much of your dog’s medical background as you know, including previous injuries or illnesses, vaccination records, and any appetite or behavioral changes.
The most important part of the veterinarian’s examination is the abdominal radiographs (x-rays), which should give a concrete diagnosis by letting the veterinarian see if there are any blockages, tumors, or infections. In most cases, the next step will be to get an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI to get a more detailed view of the tumors, abscesses, or blockages. If the veterinarian suspects cancer, they will get a tissue sample with a fine needle for biopsy. The needle can also be used to get a sample of the fluid in or around the abscesses to find the exact bacteria to be treated.
Treatment of Liver Inflammation (Suppurative) in Dogs
Treatment for hepatitis of any kind is to control the disease and repair the liver. IV fluids containing electrolytes, nutrients, and possibly a blood transfusion. If your dog has fluid buildup, the veterinarian will perform an abdominocentesis to drain some of the excess fluids to make him more comfortable. Diuretics will also be given in order to control fluid buildup.
For severe infection, the veterinarian will put your dog on IV antibiotics like ampicillin and corticosteroids such as prednisone, and possibly keep him overnight to be sure the medication is working. Sometimes it takes more than one medication if the bacteria cannot be isolated. In the case of blocked bile ducts, surgery will be done to remove the blockage. Cancerous tumors need to be removed with surgery as well. If the veterinarian suspects the cancer may have spread, chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments will be done.
Recovery of Liver Inflammation (Suppurative) in Dogs
In any case of suppurative hepatitis, your dog’s prognosis is guarded because no matter what the cause, there may already be a significant amount of damage to the liver. The veterinarian will give you medication to give your dog to reduce the inflammation and fluid buildup and an antibiotic to ward off any infections. It is essential to follow your veterinarian’s instructions and give your dog all of the medication as directed. Be sure to see the veterinarian for a follow-up as well.