when to euthanize a dog with liver failure

liver failure in dogs explained

  • Hepatic failure, also known as liver failure in dogs, is a disorder in which the liver is unable to perform its normal functions. The liver performs a variety of essential tasks, such as removing toxins from the bloodstream, making bile, and controlling hormone and blood sugar levels. When the liver is ill or injured, it is unable to carry out these tasks correctly, which causes toxins to build up in the body and a variety of other health issues. Toxins, infections, cancer, and congenital anomalies are just a few of the many causes of liver failure, which can be acute (sudden onset) or chronic (gradual onset).

symptoms of liver failure

Depending on the severity and underlying cause of the ailment, symptoms of liver failure in dogs can vary, however some typical warning signs to watch out for include:

  • Jaundice: A buildup of bilirubin, a waste product that the liver normally filters out, causes yellowing of the skin, gums, and whites of the eyes.
  • Appetite loss: The dog may become uninterested in food and refuse to eat.
  • Vomiting: The dog may vomit often and show signs of loss of appetite.
  • The dog may have watery or loose stools if he has diarrhoea.
  • Fatigue: The dog may appear weary, weak, and/or have less energy.
  • Lack of appetite could cause the dog to lose weight.
  • Swelling in the abdomen: A fluid accumulation in the dog’s belly could cause it to appear bloated.
  • Changes in behaviour: The dog can act more agitated, worried, or restless.
  • It is significant to note that these symptoms can also occur with other conditions, thus seeing a veterinarian is advised for an accurate diagnosis.

liver failure causes

The most frequent causes of liver failure in dogs include the following:

  • Toxins: The liver can get damaged and fail as a result of exposure to certain chemicals, drugs, or other toxins.
  • Infections: Liver damage and liver failure can result from bacterial, viral, or parasite infections.
  • Cancer: Liver tumours or cancer may result in liver failure by blocking the liver’s blood supply or by metastasizing to other organs.
  • Congenital flaws: Some puppies are born with liver flaws, which might eventually cause liver failure.
  • Liver failure can result from chronic liver inflammation, which is caused by hepatitis.
  • Deficits in nutrition: Some shortages in nutrition, including copper storage disease, can cause liver failure.
  • Idiopathic: In some circumstances, it is impossible to identify the reason of liver failure.
  • It’s crucial to remember that there are numerous additional causes of liver failure, and tests and examinations by a veterinarian will enable them to identify the precise cause of liver failure in a certain dog.

Treatment options

The underlying cause of the problem and the severity of the symptoms will determine the available treatments for liver failure in dogs. Typical forms of treatment include:

  • Medicine: In addition to helping to prevent future liver damage, your veterinarian may prescribe medication to help manage symptoms including vomiting, diarrhoea, and pain.
  • Dietary changes: To promote liver function, a specific diet may be advised. This diet may include a supply of easily digestible protein or a reduction in the amount of protein consumed.
  • Surgery: To remove tumours or cure congenital abnormalities, surgery may occasionally be required.
  • Fluid therapy: Fluid therapy can support organ function, help to eliminate toxins from the body, and correct electrolyte imbalances.
  • Blood transfusion: In the event of severe anaemia, blood transfusion may be required.
  • Liver transplant: Although liver transplants are typically not an option for animals, they may be explored in extremely rare and serious circumstances.
  • Not all dogs with liver failure will react to treatment, and the prognosis may be poor in some circumstances, it is crucial to note. In certain situations, the vet may go over the possibility of euthanasia with the owner.

how and when to euthanize

Although euthanasia is a difficult choice, in some circumstances it may be the most compassionate course of action for a dog with liver disease. When deciding if euthanasia is the right course of action, the following are some things to take into account:

  • Poor prognosis for recovery: Euthanasia may be the most compassionate course of action if the veterinarian thinks that the dog’s liver loss is irreversible and that the dog is unlikely to recover.
  • Quality of life is significantly reduced: Euthanasia may be the kindest course of action if the dog is in excruciating pain, discomfort, or is unable to stand, eat, or drink.
  • If the dog is not responding to treatment or if the available treatment alternatives are not workable or practical, euthanasia may be an option.
  • The canine is in excruciating agony or suffering. Euthanasia might be the nicest course of action if the dog is suffering and is not going to get better despite treatment.
  • It’s crucial to remember that this is a challenging choice, and a veterinarian will be able to offer advice and support all along the way. Before making any decisions, it’s crucial to talk with a veterinarian about the treatments available and their prognosis.

Why the Liver of a Dog is So Important

  • The liver of a dog is essential for preserving general health and wellbeing. The following are only a few of the liver’s crucial jobs:
  • Detoxification: The liver removes impurities and poisons from the bloodstream, keeping the body hygienic and in good condition.
  • Bile, which is produced by the liver, is essential for both the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and the digestion of fats.
  • Regulation of blood sugar: The liver stores and releases glucose as needed to help control blood sugar levels.
  • Blood clotting: To help stop excessive bleeding, the liver creates clotting factors.
  • Regulation of hormone levels in the body, particularly those that influence metabolism and energy levels, is aided by the liver.
  • Protein metabolism: The liver produces, stores, and releases a variety of proteins, including albumin and clotting factors.
  • Storage: The liver keeps important nutrients including copper, iron, and vitamin A in reserve.
  • Given how crucial the liver is to a dog’s general health, it is crucial to take any indications of liver failure seriously and to get quick veterinarian care.
  • For a higher chance of recovery with the right therapy, it’s crucial to keep an eye out for the symptoms of liver failure and to identify the problem as early as possible. If left untreated, liver failure can be fatal.


Finally, it should be noted that liver failure is a dangerous ailment that can strike dogs of all ages and breeds. It can have a wide range of symptoms, such as jaundice, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, exhaustion, weight loss, and abdominal swelling. It can also be brought on by a number of different conditions. Medication, dietary modifications, surgery, and fluid therapy are among potential treatments for liver failure. The quality of life may be significantly impacted and the prognosis for recovery may be poor in some circumstances. Euthanasia may be the most humanitarian solution in these situations. A veterinarian should be consulted to decide the best course of action for your pet. A veterinarian can offer direction and assistance throughout the delicate and challenging decision-making process.

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