The liver is responsible for cleaning the blood and helping to fight infections, but conditions such as hepatitis can prevent the liver from doing its job. Here, our Deer Park vets share the different types of hepatitis seen in dogs, the symptoms and what can be done if your dog is affected by this condition.
What is hepatitis in dogs?
Hepatitis is the name for inflammation of the liver. Your dog's liver performs a number of vital jobs including processing nutrients, filtering the blood, and fighting infections. When your dog's liver is inflamed or damaged, its function may be negatively affected.
The Common Types of Hepatitis in Dogs
With the exception of rare cases of bacterial hepatitis in dogs, there are two main types that our vets commonly see: infectious canine hepatitis and canine chronic hepatitis. Chronic is defined as an infection that has been causing damage for at least a few weeks, whereas acute hepatitis can develop very quickly (typically over just a few days).
Infectious Canine Hepatitis
- Infectious canine hepatitis is the name for Hepatitis C in dogs. Infectious hepatitis is an acute contagious disease in dogs caused by the canine adenovirus 1. The virus targets the infected pet's liver, lungs, kidneys, spleen, the lining of blood vessels and, occasionally, other organs. Hepatitis C symptoms in dogs can vary from a slight fever to death.
Canine Chronic Hepatitis
- Canine chronic hepatitis is a condition that is associated with infectious canine hepatitis. Canine chronic hepatitis may also be called autoimmune hepatitis. Breeds of dogs that are predisposed to the disease include Skye Terriers, Chihuahuas, Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, Doberman Pinschers, and Standard Poodles.
Leading Causes of Hepatitis in Dogs
Dogs most often become infected with canine hepatitis by consuming feces, saliva, nasal discharge, or urine from an infected dog. Many dog owners don't realize that even if their dog has recovered from the condition, they will shed the virus in their urine for at least 6 months, possibly leading to infections in other dogs.
In some cases, dogs can develop severe chronic hepatitis as a result of damage caused by the accumulation of copper in the liver’s cells.
Symptoms Associated With Hepatitis in Dogs
There is a wide range of symptoms associated with hepatitis in dogs. The most commonly seen are:
- Watery discharge from eyes and nose
- Slight fever
- Deficiency of blood clotting
- Loss of appetite
- Enlarged tonsils
- Yellow, jaundiced look to ears, gums and skin
- Eye inflammation
- Severe depression
- Abdominal pain (occasional)
- Vomiting (occasional)
- Bruised or reddened nose and mouth
- Spontaneous bleeding
In severe cases, symptoms may include:
- Red dots on the skin
- Bruised or reddened nose and mouth
- Swelling (neck, head, lymph nodes)
If you notice any of the symptoms listed above you should contact your vet as soon as possible to have your pup examined.
Diagnosing Hepatitis in Dogs
Usually, the abrupt onset of hepatitis alongside bleeding suggests that infectious canine hepatitis is the culprit, but laboratory tests are needed to confirm a diagnosis. Your dog may need blood transfusions if they become severely ill.
In some situations, your vet may note the occurrence of chronic hepatitis using blood panels allowing for treatment to begin sooner.
Typically the symptoms of hepatitis only become apparent once the condition is well advanced. A definitive diagnosis can be made with a liver biopsy, which will determine the severity and type of liver disease that your dog is suffering from.
The Treatment Options For Dogs With Hepatitis
Depending on the results of the biopsy, your vet may recommend treating the disease with antibiotics, anti-inflammatory meds or immunosuppressive medication.
Some dogs may develop corneal edema with the onset of infectious canine hepatitis. This is characterized by the cloudiness of one or both corneas.
Treatment options can range from IV fluid therapy to hospitalization. Your dog will also require routine bloodwork to help monitor the development and effects of the disease.
Expected Outlook for Dogs With Hepatitis
Even after your pup has recovered from the disease, immune-complex reactions can result in long-term damage to the liver and permanent cloudiness of the corneas. Though some cases of acute hepatitis can be cured, chronic hepatitis cannot be cured. The key will be the ongoing management of the disease and its related symptoms.
Preventing the Occurrence of Hepatitis in Dogs
The preventive measures for infectious canine hepatitis include a core vaccination which all dogs are required to get along with the other core vaccines. Your dog will typically receive this vaccine along with their canine distemper vaccinations.
The hepatitis vaccine is given to puppies at about 7 to 9 weeks of age, with the first booster between 11 and 13 weeks, after which they’ll be protected.
To continue the protection provided by the hepatitis vaccine, your dog will have booster shots throughout their life.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.