Causes of liver diseases in dogs

Dogs are undoubtedly a man’s best friend and it’s certainly most unfortunate when they fall ill. Among many other diseases, dogs become prey to fatal liver diseases which can cause long term damage as well as death.

Functions of liver:

The liver is an important organ for a dog which performs numerous functions such as:

  • Digestion
  • Blood clotting
  • Detoxification
  • Metabolism

Types of liver diseases

Various types of liver diseases can happen in dogs, among which some of them are the following:

Congenital portosystemic shunt

This usually happens in young dogs. In these types of cases, a blood vessel that bypasses the liver causes a toxin buildup.

Infectious diseases

The liver is quite susceptible to various infectious diseases due to bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi.

Canine hepatitis

This is the most common viral disease that affects dog liver. It can cause inflaming and scars.


A bacterial infection causes this type of liver disease. Dogs can contract this through contaminated water. Furthermore, this is contagious and can be spread to humans.

Coccidioidomycosis and Histoplasmosis

These are the most common liver diseases caused by fungus. Dogs can get it through the spores in the environment.

Liver cancer

Dogs can get primary and secondary tumors of the liver. Secondary tumors are more common than primary tumors.

Causes of liver diseases

There are many causes of liver diseases such as the ones given below:


Age is a major factor that contributes to the development of liver diseases in geriatric dogs. With increasing age, many functions of the body start slowing down. As a result, the body’s immunity slows down as well, consequently inviting in various unavoidable liver diseases.


The type of breed of your dog also determines the kind of liver disease the animal might get. Some breeds, such as Dobermans, Yorkshire terriers, cocker spaniels, and Rottweiler are more prone to liver issues while some of them are born with them.

West highland white terriers and Bedlingtons are known to have copper-associated hepatitis. This is a genetic disease that causes dogs of these breeds to be at risk of the chronic hepatic disease characterized by copper accumulation in the liver.


Diabetes can also become a cause for fat accumulation in the liver, which may lead to liver enlargement. However, treatment for this cause is present which can enable the dog to live a long and healthy life.


Some of the liver diseases in dogs are present in their DNA that has been passed on generation after generation. These types of liver diseases are genetic and are usually present at the time of birth while in some, they are expressed after some years of birth.


Infections due to various viruses, bacteria and fungi, and their spores are also known to be the most common causes of liver issues. These types of issues can be easily tackled through antibiotics, anti-fungal ointments, and vaccinations.

Ingestion of plants and herbs

Dogs love to chew on different things and they sometimes end up chewing and ingesting poisonous substances, plants, and herbs which cause liver damage. Some of these poisonous substances include ragwort, certain mushrooms, blue-green algae as well as corn mold. Liver failure can also be caused by the ingestion of just a few seeds of ‘sago palms’.       

Pancreatic issues

Pancreatic issues also become a cause for liver problems and damage. Acute pancreatitis can very well take the form of hemorrhage and/or edema. As a result of these, the inflammation enables the pancreas to spill the digestive enzymes in the abdominal cavity, consequently resulting in serious damage to the liver. 


Candy gums, toothpaste, etc possess xylitol which is very harmful to your dog as it can cause the blood sugar of your dog to drop below normal levels. Liver failure can also happen in a matter of days or hours. Sugary foods can lead to diabetes in the dogs which can further also affect their livers. Eating too much salt can also put your dog at risk of various issues and it may even cause death in some cases.


Certain medications can solve problems for humans but they might not do the same for dogs. Dogs should only be given medicine that has been prescribed by their vets. Ingredients such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen are commonly found in people medicine but they can be deadly for dogs.


Dogs are indeed the most precious, friendly and loyal animals in the whole world. Owning a dog means great responsibility. One should be aware of all the pros and cons of keeping a dog before adoption so they can provide the best and most safe care to their dogs and so they don’t fall prey to any deadly disease.