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What Are the Symptoms of a Dog Dying from Liver Failure? Petcare

What Are the Symptoms of a Dog Dying from Liver Failure


What are the symptoms of a dog dying from liver failure? Discovering that your beloved dog is suffering from liver failure can be heartbreaking.

Liver failure is a serious condition that can affect dogs, and pet owners need to be aware of the symptoms that may indicate their dog is dying from liver failure.

The liver plays a crucial role in the body’s metabolism and detoxification processes, so when it fails, it can have devastating effects on a dog’s health. 

However, being aware of the signs is important, as early detection can improve your dog’s prognosis and quality of life.

What Causes Liver Diseases in Dogs?

The liver is a vital organ in a dog’s body, responsible for various functions such as detoxification, metabolism, and production of essential proteins. However, just like humans, dogs can also suffer from liver diseases.

Understanding the causes of liver diseases in dogs is crucial for their prevention and treatment. Several factors can contribute to liver diseases in dogs, including:

  1. Infectious agents or toxins – They are the major contributors to the development of acute liver failure in dogs.

Ingestion of toxic substances or exposure to infectious agents such as bacteria or viruses can severely damage the liver and its function.

  1. Excess exposure to heat – Heatstroke, when the body overheats and cannot cool down properly, can lead to organ damage, including the liver.

Dogs are particularly susceptible to heatstroke, especially in hot and humid environments or when left in cars without proper ventilation.

  1. Hepatotoxic chemicals or drugs – These drugs or chemical substances are destructive to the liver. Dogs can be exposed to these substances through ingestion, inhalation, or contact with their skin.

Certain medications, household cleaning products, and industrial chemicals can all have hepatotoxic effects on the liver.

  1. Perfusion – Another cause of acute liver failure in dogs is poor fluid flow into the liver and surrounding tissues.

When there is insufficient blood flow to the liver, it can lead to impaired liver function and, ultimately, liver failure.

This can occur as a result of various underlying conditions or diseases, such as heart failure or blood clotting disorders.

  1. Hypoxia – Hypoxia, which refers to the inability to breathe and receive adequate oxygen supply, can also contribute to acute liver failure in dogs.

When there is a lack of oxygen reaching the liver cells, it can lead to cellular damage and impaired liver function. Conditions such as respiratory distress or lung diseases can cause hypoxia and subsequently impact the health of the liver.

Stages of Dog Liver Failure

Liver disease in dogs is a complex condition that can progress through four distinct stages.

  1. Stage one:

In this stage, the liver becomes inflamed and may not function properly. However, with the right treatment and management, the inflammation can be reduced, and the liver can regain its normal function.

  1. Stage two:

The second stage of liver disease in dogs is fibrosis. Fibrosis is characterized by the development of scar tissue in the liver, which can lead to hardening of the organ.

If caught early, fibrosis is reversible through appropriate intervention such as medications, dietary modifications, and lifestyle changes to reduce further damage to the liver and promote healing.

  1. Stage three:

The third stage of liver disease is cirrhosis. It involves permanent scarring of the liver. At this stage, the liver’s structure is significantly altered, leading to impaired function.

Unlike fibrosis, cirrhosis cannot be reversed. The focus of treatment shifts towards managing symptoms and preventing further damage to the liver.

This may include medications to control complications such as fluid buildup, dietary adjustments to support liver function, and regular monitoring to catch any potential complications early.

  1. Stage four:

The final stage of liver disease in dogs is liver failure. This stage occurs when the liver is severely damaged and can no longer perform its functions properly.

At this point, the goal of treatment is to make the dog as comfortable as possible during their final days.

Palliative care may involve pain management, supportive therapies to aid digestion and prevent malnutrition, and close monitoring for any signs of distress or deterioration.

Symptoms Of a Dog Dying From Liver Failure

As liver disease advances to its end-stage form, the symptoms become significantly more apparent.

These signs can interfere with your dog’s daily activities and greatly diminish their quality of life. The symptoms may include:

  1. Unexplained bruising on the dog’s body or gums
  2. Swelling of the abdomen
  3. Jaundice
  4. Seizures in dogs
  5. Nausea and vomiting
  6. Confusion or disorientation
  7. Pitting edema of the legs and feet
  8. Irritability or aggression
  9. Dark brown urine and pale (almost grey) stool
  10. Head-pressing
  11. Hemorrhage (e.g., blood in the vomit, bloody diarrhea, or dog nose bleeds)

Managing End-Stage Liver Diseases For Your Dog

When a dog reaches the end stage of liver failure, it is important to note that while many of the symptoms can be managed, the disease itself cannot be reversed.

To help control vomiting, veterinarians may prescribe anti-nausea medications such as Cerenia for dogs.

Additionally, appetite stimulants may be recommended to encourage eating and maintain proper nutrition. In some cases, dogs may also require medications to lower the pressure in the brain, reduce other neurologic signs, or control seizures.


What are the symptoms of a dog dying from liver failure? Recognizing the symptoms of a dog dying from liver failure is crucial for pet owners to provide timely and appropriate care.

While the signs may vary depending on the stage and severity of the condition, some common symptoms include jaundice, weight loss, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and urination, lethargy, and behavioral changes.

It is important to note that these symptoms may also indicate other health issues, so it is essential to consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.

Early detection and intervention can significantly improve the dog’s quality of life and increase the chances of successful treatment.