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Hepatitis in Dogs - Symptoms, Treatments & Prognosis

Infectious and acute canine hepatitis can result in some very serious, or even life-threatening symptoms for your dog. In today's post our Cordova vets explain the symptoms of hepatitis in dogs as well as causes, treatments and prevention.

Types of Hepatitis in Dogs

There are two types of hepatitis commonly seen in dogs, infectious canine hepatitis and canine chronic hepatitis. Chronic is defined as an infection that has been causing damage for some time (at least a few weeks), whereas acute hepatitis can manifest over only a few days.

Infectious Canine Hepatitis

  • Infectious canine 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, lining of blood vessels and occasionally other organs. Signs of infectious canine hepatitis can vary widely from slight fever to death.

Canine Chronic Hepatitis

  • Canine chronic hepatitis is a condition that is associated with infectious canine hepatitis. Breeds of dogs that are predisposed to the disease include Skye Terriers, Springer Spaniels, Beagles, West Highland White Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Maltese, Labrador Retrievers, Doberman Pinschers, Bedlington Terriers, Standard Poodles and Chihuahuas.

Hepatitis in Dogs - Causes

Dogs most often become infected with canine hepatitis is by consuming feces, saliva, nasal discharge or urine from infected dogs. Dogs that are recovered from the condition will shed the virus in their urine for at least 6 months.

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.

Hepatitis in Dogs - Symptoms

Infectious canine hepatitis can cause a variety of signs and symptoms. If your dog is suffering from infectious hepatitis you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Watery discharge from eyes and nose
  • Congestion
  • Slight fever
  • Deficiency of blood clotting
  • Blindness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Thirst
  • 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

Severe cases:

  • Red dots on skin
  • Bruised or reddened nose and mouth
  • Swelling (neck, head, lymph nodes)
  • Seizures
  • Death

Although the disease has become uncommon in areas where routine vaccinations are used, owners must still be vigilant, as the disease can develop quickly in both puppies and dogs.

It is essential to contact your vet right away if you notice any symptoms listed above!

Hepatitis in Dogs - Diagnosis

Usually, abrupt onset of the condition and bleeding suggest that infectious canine hepatitis is the culprit, but laboratory tests (including antibody tests, immuno-fluorescence scanning and blood tests) are needed to confirm a diagnosis. Your dog may need blood transfusions if severely ill.

In some cases, routine blood health panels can reveal chronic hepatitis, which may allow for diagnosis before signs develop. Once your dog begins displaying symptoms of liver disease, it is often in a very late stage. 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.

Hepatitis in Dogs - Treatment

Depending on the results of the biopsy, your vet may recommend treating the disease with a broad-spectrum antibiotic, anti-inflammatory or immunosuppressive medication.

Sometimes, a painful spasm can be associated with cornea clouding in the eye. Your vet can prescribe eye ointment to alleviate your pup's pain. If your dog is experiencing corneal clouding, it is essential to protect your pup's eye from bright light.

Treatment options can range from intravenous fluid therapy to hospitalization. Your dog will require blood work on a regular basis for monitoring purposes.

Hepatitis in Dogs - Prognosis

Following recovery from the disease, immune-complex reactions can lead to clouding of the cornea of the eye and long term damage to kidneys. Though some cases of acute hepatitis can be cured, chronic hepatitis cannot be cured but will need monitoring and treatment so your pup can live a long, good quality life, with minimal clinical signs.

Preventing Hepatitis in Dogs

A mandatory vaccine is the most widely used and important preventive measure for infectious canine hepatitis. Your dog will typically receive this vaccine along with their canine distemper vaccinations.

The hepatitis vaccine is typically 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 remain protected against this serious condition, your dog will need to keep receiving the booster shots throughout their life - with another one at 15 months, then each year to keep the infection away.

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. 

Is your dog displaying symptoms of infectious or acute canine hepatitis? Contact our Cordova vets at Germantown Parkway Animal Hospital today to book an examination for your pup.

Hepatitis in dogs - symptoms, treatment, prognosis and prevention. Cordova Vet

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