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When Should You Put Down A Dog With Liver Failure?

Our dogs are with us through the best and worst of times.

When your furry friend gets sick, it’s hard to know when it’s time to let them go.

Some diseases may progress to the point where your pet will suffer if they continue living, and death becomes the less painful choice.

Below, we will discuss when to euthanize a dog with liver failure.

This ailment drastically reduces your dog’s quality of life, and it can lead to considerable discomfort.

By deciding at the right time, you can save your dog from a lot of pain and preserve your joyful memories.

What Is Liver Failure In Dogs?

The liver is a large organ that detoxifies your body and keeps you healthy.

It aids in digestion, storage of necessary vitamins and minerals, and getting nutrients out of food. Livers flush away toxic contaminants as waste.

However, your dog’s liver can be damaged from overexposure to toxins.

The liver does self-heal, but failure occurs when about 75% of the liver has been damaged.

Chronic liver disease happens gradually and is onset by another health problem.

Aging, pre-existing conditions, and weight can also harm the liver over time.

Acute liver failure happens more suddenly, often when your dog eats a moderate to large toxins dose.

Trauma, such as a car accident, can also shock your dog’s system and lead to acute liver failure.

Chronic liver disease is usually treatable, but acute has a more rapid decline in health.

If you notice the signs soon enough, you may be able to extend their lifespan.

Some causes of liver failure include

  • acute poisoning
  • bacterial infections
  • viral infections
  • parasitic infections
  • medications
  • Cushing’s disease
  • gallstones
  • cancer
  • chronic inflammation
  • blood vessel abnormalities
  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • autoimmune conditions
  • hyperthyroidism
  • trauma

All of these afflictions can impact your dog’s liver, worsening the side effects of pre-existing conditions.

Liver failure can come about from a genetic predisposition.

Inherent liver disorders usually manifest as puppies with neurologic problems and stunted growth.

Labrador Retrievers and Yorkshire Terriers have a greater susceptibility to liver failure than other breeds.

The former is inclined to getting copper storage disease, and the latter to portosystemic shunts.

Congenital biliary cystic malformations are also inherited and can lead to liver failure.

Symptoms of Liver Failure In Dogs

If your dog has seemed a little “off,” you might wonder if liver failure is to blame.

This disease has various symptoms and can progress through multiple stages before leading to death.

Common symptoms of canine liver failure include:

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased urination
  • Blood clotting
  • Jaundice
  • Excessive thirst
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Distended abdomen
  • Dizziness
  • Absent-mindedness
  • Seizures

While these symptoms could indicate a myriad of afflictions, ranging from dehydration to a stomach bug, it’s safest to take your dog to the vet to rule out liver failure.

Try to monitor your dog regularly for any behavioral changes so you can get them the necessary treatment.

In the early stages of liver failure, your dog may experience lethargy, a missing appetite, nausea, and vomiting.

If you catch these symptoms early on, your vet can prescribe them supplements to slow down the disease.

By the middle stages, your dog’s liver will stop working.

Once your dog’s skin and eyes start yellowing and they develop a pot-belly, your dog’s liver failure has progressed further.

At this point, they likely cannot engage in their favorite activities, but they still retain some functionality.

Their liver stops producing albumin, which keeps fluid in your dog’s organs.

The organ fluids will then leak through your dog’s body, giving them an unusual appearance.

In the end-stage, your dog may seem depressed, dizzy, disoriented, and absent-minded.

Your dog may also start going blind and getting seizures.

Many dogs will begin pacing and wandering around the house aimlessly.

These neurological issues indicate that toxins have built up in your dog’s body, and they lose their quality of life.

Their livers stop detoxifying their body and metabolizing proteins, and your dog will get hepatic encephalopathy.

Treating Liver Failure In Dogs

If you noticed some signs early on and took your dog to the vet for a diagnosis, you may receive suitable treatment for your dog.

However, you generally cannot reverse liver failure.

Unless your dog’s liver failed from an infection or you can afford surgery to remove the diseased portion, there’s little that a vet can do.

Nevertheless, your vet can prescribe supplements to treat the symptoms to improve their living standard in their final days.

For dogs who aren’t particular about their food, they may benefit from a specially formulated food that treats liver disease.

These foods can prevent neurologic degeneration and nausea while improving their appetite.

Vets also distribute SAM-e, Silybin, and other supplements to treat liver disease.

These drugs can protect your dog’s liver cells and reduce inflammation, placing less stress on their liver.

If your dog has progressed to end-stage liver failure, your vet can prescribe medications to treat nausea, diarrhea, and pain.

Unfortunately, your dog will not have long to live once they develop hepatic encephalopathy.

The best you can do is give them lots of love and attention while treating their discomfort.

Your dog will have a much higher chance for survival if your vet treats the underlying cause of their liver failure.

Antibiotics, antivirals, and antiparasitics can combat an infection that destroys their liver.

They can also treat the oxidative damage on your dog’s cells to slow the progression of the disease.

Lifespan For A Dog With Liver Failure

Lifespans vary depending on your dog, the cause, and treatments.

The best indicator is the progression of symptoms, so make sure to pay attention to any lifestyle changes.

The first stage usually indicates excessive inflammation, and you can treat it at this point to lessen the symptoms.

The inflammation often results from an underlying disease, and taking them to the vet can treat the root cause before their liver worsens.

Your dog’s liver can still function in the early stages, and with treatment, they can live months to years longer with a high living standard.

Once your dog reaches the middle and final stages, they have a much smaller chance of survival.

You can treat their symptoms, but the damage has occurred.

If the liver failure is centralized to a small part, your vet may be able to extract the tumor via surgery.

In most instances, you can still help them live reasonably for the rest of their lives with the correct food, exercise, attention, and therapy.

Despite these measures that you can take, you cannot reverse liver damage once it begins.

By providing a comfortable and supportive environment, you can help your dog live out the rest of their days in peace.

When to Euthanize a Dog With Liver Failure

Over time, your dog’s quality of life will worsen once their liver starts to fail.

When they seem to have their good days, you may feel discouraged from your thoughts of euthanization, and you’ll want them to have as many positive experiences as possible.

If your dog seems to suffer nonstop, it may be time to bring them to the vet.

You will need to consider euthanasia strongly if your dog stops doing standard tasks like eating, walking, running, or moving, or if they cry in pain daily.

Living has become too painful for them, and they cannot enjoy their favorite things.

If you are still uncertain, discuss your options with a veterinarian.

They will know if it’s time or if you can help them live well for a while longer.

If their disease has gone past the point of no return, ask for support from your loved ones.

They can help you deal with the loss of your dog, and they might make the process less troublesome.

Instead of mulling over thoughts in your head, ask yourself a few objective questions concerning your dog’s life quality:

  • Can my dog move freely?
  • Does my dog feel pain when doing everyday activities?
  • Can my dog function neurologically?

If your dog cannot complete these simple tasks, then they are likely suffering tremendously.

You can let them continue to live in pain, or you can put them out of their misery.

You won’t lose all of your happy memories once they pass away, and you can ensure they have more good days than bad.

Final Word

It’s never easy to decide if you need to euthanize your dog.

However, some conditions make it unlikely that your dog can live happily for long, one of which is liver failure.

You can take measures to prolong their lifespan by getting them specialty food, supplements, medications, and therapy if you catch it soon enough.

While you can help them live more comfortably, liver failure will eventually take your dog’s life.

By learning when to euthanize a dog with liver failure, you can give them the best living standard possible and save them from weeks or months of excessive pain.

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1 thought on “When Should You Put Down A Dog With Liver Failure?”

  1. I got told my dog had liver failure last week anvet said they carnt do nothing for now is gone to her brain oacing head pressin i had her put down now am heartbroken have i done the right thing


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National Canine Research Association of America