Symptoms of dog dying from liver failure

Liver failure causes a lot of suffering for dogs, and most of the dogs end up dying. In this post we will talk about the main symptoms observed in dogs with liver failure and the main causes that lead to such a disease.

Symptoms of dog dying from liver failure

Liver failure happens due to lesions present in the liver cells that cause it to reduce and even stop exercising its biological function.

If the animal presents hepatic insufficiency, the veterinarian should be sought for the correct diagnosis and use of the appropriate treatment, thus avoiding the animal’s death.

The common symptoms in dog are:

  • Stops eating and weight loss;
  • Drinking a lot of water and increased urination;
  • Vomiting;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Yellow skin and membranes;
  • Internal bleeding;
  • Fluid accumulation in the abdominal region.

Stops eating and weight loss

The dog with liver failure reduces food consumption due to pain, and the sensation of vomiting. So, the dog tends to lose weight, becoming more prostate. If the animal stops feeding, it must be admitted to a veterinary hospital to receive the necessary nutrients.

Dogs with liver failure should eat specific foods, whether commercial foods or natural balanced food by a veterinarian.

Drinking a lot of water and increased urination

Dogs can increase their water consumption and thus the amount of urine. Due to the failure of hepatic activity, some compounds that should be metabolized by the liver can accumulate in the blood and stimulate the thirst center, increasing water consumption.


Vomiting can occur due to the feeling of nausea felt by dogs. In addition, the lack of liver function can influence the digestion of some foods. So, dogs tend to feel more nausea and vomiting.


It is in the liver that bile is produced, which is responsible for the digestion of fats ingested by dogs. When the liver is unhealth, bile production can be compromised and so the fat eaten by the dog tends to go straight to the feces, softening it.

Yellow skin and membranes

The lack of liver function can lead to an increase in bilirubin circulating in the blood. Bilirubin is a yellowish metabolite that results from the lysis of blood cells. The increase in circulating bilirubin causes the skin and mucosa to turn yellow.

Internal bleeding

The liver is responsible for the production of enzymes and proteins responsible for blood clotting, in the absence of these clotting factors the body may have difficulty clotting small bleeding resulting in large internal bleeding.

Fluid accumulation in the abdominal region

The liver produces several proteins, when the liver is injured, it can favor an increase in hydrostatic pressure or a decrease in the oncotic pressure of blood plasma. Leading to accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity and distention.

Causes of liver failure

Several causes can lead to liver failure in dogs, among them the main ones are:

  • Intoxication;
  • Action of chemotherapeutics and medications;
  • Infectious;
  • Cancer/Tumor.


Intoxication can happen due to several factors such as copper poisoning, plant toxins and pesticides and herbicides.

  • Copper poisoning: Copper is an essential microelement for dogs, it acts in several biological processes, but when ingested in excess, copper can accumulate in liver cells resulting in cell and liver damage, which when generalized can lead to hepatic insufficiency.
  • Poisoning by plant toxins: Some plants are toxic to dogs such as Sago Palm, Tulips, Lily of the Valley, Oleander, Philodendrons, Rhododendron and others. The toxins present in some of these plants can damage the liver in different ways, leading to a liver failure.
  • Poisoning by pesticides and herbicides: Pesticides are chemical substances responsible for eliminating pests from crops and plantations. Herbicides are a type of pesticide responsible for eliminating weeds that grow in crops or plantations. Accidental consumption of these chemicals by the dog can lead to liver damage, resulting in liver failure.

Chemotherapy and drug action

Many drugs and chemotherapy drugs are metabolized by the liver. The liver has a fundamental role in the activation of some drugs, however some metabolites generated by these drugs can accumulate in liver cells leading to cell and liver damage.

Drugs such as anticonvulsants, chemotherapeutics, anthelmintics and glucocorticoids are the most common to lead to liver damage and these drugs are responsible for drug-induced hepatitis.


Infectious diseases can be caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi. The main causes of liver failure in dogs are Leptospirosis and canine viral hepatitis.

  • Leptospirosis: Leptospirosis is a disease caused by the bacteria Leptospira. Leptospira are present in mice that contaminate dogs through contaminated mice urine. The contact of the dog with the urine of the infected mouse causes the bacteria to penetrate the skin of the animals, and through the blood circulation producing lesions in several organs, mainly kidneys and liver.
  • Canine viral hepatitis: Infectious canine hepatitis is a viral infection caused by canine adenovirus type 1. The virus can be acquired by contact with oronasal secretions. When the virus infects the dog, it makes viremia going to several organs, and the liver is the organ that suffers most of the lesion. This disease can be prevented by vaccinating the dog.

Cancer / Tumor

Cancer and tumors can develop in the liver of dogs, damaging healthy tissue and resulting in kidney failure. Tumors may originate in the liver or may be metastases from other tumors present in the dog. Malignant tumors can severely damage the dogs liver, causing them to experience a lot of pain and suffering.


Several factors can damage the liver leading to loss of liver function which can result in the death of the animal. Liver failure can lead to several symptoms, which should be observed by tutors. Therefore, when presenting any symptoms, the animal must be taken to the veterinarian, avoiding the aggravation of the disease and even the death of the animal.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Symptoms of dog dying from liver failure


What are the symptoms of liver failure in dogs?

The dog with liver failure may have abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, lack of appetite, weight loss and a yellowish color in the skin, mucous membranes, and eyes.

How to treat liver failure in dogs?

Treatment of liver failure must first eliminate the cause of the liver damage, and so medications can be given that can minimize liver functions like metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and medications.

What causes liver failure in dogs?

Liver injuries can have some causes such as:

Intoxication by plants, toxins and cooper;

Action of chemotherapeutics and medications;

Infectious like virus (canine adenovirus) and bacterial (leptospirosis);


What is liver failure in dogs?

Failure of the liver is called hepatic insufficiency. Liver failure happens due to lesions present in the liver cells that causes it to reduce and even stop exercising its biological function.

The common symptoms are the dog stops eating, drinking a lot of water, vomiting, diarrhea, increased urination, weight loss, yellow skin and mucous membranes, internal bleeding, and fluid accumulation in the abdominal region and consequent distention.


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Santana, J. M., Soares, A. C., Sales, L. H., Melo, M., & Oliveira, N. (2014). Intoxicação por cobre em animais domésticos. Enciclopédia Biosfera, 10(18).

Santos, J. C. A., Riet-Correa, F., Simões, S. V., & Barros, C. S. (2008). Patogênese, sinais clínicos e patologia das doenças causadas por plantas hepatotóxicas em ruminantes e eqüinos no Brasil. Pesquisa Veterinária Brasileira, 28, 1-14.

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