How Long to Live With Dog Liver Failure

Dog liver failure is an emotionally distressful condition to deal with as a pet parent, often irreparably diminishing your canine’s lifespan and leaving them less time with you than previously anticipated.

Liver disease can result from poisoning, infection, chronic inflammation or birth defects such as portosystemic shunts (a problem with the liver’s blood vessels). It typically progresses gradually.

Early Stages

At its beginning stages, your dog’s liver possesses a substantial functional reserve and resilience against damage, yet as time progresses this ability will diminish over time as disease progresses. Once over 70% of liver cells have died due to liver failure or other causes it enters cirrhosis mode which cannot be reversed but can be delayed with medications.

At this stage, an irritated and inflamed liver begins to transform healthy tissue into scar tissue, no longer capable of performing its normal functions. Your dog may exhibit mild symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy or loss of appetite during this phase – the vet may provide medication to manage their symptoms effectively.

Your vet may use various medicines depending on the cause of disease. For instance, if a toxin is the culprit, they may induce vomiting or perform gastric lavage to flush away any unabsorbed toxin from your stomach before prescribing medication to help stop further absorption or provide antidotes when available.

Cancer is another leading cause of liver disease in dogs. If detected early enough, some forms can be treated successfully through chemotherapy and surgery; other forms are irreversible and will impact their liver over time.

Chronic liver diseases in dogs include congenital disorders such as portosystemic shunts (which affect certain breeds such as Bedlington Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers and Standard Poodles) as well as infections common among older canines such as Hepatitis A & B infections, feline infectious peritonitis and bacterial vaginosis. Acute events like heat stroke, traumatic injuries or being hit by a car can also damage or deplete the liver of its health benefits.

Unfortunately, most dogs that reach their end-of-life with liver failure do not seek out medical help until it is already severe. Regular visits to your veterinarian for routine bloodwork will allow them to detect any elevated liver values more quickly and initiate treatment as quickly as possible.

Middle Stages

Early diagnosis is key to improving your dog’s prognosis; symptoms in this phase include loss of appetite, vomiting and jaundice (yellowing gums and skin), as well as possible toxin build-up which could cause neurological symptoms like drowsiness, disorientation and seizures.

Your vet will begin treating the source of your pup’s liver disease. For instance, if they ingested poisonous substances such as insecticides or detergents, for instance, induce vomiting or conduct gastric lavage to ensure further absorption is avoided and then administer fluids and medication that support liver health.

Your next steps depend on the severity and progression of your dog’s liver disease and whether it has progressed to cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is the final stage of liver disease in which healthy liver cells are replaced with fibrous scar tissue, leading to organ dysfunction. If this stage has been reached by your dog’s liver, they likely won’t experience full recovery and likely won’t outlive their expected life span.

Veterinarians can provide you with an estimate of how long your dog has left to live by diagnosing his/her condition and ascertaining its underlying cause. They can also explain how quickly liver failure progresses over time.

If your dog has reached advanced or end-stages of liver failure, it may be time to discuss euthanasia with their vet. He or she can create an end of life care plan designed to make this difficult process as comfortable as possible for both of you.

Euthanasia may be difficult, but it may be the kindest option if your dog cannot live a quality of life due to severe and untreatable liver disease. If they’re vomiting and losing weight rapidly or showing serious signs of discomfort such as yellow eyes or mouths or other serious pain indicators it would be wise to consult your vet as soon as possible regarding euthanasia as soon as possible.

End Stages

At the late stages of liver disease, your pup could experience significant discomfort. This is caused by toxins filtered by their livers beginning to flow freely into their brain and body causing issues such as nausea, vomiting and confusion. Therefore it’s vital that as soon as something seems amiss with your pet it be taken immediately to a vet who will perform various tests that will give a clear picture of their overall health while helping determine if liver failure has already begun.

At this stage, liver issues may still be treatable and your pet could live longer with more positive prognosis. Therefore, regular veterinary examinations are so vital as they will detect early warning signs before they worsen too far.

An initial sign of distress for your pup is often an uneasiness they seem to experience, with decreased appetite, more frequent napping throughout the day, and need for additional water intake than normal. Your pup’s skin may become dull or discolored too.

As the disease advances, it will turn an already damaged liver into scar tissue that restricts blood flow to it, further damaging it and increasing chances of inflammation. Furthermore, its size will swell up, leading to further organ swelling.

Hepatic Encephalopathy – At this final stage, Hepatic Encephalopathy occurs, when toxins reach the brain and cause neurological issues such as seizures and confusion – typically manifested as your pet wandering aimlessly around your house or appearing disoriented.

At this stage, your vet will prescribe specific treatments based on the severity and cause of the liver condition in your pet. They also offer supportive care that aims to slow its progression while mitigating complications; this might involve providing fluids and electrolytes via intravenous treatment or administering medications to manage symptoms and enhance quality of life.


Prognoses for dogs suffering from liver disease depend upon its severity, the underlying cause and how quickly treatment begins. A full recovery may be possible if an identifiable and treatable cause can be identified and addressed early enough; otherwise treatment efforts focus on managing progression and symptoms while slowing the rate at which their liver degrades.

As your dog enters the middle stages of liver failure, they may start showing physical symptoms as their liver fails to filter toxins properly and enter their bloodstream directly, where they begin interfering with normal bodily processes and disrupting regular functions – this often manifests itself with yellowing eyes and skin as jaundice develops.

Once toxins reach the brain, your dog’s quality of life will begin to diminish quickly. They may lose control over their bodies and have difficulty eating or moving around freely; at this stage, your vet can advise when it may be best for euthanization to take place.

Your veterinarian will conduct several basic blood tests and urinalysis tests on your dog in order to accurately evaluate their liver damage. They’ll check for increases in bilirubin, liver enzymes, glucose, urea nitrogen and albumin levels – indicators of an impaired liver.

Hepatic biopsys provide a more precise picture of your pet’s liver health. Usually done as an ultrasonic-guided, minimally-invasive procedure, they involve inserting a small needle into their liver in order to collect samples for testing purposes.

There are various medications available to treat and manage the symptoms of liver disease in dogs. Some can help decrease body toxins to improve your pet’s prognosis; your veterinarian will be able to suggest the appropriate medicine for your circumstances.

Lisa Thompson

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