Enlarged Liver in Dogs

The liver could be the most important organ for your pet dog. It is important for digestion, removal of impurities in the system and blood clotting. It also helps in the removal of ammonia from the blood. The liver also supports the accumulation and metabolizing of fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and minerals. Since the liver performs a lot of functions by interacting with other organs. The symptoms of an enlarged liver might not be prominent because it is capable of working even in a diminished state. But it doesn’t mean that a late diagnosis can be justified. A late diagnosis could be fatal and can cause a severe brain condition known as hepatic encephalopathy.

However some of the symptoms could be as follows:

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  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of balance while walking
  • Lack of control to pee
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Jaundice
  • Traces or clots of blood in urine or poop
  • Weakness and lethargy
  • Seizures and other neurological signs
  • Bleeding and swollen gums
  • Swelling and bloating in the abdomen


Causes of an enlarged liver in dogs

  1. Liver diseases are common as a result of ageing but they can also be genetic. It can also happen through infection, trauma or other disease and medications.
  2. Diabetes and fat rich foods
  3. Problems in the Pancreas
  4. Plants, herbs and molds such as the ones on which corn grows.

Other causes of liver disease may include:

  1. Pancreas disorders
  2. Rich or fatty diet and lack of physical movement
  3. Infectious virus or bacteria in the body
  4. Genetic disorders
  5. Food poisoning and abdominal disorders.
  6. Anemia


In order to reach the right diagnosis it’s very important for the vet to know about your dog’s diet, routine and medical history. The tests are usually blood tests, ultrasounds and X-rays. A biopsy might also be carried out. However all exams need an extensive study of the symptoms and the body’s system such as blood count, blood profile, urine samples and chemical composition of the blood. There is also a possibility of variations in the tests reports and it depends on the cause of the liver enlargement.

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The X-rays of the abdomen could prove to be very useful as it could show an enlarged liver as well as displacement of the stomach or kidney, if any. It can also determine tumors and cavities as well as the condition of the heart.


The treatments are made in such a way that it just takes the load away from the liver so that it can regenerate. This is done because the liver is an organ that can heal itself. Therefore the dog can positively recover with the right and timely treatment without any permanent damage to the body. Some of the treatments are:

The treatment depends on the timely diagnosis and determining the right cause as in the case of liver, diseases it might be a little tricky. It’s also important to know the amount of damage caused to the liver. The most important treatment is to alter the diet pattern with the inclusion of certain foods in order to give your dog the essential nutrients and a balanced amount of calories. This is also done to adjust the intake of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. There are a lot of dog foods that are designed for liver diseases.

Many times the vets also give supplements like SAM-E or substitutes for milk such as milk thistle to make things lighter for the liver. Other supplements could include zinc, vitamins such as vitamin K and E. Herbal and homeopathic treatment could also be considered.

Medications such as antibiotics can also control the enlargement of liver especially, in the case of bacterial infections or anemia.

In severe cases surgical intervention might also be needed.


As it’s rightly said that prevention is better than cure, the liver disorders can be easily avoided by making very simple changes in your dog’s routine. Make sure that you visit the vet for your dog’s regular checkup. It is also important for the vet to know about any noticeable change in the body. One should also be careful of the food patters. Fatty and rich foods must be avoided as they can damage the liver easily. The dog should also be kept away from poisonous plants and insects. Having a healthy life with a routine of physical exercises for the dog is also necessary.

Breeds vulnerable to liver enlargement or liver disease

Although any breed of dog can get liver disease but there are some more prone. Some of them are:

  1. Doberman
  2. Golden retriever
  3. Pitbulls and terriers. Especially Bedlington Terrier and West Highland Terrier
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