The liver is one of a Chihuahua’s major organs. It has many vital functions, some of which are: the production of most blood proteins (including those involved in blood-clotting), the conversion of waste products of protein-processing into a substance that can be removed from the body by the kidneys, the processing and storage of carbohydrates and fats, the purification of the blood and the production of bile to aid the process of digestion. Unusually, the liver may suffer from a sudden, acute disorder such as canine leptospirosis or infectious canine hepatitis. Longstanding, or chronic, liver disease is perhaps more common.
Chronic liver disease in a Chihuahua may be caused by anatomical abnormalities present at birth. Other causes are cancer, most commonly due to its spread from tumors elsewhere in the body, long-term inflammation, immune-system disorders, or disorders of the bile duct, which empties bile from the liver into the small intestine. Chronic liver disease is most common in older dogs, although anatomical abnormalities may cause symptoms in puppies who are just a few months old.
By the time symptoms of chronic liver disease appear, 80 percent of the liver tissue may have stopped working properly. Sadly, in most cases, the outlook for an affected dog is very poor. If your dog starts to show any of the symptoms described, or is in any way ‘off-color’, take him to be examined by your vet.
Cases of suspected chronic liver disease are often very frustrating to investigate. This is partly because the symptoms are vague, but also because the liver may be affected by or involved in other conditions. There is also no simple test that can be carried out to confirm beyond doubt the existence of chronic liver disease, or to identify its causes.
Your vet will examine your Chihuahua and may then carry out blood and urine tests, analysis of any build-up of fluid in your dog’s abdomen, X-ray pictures and ultrasound investigations, and a biopsy. Exploratory surgery to take a direct look at the liver may also be appropriate.
There is no cure for chronic liver disease, so the aim of treatment is to slow down its progression and to control associated symptoms. This may involve the following:
Dietary management: This is the cornerstone of treatment for liver disease. Its purpose is to reduce the build-up of the waste products of protein-processing, which cause many symptoms of this condition. A diet regime should include the following: Easily digested carbohydrates,such as rice (to provide energy), high-quality & easily digested sources of protein such as eggs, four to six small daily meals, and sufficient food to prevent weight loss (some dogs may need force-feeding).
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