If your dog is suffering with liver failure, it can be a rollercoaster of emotions. Some days will be much better than others, so many pet owners will go back and forth with the decision to put their dog to sleep. So, when is the right time to euthanize a dog with liver failure?
Liver failure in dogs
Liver failure may occur slowly over weeks or months. In cases where a dog eats something toxic, liver failure can occur in as little as 24 hours.
There are 3 stages of liver failure, each with their own challenges.
Dogs with early stage liver disease may show mild symptoms but these can typically be managed with diet and medication. Your dog may appear lethargic and less active than normal. Vomiting is to be expected due to inflammation of the liver. He may become a fussy eater or eat less than normal.
As the disease progresses, your dog will begin to exhibit more serious symptoms as his body struggles to cope with the build up of toxins that the liver normally breaks down. At this stage, you may notice your dog developing jaundice, a condition that makes their skin and whites of the eyes appear yellow. You may also notice abdominal swelling due to fluid build-up around the organs.
The most severe symptoms will occur during end stage liver failure. Neurological effects such as loss of vision, disorientation and seizures will become more frequent. This is due to the build up of toxins reaching a point that affects the normal function of the brain. A healthy liver produces blood clotting factors. Dogs with end stage liver failure will not form blood clots properly, so simple cuts can be life threatening.
When to put down a dog with liver failure
Both early and middle stage liver disease can be managed and your dog can still experience a good quality of life. As the disease progresses to end stage, your veterinarian may suggest euthanizing your dog as an option due to the severity of the symptoms.
Causes of liver failure
Just as there are many symptoms of liver failure, there are also many causes. Any age of dog can develop liver failure, especially if it is caused by the consumption of a toxic substance.
- Infections: bacterial, viral or parasitic
- Cushing’s disease
- Ingestion of toxic substances like Xylitol, grapes, onion or blue-green algae
- Inherited disorders such as CBCM (Congenital Biliary Cystic Malformations)
Treatment for the liver disease includes prescription dog food to prevent certain neurological symptoms, food supplements that may slow down the progression of the disease and medication to control symptoms such as nausea and inflammation.
Life expectancy varies depending on how far the disease has progressed and how well your dog responds to treatment. If caught early, your dog may live comfortably for a year or more.
On bad days, it may seem time to say goodbye, but on the good days you may feel guilty for considering it. when your dog is experiencing more bad days than good, it is time to seriously consider letting them pass with peace and dignity.