First, copper hepatopathy in dogs isn’t caused by your pup eating lots of pennies. Heck, even if copper hepatopathy were caused by eating copper, nowadays pennies are primarily made from zinc, so if it turns out that your dog does have a “passion” for eating pennies. In contrast, that probably will make him or them sick; their sickness isn’t going to be “diagnosed” as copper hepatopathy.
Copper Hepatopathy has nothing to do with “eating” copper per se because those affected with the disease are concerned because their liver is “unable” to process “naturally” occurring copper that is found in certain foods. Ultimately, this causes an “unhealthy” accumulation of copper in the liver, which can cause liver failure and even death in some cases! So, now that we’ve gotten your attention let’s take a moment and discuss how one can determine if their dog suffers from copper hepatopathy and what one can do to help treat it!
What is Copper Hepatopathy?
As we’ve already mentioned, copper hepatopathy is a disease caused by the liver’s inability to correctly “process” normal levels of copper in one’s diet. It is not the result of your dog eating your spare change! Because it’s important to understand that canines need a certain amount of copper in their diet. This is why it’s included in many commercially produced pet foods so that you can get a whole and complete diet. And for most dogs, whose bodies can “pass” excess copper through the liver and bile ducts, the amount of “copper” your dog is getting in their diet isn’t something you need to worry about.
This “copper” is passed correctly, so we begin to encounter problems. Problems that can often be referred to by a variety of different names. The disease also goes by the following terms:
- Copper toxicosis,
- Copper storage hepatitis,
- Copper hepatoxicosis,
- Canine copper-associated hepatopathy,
- And copper storage disease.
Clinical Signs and Symptoms
There are three types/categories of copper liver disease in dogs. They include:
- Subclinical disease,
- Acute disease,
- And chronic progressive illness.
These are from mildest to most serious. In subclinical disease, there may be no symptoms shown. However, Chronic progressive copper hepatopathy is usually only found in dogs who simultaneously suffer from chronic hepatitis and liver cirrhosis. In cases like these, you’ll notice that your dog is suffering from the following:
- Severe weight loss,
- Dark and putrid urine (this is because there is bilirubin in the urine),
- Vomiting and diarrhea.
Chronic copper hepatopathy can have the above symptoms as well as:
- Frequent urination,
- “Constant thirst”,
- Seeming nervous and some nerve problems – caused by hepatic encephalopathy.
What causes copper hepatopathy?
One of the most common causes of copper storage hepatopathy is pure genetics. Certain dog breeds have a much higher risk than others. The species most at risk are the following:
But it should also be noted that:
As well as several other “terrier” breeds also seem to have an increased genetic predisposition towards developing copper hepatopathy. Aside from genetics, Copper Hepatopathy is sometimes caused as a side effect of another disorder. For example, chronic hepatitis may also cause certain dogs to suffer from copper hepatopathy. This is somewhat common within the Doberman Pinscher dog breed.
Diagnosing Copper Storage
After you see some signs that something’s wrong, you should first take your pet to the veterinarian. Only they can make a “definitive” diagnosis that your dog suffers from cooper hepatopathy. This is because a “definitive” diagnosis will involve your veterinarian performing a quantitative copper analysis. This will be accomplished by getting a complete blood count and a urinalysis.
Then, if these tests have initial findings that indicate that your pet may be suffering from copper hepatopathy, your vet could perform a liver biopsy to analyze the liver enzymes and an ultrasound to survey the liver as a whole. The biopsy could then reveal all sorts of things, including bile duct hyperplasia or bridging necrosis. But more importantly, it will give your veterinarian the information they need to create a “game plan” for treating and improving your pet.
Most treatments will rely on a drastic change in diet to reduce copper levels. A secondary treatment will be zinc therapy. This helps to decrease copper absorption by the intestines. If copper levels are severe, then it is likely that chelation therapy (a medication that helps remove copper as well as other substances from the bloodstream) will also be recommended by your vet.
Now, at this point…
We like to remind folks that we at IndulgeYourPet are not medical professionals. We’ve never been to medical school and are certainly not veterinarians. We are all a bunch of folks who love animals and have experienced the “shock and awe” of getting an enormous bill from our local vet. This is why we like to write articles like these for our readers so that they can get an idea about what certain medical conditions in dogs are like and get an “idea” of what it might cost to treat an animal with that “said” situation.
And when it comes to…
The cost of diagnosing and treating copper hepatopathy in dogs: Well, Needless to say, if your dog is diagnosed with copper hepatopathy, chances are it will be pretty expensive to treat. At least until their diet is stabilized, and hopefully, their diet can be “altered” so that the amount of copper they digest is brougminimizedtly…
In addition to trying to educate all of our readers on what copper hepatopathy is, we also like to recommend that any “new” pet owner take a moment and consider purchasing a pet insurance policy. If their pet develops some type of illness in the future or suffers from an accident, they won’t be on the hook for 100% of those medical bills on their own.
Now, will a pet insurance policy be “right” for everyone?
No, probably not. But until you know exactly what a pet insurance policy will cost for your furry little buddy, how will you know if one isn’t “right” for you?
For more information about pet insurance policies, we invite you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Companies article.