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Copper Hepatopathy in Dogs… Causes and Symptoms Explained.

First things first, copper hepatopathy in dogs isn’t a disease caused by your pup eating lots of pennies.


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, while that probably will make him or sick, his sickness isn’t going to be “diagnosed” as copper hepatopathy.

You see…

Copper Hepatopathy really has nothing to do with “eating” copper per say because those affected with disease are affected because their liver is “unable” to process “naturally” occurring copper that is found in certain foods.


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 it help treat it!

So, what is Copper Hepatopathy?

As we’ve already mentioned, copper hepatopathy is a disease that is caused by the liver’s inability to properly “process” normal levels of copper in one’s diet and 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 can get a whole and complete diet.  And for the vast majority of dogs, whose bodies can “pass” excess copper through the liver and bile ducts, the amount of “copper” that your dog is getting in his or her diet isn’t really something that you need to worry about.

It’s when…

This “copper” it’s passed properly that we then begin to run into problems.  Problems that can often be referred to by a variety of different names. The disease also goes by the following names:

  • Copper toxicosis,
  • Copper storage hepatitis,
  • Copper hepatoxicosis,
  • Canine copper-associated hepatopathy,
  • And copper storage disease.

Clinical Signs and Symptoms of Copper Hepatopathy

There are three types/categories of copper liver disease in dogs. They include:

  • Subclinical disease,
  • Acute disease,
  • And chronic progressive disease.

Basically, these are from mildest to most serious. In subclinical disease, there may be no symptoms shown. Chronic progressive copper hepatopathy, however, is usually only found within dogs who simultaneously suffer from either chronic hepatitis and/or liver cirrhosis.

In cases like these, you’ll like notice that your dog is suffering from:

  • Severe weight loss,
  • Fatigue,
  • Dark and putrid urine (this is because there is bilirubin in the urine),
  • Anemia,
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea.

Chronic copper hepatopathy can have the above symptoms as well as:

  • Frequent urination,
  • “Constant thirst”,
  • Seeming nervous and/or 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 breeds most at risk are the:

But it should also be noted that:

As well as several other “terrier” breeds also seem to have an increased genetic pre-disposition towards developing copper hepatopathy.

Aside from genetics…

Copper hepatopathy is sometimes caused as a side effect from another disorder. For example, chronic hepatitis may cause certain dogs to suffer from copper hepatopathy as well.  This is somewhat common within the Doberman Pinscher dog breed.

Diagnosing Copper Storage in your Pet

After you see some signs that something’s wrong, the first thing you should do is take your pet to the veterinarian. Only he/she will be able to make a “definitive” diagnosis that your dog is suffering from cooper hepatopathy.

This is because…

A “definitive” diagnosis will involve your veterinarian performing a quantitative copper analysis.  This will be accomplished by getting 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 then possibly 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, even including bile duct hyperplasia or bridging necrosis.  But more importantly, it will give your veterinarian the information that he or she will need in order to create a “game plan” on how to treat your pet and make him or her better.

Treatment for Copper hepatopathy in dogs

Most treatment will rely on a drastic chance 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 very serious, then it is likely that chelation therapy (a medication that helps remove copper as well as other substances from the blood stream) will also be recommended by your vet.

Now at this point…

We like to remind folks that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not medical professionals.  We’ve never been to medical school, and we’re certainly not veterinarians.  All we are is a bunch of folks who really 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 not only get an idea about what certain medical conditions in dogs are like but also get a “idea” of what it might cost to treat an animal with that “said” condition.

And when it comes to…

The cost of diagnosis and treatment of copper hepatopathy in dogs, well needless to say, if your dog is diagnosed with copper hepatopathy, chances are it’s going to be pretty expensive to treat.

At least until…

His or her condition is stabilized and hopefully their diet can be “altered” so that the amount of copper they are digesting is brought to a minimum.

This is why…

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.

This way…

If their pet does develop 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 would invite you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Companies article.

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