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Hepatic Failure (Liver Failure) in dogs… Symptoms, cost and expectations!

While there are many causes for why a dog may suddenly begin to suffer from acute hepatic failure or acute liver failure, one thing that is always constant is that this diagnosis will always cause the “human owner” to begin to stress out! This is why, in this article, we wanted to take a moment and discuss precisely what acute hepatic failure is so that if you do have a dog that has been diagnosed with this condition, you might have a better idea of what to expect.

Because let’s face it…

Having a dog that isn’t 100% healthy is never fun, and it’s even worse when you, as the loving owner, don’t fully understand why your dog has become ill or what must be done to make it healthy!

So, without further ado, let’s dive right in.

What is Acute Hepatic Failure?

Acute hepatic failure is the same thing as acute liver failure. And while it’s not that common of a condition in dogs, it can happen. And when it does, it means that the liver is beginning to deteriorate at a cellular level quickly and thoughtfully. Now, when this “deterioration” begins to impede normal liver function, the affected patient can suffer from symptoms associated with liver failure. And when the liver functionality drops below 70%, you now enter into a period where the actual life of the affected patient can become jeopardized.

Dogs who are prone to liver problems

Though lifestyle choices can play a role (the type of food a dog is fed, diet, activity levels, etc…), certain breeds are predisposed to liver disease. Dog Breeds such as:

It’s important to note that while these previously mentioned breeds may have some hereditary disposition towards liver disease, these are not the only breeds that can suffer from acute hepatic failure. Just about any dog can suffer from hepatic failure. Other conditions, such as diabetes mellitus, could increase the risk of liver issues.

Common causes of liver failure in dogs can also include:

  • Consumption of pesticides, fungicides, rat poison, or antifreeze,
  • Ingesting mushrooms or algae,
  • Fungal Infections,
  • Liver inflammation,
  • Cushing’s disease,
  • Cancer,
  • Heat stroke,
  • Diabetes mellitus,
  • Other medical problems.

Clinical signs of Hepatic Failure in Dogs

The symptoms of liver problems are pretty severe, though as a dog owner, you probably won’t know the cause unless you see a vet. Things to look out for include:

  • Vomiting,
  • Diarrhea,
  • Other gastrointestinal problems also may lead to weight loss or lack of appetite,
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and even skin),
  • Neurological problems,
  • Excessive presence of copper in the liver.

When Hepatic failure does begin to occur, other issues within the bile ducts, small intestine, gallbladder, and renal (kidneys) will typically arise, which will inevitably cause various clinical signs to appear as well.

Diagnosing Hepatic Failure

Suppose you suspect something is wrong with your dog, such as hepatic disease or other major system failure. It would be best to take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis.

Which reminds us…

To stress the fact that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians, or medical professionals. All we are is a bunch of folks who are passionate about the care of animals. So, if you believe your pet may suffer from acute liver failure or any other health issue, be sure to have them checked out immediately.

How will a vet diagnose hepatic failure?

The vet will run a series of tests, looking for clinical signs such as anemia, blood clots or irregular thrombocytes, high liver enzyme activity, and more.

Other tests may include:

  • Blood sugar,
  • Uric acids,
  • Bilirubin in urine,
  • Serum Bile Acid,
  • Ammonia levels.

After assessing blood cells, the doctor may suggest an X-ray or ultrasound for further information. Eventually, the diagnosis process will involve tissue analysis done after a biopsy.

Treatment Options

The treatment plan, as always, depends on the cause. If it is because of some poisoning, your dog could get better once the poison is swiftly flushed. Antibiotics paired with anti-inflammatory drugs could do the trick if the reason is bacterial. If the cause is more severe and it is impossible to stabilize your dog, the outcome may not be as promising.

Your doctor may recommend the dog be hospitalized and given a steady stream of fluids, medications, and colloid for recovery, which reminds us to stress that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians, or medical professionals. All we are is a bunch of folks who are passionate about the care of animals.


If you believe your pet may be suffering from acute liver failure or any other health issue, be sure to have them checked out immediately. Because in most cases, an early diagnosis will often lead to the best treatment results, they’ll also tend to lead to a “less expensive” treatment bill! This brings us to our next topic, which is cost.

How much will it cost?

We aren’t going to lie – hepatic failure can get quite pricey, but it will be much better than if your dog abruptly passes away and you never get to enjoy those pup cuddles. So, if your dog gets diagnosed with acute liver failure, be sure to prepare yourself for costs ranging from $200-2000 (depending on the severity).

Which is pretty expensive…

This is why we here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now, will a pet insurance policy be suitable for everyone?

No, probably not. But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

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