Hepatitis in dogs: symptoms, causes and treatment of infectious hepatitis

Infectious canine hepatitis is one acute contagious disease caused by a virus, which manifests itself with different symptoms to know and recognize in time, to cure it and avoid unpleasant consequences.

Viral hepatitis cannot be transmitted to people, only between dogs and by contact with blood, urine, feces and saliva of other infected dogs. The virus affects the liver and lungs, kidneys, spleen, lining of blood vessels.

It should also be noted that hepatitis in dogs it is different from hepatitis which affects peoplebut in both cases the liver remains a fundamental organ for health.

In this article we will see what hepatitis is, how to understand if the dog has contracted this infectious disease, what are the symptoms to observe, how it can be treated.

What is canine infectious hepatitis

Hepatitis in dogs is one inflammatory liver diseaseo which can have various causes including viral, bacterial or toxic infections, food poisoning, drug intake or autoimmune diseases, with repercussions on the whole organism.

As in humans, the dog’s liver performs many functions vital to the health of the body, including the production of bile, the synthesis of proteins, the regulation of metabolism and the purification of blood from toxic substances. Therefore a liver malfunction can cause various diseases.

Infectious hepatitis is one form of hepatitis that can affect dogs, not the only one. There are two others that also have different symptoms, hepatitis and autoimmune hepatitis.

The cause of hepatitis it resides in the ingestion or contact of toxic substances or medicines and insecticides responsible for pathologies affecting the liver.

Lā€™epatite autoimmune (or autoimmune liver disease) is the consequence of an abnormal reaction of the dog’s immune system which attacks the liver cells mistaking them for pathogens.

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In the end, infectious hepatitis it is a very contagious inflammation of the liver, caused by canine adenovirus type 1 (CAV-1). It is a viral and acute disease that can be transmitted through urine, water and contaminated objects. The virus involved is very resistant, capable of remaining in the environment for several weeks or even months.

It is also known as Rubarth’s disease because he was the German scientist Richard Friedrich Johannes Rubarth to describe viral hepatitis of the dog in 1947, calling it infectious hepatitis.

In some cases, dogs can develop one severe chronic hepatitis that cannot be curedbut which must be monitored to allow the dog to lead a good quality of life.

This form of hepatitis can affect i dogs of all agesbut mostly affects young dogs and puppies under 12 months.

There is no race more predisposed than another.

Is critical discover this pathology in time to be able to cure it. This is why it is good to know and recognize the symptoms, thus being able to contact a veterinarian for therapy. Otherwise, the consequences can even be irreversible and lead to the death of the dog.

Canine hepatitis: symptoms

Infection occurs by oral contamination with infected material, faeces or urine. Once it enters the body, the virus replicates in the tonsils, spreading throughout the body, affecting organs such as the liver, kidneys, lungs and spleen. The incubation period can range from 2 to 5 days.

Between symptoms of infectious hepatitis in dogswhich can be different and range from mild to severe, we must observe the following:

  • fever
  • vomiting and diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
  • ascites (accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity)
  • liver pain
  • mucus and tears
  • lethargy (weakness and lack of energy)
  • inappetence
  • respiratory difficulties
  • transient inflammation of the eye
  • increased urination and thirst
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • mucous membrane bleeding
  • seizures / epilepsy
  • yellowish discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes and whites of the eyes (jaundice) due to excess bilirubin in the blood.
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It should be noted that based on the symptoms, it is distinguished between hyperacute hepatitis which occurs more rarely, but which can cause the rapid death of the dog especially if it is a puppy and not vaccinated, acute and mild hepatitis. In the most severe cases, tonsillitis and abdominal swelling can occur.

The hyperacute form mainly affects puppies under 3 weeks of age, usually those who cannot count on the normal development of the immune system due to early separation from their mother.

Infectious hepatitis diagnosis

From the symptoms that occur, the vet can already have a rather clear picture, therefore understanding that the cause is canine infectious hepatitis.

However, laboratory tests along with a history and physical examination are needed to confirm the diagnosis. Chronic hepatitis can emerge from routine blood tests, thus allowing a diagnosis to be made before symptoms develop.

By the time your dog begins to show symptoms of liver disease, it is often already in a very advanced stage. There definitive diagnosis it can be done with a liver biopsy, which will determine the severity and type of liver disease your dog is suffering from.

Depending on the biopsy results, your vet may recommend antibiotic therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs, or immunosuppressants.

How is canine hepatitis treated?

After diagnosing it through laboratory tests (blood and urine), diagnostic imaging and biopsy, the vet can start the treatment he deems most appropriate.

While there is no specific cure for canine viral hepatitis, your vet can prescribe treatment based on the symptoms, causes, and severity of the disease.

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Between various remedies:

  • intravenous fluids, anti-nausea drugs and pain relievers
  • antibiotic therapy to treat secondary bacterial infections (if the cause is a bacterial infection)
  • antiviral therapy (if hepatitis is caused by a viral infection)
  • anti-inflammatory therapy
  • nutritional therapy to restore liver function (your vet may recommend a special diet to restore liver function.
  • immunomodulatory drugs (if it is autoimmune hepatitis).
  • any blood and/or plasma transfusions

It is important to keep in mind that hepatitis in dogs can target both stray and domestic dogsand can be a serious and life-threatening disease, especially in unvaccinated puppies.

Therefore, if you suspect your dog has hepatitis because he is showing symptoms of liver problems, it is important consult a veterinarian immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment.

In any case, the prevention it is the key to avoiding hepatitis in dogs, starting from vaccination with the appropriate booster, usually already integrated in the first vaccinations provided for newborn dogs. Prevention also involves thorough hygiene of the dog and its spaces to prevent infections.

All causes of liver malfunction in dogs

The liver can experience various problems due to multiple conditionsbetween these:

  • Infectious Diseases: Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections can cause damage to your dog’s liver
  • Intoxication by toxic substances and drugs: the liver is responsible for purifying the blood of toxic substances
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Metabolic diseases such as diabetes mellitus and hypothyroidism
  • Some hereditary diseases, such as portosystemic liver disease and congenital liver shunt, can cause liver damage in dogs
  • Obesity can cause fatty liver disease, which is the accumulation of fat in the dog’s liver.
  • Trauma.

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