liver failure of 10yr old dog please help

sweetbellagirlDecember 26, 2007

My 10yr old Doberman suddenly began to lose weight, and just looked a bit 'off'. I took her to the vet this morning who ran and processed blood work while we waited.

I was told she was experiencing liver failure, which was most likely from one of two reasons: old age, or cancer.

I was told that if it was old age, there was nothing that could be done, as her liver was only at 50%. She said her kidney had lost about 10% capacity and was beginning to shut down.

If it was cancer, I could have the affected portion surgically removed, and hope that it was contained.

After 6 solid hours of crying, I'm now in begging stage: has anybody ever heard of help for a sweet dog like mine? We were only sent home with some pain killers to keep her from lots of discomfort. The jaundice is still relatively mild.

Please help - anything I can do, or do I wait for the inevitable? I was told anywhere between 2 weeks and 2 months. I'm just ill.

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I'm so sorry.

gardenweb's spam filter won't let me post the link, but if you'll google Special Needs Dobermans, you'll find the most helpful, knowledgeable, devoted-to-Dobes group in the universe.

I wish you & your doggie the best.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2007 at 6:33PM
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Before getting too upset, what exactly were the diagnostics that were done so far and what was recommended next? There are many reasons for a dog to have liver disease and be jaundiced, and not all of them are hopeless. Even with end-stage liver disease, there are supportive medications and diets that can help keep a dog comfortable for some time. But the best course of action is to address any underlying disease, once it is diagnosed. Hopefully there is something that can be done to make your dog feel better or even to cure whatever her problem is.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2007 at 10:24PM
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As meghane said, don't give up yet since you haven't been told she's at end stage.
I've lost a dog to liver disease but she was at end stage by the time it was found and she started bleeding internally.

I would seek out a veterinary internist or ask your vet for a referral before giving up.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2007 at 1:43AM
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Sweetbellagirl, I can understand your panic since my poodle has liver problems also. The Vet told us he would start getting worse and then die. I immediately found someone that could help me with putting him on a better diet and supplements. She tells me he can get well and that is what I choose to believe. He appears to be doing well. Also, Meghane has been very helpful. If you would like to read her advice to me go to page 12 and look at my post.

Megan, in case you read this post again I just got the BILE report that was done in June. The pre was 19 and post was 30 but this was before I started him on the supplements and diet. I haven't been able to talk to the Vet recently. He has taken a leave of absence because his wife was dying of ovarian cancer and just passed away last week. I will be taking him back for more lab work soon.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2007 at 7:08PM
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Special Needs Dobermans are great folks who love Dobes and if caring for your dog gets to be a financial burden or you need help with paying for diagnostics you can apply to them for assistance. There is also a yahoogroup called health dobes that has a lot of good knowledgeable people on it.

My Dobe died of cancer a year ago last September. It had spread already when she was diagnosed but it was affecting her liver. You vet should be able, or at least refer you to someone who can do an ultrasound on her. That would be a non invasive way of possibly seeing what is going on with the liver. There are over the counter supplements such as Milk Thistle or SAM-e that are helpful to support liver function as well as diets to help. They can be either home prepared or prescription types. If cancer is confirmed in addition to any medical treatment you may choose the growth of the cancer may be influenced by diet as well. You want a high fat low carb food such as the on Hill's makes or Innova Evo as well as supplementing with omega 3 fatty acids. Cancer cells feed on carbs so you want to get them as low as possible and there seems to be evidence that the high fat can actually slow the growth.

Give her a big hug from me and give yourself one too.


    Bookmark   December 27, 2007 at 8:23PM
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I also somehow missed that she was sent home on painkillers. While I agree that pain control is most likely needed, keep in mind that some pain medications depend on the liver to be metabolized, and when an animal has significant liver disease the drugs are not properly excreted. This can lead to a dangerous accumulation of the drug in the bloodstream. What medication was your dog put on for pain? There are options that do not require the liver and they work just as well for pain control.

I attached an article that explains some of the laboratory workup for liver disease. Right now, because your dog is jaundiced, the bile acids test results are not accurate- we know her serum bile acids are elevated because she is yellow (assuming she isn't suffering from a hemolyzing anemia).

I also somehow forgot that Dobies are a breed that commonly get copper storage disease. A liver biopsy is the only way to confirm that, but it is also a good way to confirm other diseases (idiopathic hepatitis, neoplasia, cirrhosis, etc). Ultrasound can also be useful to see if the structure of the liver is normal and to evaluate the gall bladder and bile ducts. It can also show abnormal nodules and help direct aspirates to get a better sample. Ultrasound would also help evaluate the rest of the abdomen, in case there is a mass elsewhere as well as in the liver, and can be done with little risk to the patient compared to exploratory surgery. I would strongly suggest at least ultrasound and guided aspirates if indicated to diagnose her specific disease. "Old age or cancer" is not a diagnosis- it's a wild guess and may be completely off-base, but there is no way to know unless further diagnostics are done.

Unless your dog's labwork showed certain indicators of liver failure such as low albumin, low glucose, low BUN, low cholesterol, or decreased clotting function, then liver function was not truly evaluated. These findings suggest 80% or greater loss of liver function and can be described as hepatic failure or end-stage liver. But I've seen dogs do fairly well for at least several months with proper management even when they are at this stage. I've seen others not do so well. It depends on the underlying disease and what, if anything, can be done about it. True end-stage liver disease with significant cirrhosis is irreversible, but other diseases are manageable or even curable if treated properly before significant damage is done. Also the liver is a wonderfully regenerative organ, so acute damage that is stopped quickly allows the liver to heal itself to a point.

I hope this article helps explain some of the common tests we use for liver disease, and also shows the need for more information. Good luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: article on liver chemistry panel changes, bile acids

    Bookmark   December 27, 2007 at 8:23PM
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My 8yr dobe had exactly the same symptoms as your baby, after blood test, X-rays, ultrasound and an operation she was diagnosed with end stage liver desease. I was heart broken when she was given just days to live, and there was nothing that they could do for her. A week passed and she was still with us and she seemed to be getting better and her appetite returning, I took her back to the vets and was astonished at how well she was doing, even though there was no treatment he did recommend given her human vitamins, evening primrose capsules and milk thistle which alcoholics take to help replenish the liver. It's now been over a month since her initially diagnosis, she has put on weight and is as lively as ever. The only downside has been that she will not eat her dog food and will only eat what we eat, but I think she knows that she is being spoilt rotten and is working us. I'm not saying that the vitamins have worked or if its the extra love and affection and the fact that she is now with me 24/7 that has given her the stength to keep going, but give them a try. I truly hope from the bottom of my heart that your baby gets better.xx

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 4:35AM
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