Types of Hepatitis in Dogs - Symptoms & Treatments

Hepatitis can result in some very serious, or even life-threatening symptoms for your dog. Here our Greensboro vets explain the types of hepatitis seen in dogs, the most common symptoms of hepatitis, as well as treatments and prevention.


Types of Hepatitis in Dogs

There are two types of hepatitis commonly seen in dogs, infectious canine hepatitis and canine chronic hepatitis. Chronic is defined as an infection that has been causing damage for at least a few weeks, whereas acute hepatitis can develop very quickly (typically over just a few days).

Infectious Canine Hepatitis

  • The dog version of Hepatitis C is Infectious canine hepatitis. Infectious hepatitis is an acute contagious disease in dogs caused by the canine adenovirus 1. The virus targets the infected pet's liver, lungs, kidneys, spleen, the lining of blood vessels and occasionally other organs. Symptoms of infectious canine hepatitis can vary widely from slight fever to death.

Canine Chronic Hepatitis

  • Canine chronic hepatitis is a condition that is associated with infectious canine hepatitis. Breeds of dogs that are predisposed to the disease include Skye Terriers, Chihuahuas, Springer Spaniels, Beagles, West Highland White Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Maltese, Labrador Retrievers, Doberman Pinschers, Bedlington Terriers, and Standard Poodles.

Causes of Hepatitis in Dogs

Dogs most often become infected with canine hepatitis by consuming feces, saliva, nasal discharge or urine from infected dogs. Many dog owners don't realize that even if their dog has recovered from the condition they will shed the virus in their urine for at least 6 months, possibly leading to infections in other dogs.

In some cases, dogs can develop severe chronic hepatitis as a result of damage caused by the accumulation of copper in the liver’s cells.

Hepatitis in Dogs - Symptoms

Infectious canine hepatitis can cause a number of symptoms. If your dog has contracted infectious hepatitis you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Watery discharge from eyes and nose
  • Congestion
  • Slight fever
  • Deficiency of blood clotting
  • Blindness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Thirst
  • Enlarged tonsils
  • Yellow, jaundiced look to ears, gums and skin
  • Eye inflammation
  • Severe depression
  • Abdominal pain (occasional)
  • Vomiting (occasional)
  • Bruised or reddened nose and mouth
  • Spontaneous bleeding

In severe cases symptoms may include:

  • Red dots on skin
  • Bruised or reddened nose and mouth
  • Swelling (neck, head, lymph nodes)
  • Seizures
  • Death

Although the disease has become uncommon in areas where routine vaccinations are used, owners must still be vigilant, as the disease can develop quickly in both puppies and dogs.

It is essential to contact your vet right away if you notice any symptoms listed above!

Diagnosing Hepatitis in Dogs

Usually, abrupt onset of the condition and bleeding suggests that infectious canine hepatitis is the culprit, but laboratory tests (including antibody tests, immuno-fluorescence scanning and blood tests) are needed to confirm a diagnosis. Your dog may need blood transfusions if severely ill.

In some cases, routine blood health panels can reveal chronic hepatitis, which may allow for diagnosis before signs develop.

Once your dog begins displaying symptoms of liver disease, it is often in a very late stage. A definitive diagnosis can be made with a liver biopsy, which will determine the severity and type of liver disease that your dog is suffering from.

Treatment for Hepatitis in Dogs

Depending on the results of the biopsy, your vet may recommend treating the disease with a broad-spectrum antibiotic, anti-inflammatory meds or immunosuppressive medication.

Sometimes, a painful spasm can be associated with cornea clouding in the eye. Your veterinarian can prescribe eye ointment to relieve your dog's pain. If your pooch is experiencing corneal clouding, it is essential to protect your pup's eye from bright light.

Treatment options can range from intravenous fluid therapy to hospitalization. Your dog will require blood work on a regular basis for monitoring purposes.

The Prognosis Hepatitis in Dogs

Even after your pup has recovered from the disease, immune-complex reactions can lead to clouding of the cornea of the eye and long term damage to kidneys. Though some cases of acute hepatitis can be cured, chronic hepatitis cannot be cured but will need monitoring and treatment so your pup can live a long, good quality life, with minimal clinical signs.

Preventing Hepatitis in Dogs

A mandatory vaccine is the most widely used and important preventive measure for infectious canine hepatitis. Your dog will typically receive this vaccine along with their canine distemper vaccinations.

The hepatitis vaccine is given to puppies at about 7 to 9 weeks of age, with the first booster between 11 and 13 weeks, after which they’ll be protected.

To remain protected against this serious condition, your dog will need to keep receiving booster shots throughout their life - with another one at 15 months, then each year to keep the infection away.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your canine companion displaying symptoms of hepatitis? Book an appointment today for your pup. Our Greensboro vets have experience diagnosing and treating a range of internal medicine conditions including hepatitis in dogs.

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