Cirrhosis and Fibrosis of the Liver in Pets
Fibrosis of the liver refers to scar tissue forming and replacing normal liver tissues. Cirrhosis, also referred as primary hepatitis, is a diffuse fibrosis that results in irreversible changes in the liver structure.
The incidence is highest in dogs over 7 years old with chronic liver disease; however, there are other risk factors, including breed predisposition to develop chronic active hepatitis, which include female Doberman Pinschers, male Cocker Spaniels, Scottish Terriers, and Labrador Retrievers. Bedlington Terriers, West Highland White Terriers, Skye Terriers, and Dalmatians are also more likely to develop liver issues due to copper storage hepatopathy, an inherited condition that results in copper accumulating in the liver. In this breed, it is common in patients 1 to 5 years old. Lastly, German Shepherds and Standard Poodles are predisposed to develop juvenile hepatic fibrosis, which is also a risk factor.
The clinical symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, melena, polyuria (increased urination), and polydipsia (increased thirst); if a chronic condition is present, lethargy, anorexia, and weight loss are the most common symptoms. During a physical exam, jaundice, weight loss, and muscle wasting are commonly noted; in chronic cases, ascites (fluid accumulation in stomach cavity) and coagulopathy evidence (impaired blood clotting); if hepatic encephalopathy (brain issues due to the liver being unable to filter out toxins from the blood) is present, depression and stupor.
A definitive diagnosis is made via laparoscopy (surgery through small incisions in the stomach with the help of a small camera) or laparotomy (surgery through a large incision in the stomach) to perform a histopathology test (examining tissue under a microscope). Other helpful tests include a complete blood count and urinalysis. Moreover, in case of ascites, the fluid may be analyzed.
Treatment options include intravenous fluid administration as needed, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory therapy, other various medications, and a restricted diet in the case of hepatic encephalopathy. The specific treatment plan depends on the cause of the cirrhosis.