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9 Dog Breeds at Greater Risk of Developing Liver Disease

Unfortunately, liver disease in dogs is more common than you might expect, accounting for up to 12% of deaths. The problem with liver disease (chronic hepatitis) is that the exact cause often goes unknown due to the fact there are a large number of possible causes.

Causes of chronic hepatitis include; viruses, bacteria, pharmaceuticals, toxins, deficient copper metabolism and in some cases the dog’s own immune system may be to blame.

Chronic Hepatitis arises when the liver is damaged and repairs itself, leaving behind scar tissue. Over the years, extensive liver damage leaves behind a lot of fibrous (scar) tissue, this tissue disrupts the normal ‘architecture’ of the liver, reducing it’s ability to function.

A popular method of protecting the liver from damage is the use of antioxidants and milk thistle for dogs. Antioxidants neutralise free radicals in the liver, which can be held responsible for a large proportion of liver damage.

Milk thistle contains a molecule called SAMe, a compound needed in large quantities by the liver to produce glutathione – a powerful antioxidant.

See here for more information on: milk thistle for dogs

Breeds Predisposed to Chronic Hepatitis

A recent study has found that some dog breeds may be more susceptible to liver disease than others, the study (Breed, age and gender distribution of dogs with chronic hepatitis in the United Kingdom) determined 9 breeds which were over-represented in terms of chronic hepatitis diagnosis, indicated they were more likely to develop the disease.

(If you’re interested in the statistics: The relative risks below are actually the odds ratios equated by the authors of the paper on which this article is based. Whilst odd ratios are not exactly equivalent to relative risk, they can be used as a good estimate)

Labrador Retriever

Of the 9 breeds that showed an increased risk of developing chronic hepatitis, Labradors had the lowest risk. Of the 45,000+ Labradors included in the study, only 95 had been diagnosed with Chronic Hepatitis.

After statistical analysis, it was determined Labradors were 2.1x as likely to develop liver disease than the average dog.

The median age of diagnosis of Chronic Hepatitis was 8 years, 3 months.

Dalmatian

Dalmatians had only a slightly higher ‘relative risk’ of developing chronic liver disease. (Relative risk being the likelihood of developing the disease compared to the standard population).

Dalmatians were 2.5x as likely to develop Chronic Hepatitis.

The median age of diagnosis of Chronic Hepatitis was 4 years, 7 months.

Cairn Terrier

Cairn Terriers were 2.9x as likely to develop Chronic Hepatitis.

The median age of diagnosis of Chronic Hepatitis was 10 years, 2 months – the oldest median diagnosis age.

Great Dane

Great Danes were 3.2x as likely to develop Chronic Hepatitis.

The median age of diagnosis of Chronic Hepatitis was 6 years, 2 months. The Great Dane had the earliest age of diagnosis – just 1 year, 2 months.

Samoyed

Samoyed were 4.3x as likely to develop Chronic Hepatitis.

The median age of diagnosis of Chronic Hepatitis was 10 years, the second highest median of diagnosis.

English Cocker Spaniel

English Cocker Spaniels were 4.3x as likely to develop Chronic Hepatitis.

The median age of diagnosis of Chronic Hepatitis was 8 years, 9 months. Shockingly, the English Cocker Spaniel (like the Great Dane) also had the earliest age of diagnosis – just 1 year, 2 months.

Dobermann Pinscher

Dobermann Pinschers were 6.9x as likely to develop Chronic Hepatitis.

The median age of diagnosis of Chronic Hepatitis was 5 years, 4 months.

English Springer Spaniel

English Springer Spaniels were 9.4x as likely to develop Chronic Hepatitis.

The median age of diagnosis of Chronic Hepatitis was 5 years, the lowest median age of all the 9 breeds.

American Cocker Spaniel

Representing the breed most likely to develop liver problems was the American Cocker Spaniel.

American Cocker Spaniels were 10.1x as likely to develop Chronic Hepatitis.

The median age of diagnosis of Chronic Hepatitis was 5 years, 6 months.


Cross Breeds

The study also included around 100,000 dogs that were of varied cross-breeds, of which there were only 30 diagnoses of chronic hepatitis. This made cross breeds the least likely breed to be diagnosed with liver disease. This further emphasises the health benefits of introducing variety to gene pool!


About James Watts

BSc Bioveterinary Science. Editor of PetSci. When I'm not writing, learning, discussing, or reading about animals, you know it's the weekend! Currently developing PetSci HealthTrak, the fast and easy way to monitor your pet's weight and calorie intake. HealthTrak offers a simple way to track your pet's progress, helping them achieve a healthy weight and a long, happy life.

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2 comments

  1. I have a 2 years old English Cocker Spaniel (female). Last year she had imicarb (for babesia) and after 20 days ALT increased to 200 (normal here is 1 – 80) and when it was almost going to normal value, she had fever and diagnostic anaplasma platys (she had doxycycline during 95 days because pcr was positive 3 times). Every time she has these medicines alt increases and 2 months later it starts decreasing). She has no symptoms. Do you think about Chronic Hepatitis? I’m affraid of a liver biopsy because she looks very healthy. Thank you

  2. We just lost our 4 year our Springer to liver failure due to Hepatitis. We spent 5 days in an emergency vet ER with her hooked to fluids, meds and a feed tube and she lost her battle. She was diagnosed on Friday and died on Wednesday, it went entirely too fast and she went entirely too young. She was the sweetest soul.

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