When To Euthanize A Dog With Liver Failure, Signs, Causes and Treatment

When To Euthanize A Dog With Liver Failure

When a beloved companion falls ill with a serious condition, like liver failure, it can be difficult to know when is the best time to make the difficult decision to euthanize. This is an emotionally charged issue that is best handled by discussing all available options with your veterinarian and other experienced professionals. Ultimately, there is no right answer, the decision should be based on your pet’s quality of life and your own comfort level. Ultimately, it is not a decision to be taken lightly.

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Deciding when to euthanize a dog with liver failure can be a difficult decision, and ultimately it is one that must be made by the pet owner and veterinarian. Veterinarians often use quality-of-life scales to help assess the situation and guide the decision-making process. Factors that typically contribute to poor quality of life include: continuous nausea, uncontrollable vomiting, lack of appetite, pain not adequately managed with medication, recurring infection, difficulty breathing, and extreme lethargy. If these or similar conditions exist, your veterinarian may recommend euthanasia as a humane option.

What Is Liver Disease In Dogs?

Liver disease in dogs is a general term that is used to describe any disorder that affects the functioning of the dog’s liver. It can be caused by a variety of different factors, such as infections, toxin-related damage, tumors, and genetic conditions. Symptoms of liver disease can include vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, loss of appetite, increased thirst and urination, and sudden weight loss. Treatment often involves treating the underlying cause, providing supportive care, and supplementing with specific nutrients.

What Is Considered Liver Failure In Dogs?

Liver failure in dogs occurs when the liver loses its ability to function properly due to damage, disease, toxins, or infections. The clinical signs vary based on the underlying cause but may include loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, weight loss, abdominal swelling, weakness, and seizures. Liver failure can be a life-threatening condition, and prompt medical attention is necessary. In some cases, the liver can recover, but more often than not it will require intensive medical care or liver transplantation.

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  1. Consult with a vet: The first step is to consult with a veterinarian, both for a comprehensive diagnosis and to explore treatment options. It is important to understand the seriousness of your dog’s condition and the prognosis for long-term recovery.
  2. Consider the quality of life: Ask yourself if your pet is able to live a good quality of life despite the condition. Consider their level of pain, discomfort, and inability to enjoy activities.
  3. Explore treatments: Ask your vet about potential treatments and medications to manage symptoms. Determine how much these treatments will improve your pet’s quality of life and how long they are expected to help.
  4. Think about the family: Think about how the decision to euthanize may affect your other family members. Do you have the support you need in making this difficult decision?
  5. Make the decision: Ultimately, this is a personal decision to make. Consider all the available options and what is best for both you and your pet. Seek counseling or support if needed as you make this choice.

What Happens When A Dog Is Dying From Liver Failure?

When a dog is dying from liver failure, their body may begin to shut down. Signs of this can include vomiting, loss of appetite, weakness, labored breathing, depression, and fatigue. Depending on the severity of the liver failure, the signs may progress over a short period of time or the course may be spread out over a longer duration. Ultimately, death will occur from liver failure if the condition is not treated.

Dog Liver Failure Shaking

Dog liver failure shaking is a medical condition that occurs when a dog’s liver is not functioning properly and the body is unable to process nutrients properly or remove waste. This can lead to a number of symptoms, including shaking, trembling, and lethargy. In some cases, the shaking can be a sign of pain, as the body attempts to cope with the effects of liver failure. In other cases, the shaking may be due to a lack of control over the body’s impulses, as the liver is not able to process enzymes correctly. Treatment usually focuses on providing supportive care and addressing the underlying cause of the problem.

Senior Dog Liver Problems

Senior dog liver problems refer to a wide range of diseases that affect the organs of older dogs. These can include infections, cancers, and diseases affecting the bile ducts, gall bladder, and pancreas. Symptoms may include vomiting, jaundice, weight loss, lethargy, loss of appetite, and abdominal bloating. Treatment often depends on the underlying cause and may involve antibiotics, surgical intervention, or other medications. There are also dietary modifications that may help improve liver health.

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Sudden acute liver failure in dogs is oftentimes the result of ingestion of toxins, such as poisonous plants, foods that are too rich in vitamins (e.g. fatty liver), certain medications, or exposure to certain bacteria or viruses. Liver diseases like hepatitis, cancer, or cirrhosis can also lead to sudden liver failure. In some cases, the cause can be unknown.

SEE ALSO: Dog Wound Healing Stages Pictures

Toxins That Cause Liver Failure In Dogs

Toxins that cause liver failure in dogs are substances that cause harm to the liver to the point where it can no longer function properly. These toxins can be ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin.

  • Acetaminophen: Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is a common pain reliever for humans, but can be toxic to dogs, particularly larger breeds, when ingested. Acetaminophen toxicity can cause liver failure in dogs as it affects the metabolism of the liver leading to a build-up of toxins and eventually, complete liver failure.
  • Rodenticides: Rodenticides are poisons used for controlling rodents. Most rodenticides are anticoagulants, meaning they prevent the blood from clotting leading to bleeding in internal organs such as the liver. This can lead to liver failure in dogs as the organ is not able to filter out toxins effectively.
  • Household Chemicals: Many household chemicals can be toxic to dogs if ingested, including bleach, furniture polish, some detergents, and certain plant fertilizers. These chemical toxins can damage liver cells, resulting in liver failure.
  • Heavy Metals: Heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, and mercury can be found in water, paint, or soil that is contaminated. Dogs that ingest these metals can suffer from liver failure as they are unable to filter out and remove the toxins from their system.
  • Mold: Certain types of mold can produce toxins that can damage the liver when ingested. This can lead to liver failure in dogs.

Dog Breeds Prone To Liver Disease

  • Miniature Schnauzers
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Yorkshire Terriers
  • Chihuahuas
  • Poodles
  • Dachshunds
  • Boxers
  • Beagles
  • Bulldogs
  • Bichon Frises

How To Diagnose Liver Failure In Dogs

  • Check the dog for signs of abnormal behavior such as lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Take a blood sample to check for elevated liver enzymes, such as alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), albumin, bilirubin, and bile acids.
  • Take X-rays and an ultrasound of the abdomen to look for any signs of liver enlargement or fatty liver disease.
  • Submit a urine sample for analysis to look for signs of increased liver metabolism or bile acids in the urine.
  • If the results of these tests suggest liver failure, more specialized tests will be needed to confirm the diagnosis. These tests could include computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and biopsies.

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The most common signs of liver failure in dogs include loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, yellowing of the gums, skin, and eyes, fatigue, increased thirst and urination, weight loss, bad breath, and seizures.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Dog Dying From Liver Failure?

The symptoms of a dog dying from liver failure can include jaundice (yellow tinge to the skin and white of the eye), fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, increased thirst, fluid retention, discolored urine, seizures, disorientation, coma, and even death.

Stages Of Liver Failure In Dogs

  • Stage 1 – Mild liver dysfunction. Symptoms are non-specific and may include lethargy, poor appetite, vomiting, and general malaise
  • Stage 2 – Early injury and inflammation is present. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), increased thirst, and dark urine
  • Stage 3 – Severe liver injury. Symptoms may include decreased appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures
  • Stage 4 – End stage liver failure. Symptoms may include anorexia, increased thirst, sugar in the urine, and severe jaundice. This can result in death without medical intervention.

Can You Treat Liver Failure In Dogs?

Yes, liver failure can be treated in dogs. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the liver failure. A veterinarian may prescribe medications, dietary modifications, supplemental nutrition, or other treatments to help manage the condition.

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  1. Dietary Modification: Adjusting your dog’s diet to one that is low in protein and sodium, and high in carbohydrates can help reduce the workload on the liver.
  2. Medication: Your vet may prescribe medications to manage liver impairment such as antibiotics, antiemetics, acid reducers, antifungal drugs, and diuretics.
  3. Blood Transfusions: In some cases, your vet may suggest a transfusion to improve your dog’s condition.
  4. Liver Transplant Surgery: For more serious cases, a liver transplant may be necessary.
  5. Homeopathic Remedies: A natural approach to treating your dog’s liver condition may also include homeopathic remedies.
  6. Natural Supplements: Herbal remedies, amino acids, and other natural supplements may help your dog’s liver function.
  7. Alternative Therapies: Acupuncture, massage therapy, and traditional Chinese medicine may also help your canine companion.
  8. Diet Management: Monitoring your pet’s diet is essential to ensure proper nutrition and reduce the workload on the liver.

What To Feed a Dog With Liver Failure?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as a dog’s dietary requirements will depend heavily on the specific underlying cause of its liver failure. That said, a veterinarian should be consulted to design a suitable diet. Generally, it will be important to feed foods that are high in calories, protein, and essential amino acids while avoiding high amounts of sodium, phosphorus, and simple carbohydrates. Liver-supporting ingredients like milk thistle, taurine, and dandelion root are often recommended. Additionally, it may be necessary to feed a therapeutic diet specifically formulated for dogs suffering from liver disease.

SEE ALSO: My Pet Died And I Can’t Stop Crying


Q. How long can a dog live with a failed liver?

A. It depends on the individual dog, the severity of the liver failure, and the underlying cause. Some dogs can live up to a year or more with managed care and regular veterinary check-ups.

Q. Can dogs come back from liver failure?

A. While it is possible for dogs to recover from liver failure, the chances of full recovery depend on the severity of the pet’s condition, and whether or not the cause of the liver failure can be successfully treated. Prompt diagnosis and supportive treatment are key to helping a pet make a successful recovery.

Q. Is liver failure painful death in dogs?

A. No, liver failure is not usually a painful death for dogs. Though the animal may suffer from some symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, and jaundice, death from liver failure may be peaceful and relatively painless.


Euthanasia for a dog with liver failure should only be considered after all other treatments have been exhausted and in consultation with your veterinarian. Whenever possible, treatments should be employed that can improve their quality of life and delay the onset of clinical symptoms. If the dog’s pain is unmanageable, and they are no longer responding to treatment, humane euthanasia may be the best course of action to ensure the dog does not suffer unnecessarily. The decision to euthanize a beloved pet, however, is never easy and should be made carefully with the help of a veterinarian.

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