Copper-Associated Hepatopathy in Dogs: A Closer Look Copper Storage Disease in Canines: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Copper-Associated Hepatopathy in Dogs: A Closer Look

Copper-associated hepatopathy, also known as copper storage disease or copper toxicosis, is a condition that affects dogs and results in the abnormal accumulation of copper in the liver. This article will review the causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention strategies of Copper-associated hepatopathy in dogs.

Copper is an essential mineral needed by the body in small amounts for various physiological processes. However, excessive copper accumulation in the liver can lead to liver damage, liver dysfunction, and Copper-associated hepatopathy. This condition, which primarily affects some dog breeds but can also affect others, is characterized by an abnormal buildup of copper in the liver. Copper-associated hepatopathy can cause cirrhosis, progressive liver damage, and ultimately liver failure if left untreated. 

A review of this condition will be done in this article to provide dog owners with information on the causes of copper hepatopathy in canines,  copper storage disease symptoms, how to diagnose a copper storage disease dog, and the treatment required.


The causes of copper hepatopathy in canines are believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

  • Genetic Predisposition

  • Diet

  • Copper Storage Disease

  • Other Liver Diseases

  • Medications and Supplements


Copper storage disease symptoms in dogs can vary depending on the severity of the disease. A copper hepatopathy dog may exhibit the following:

  • Lethargy and weakness

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Increased thirst and urination

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

  • Abdominal distension or discomfort

  • Pale gums

  • Vomiting and diarrhea


  • Clinical Evaluation

  • Blood Tests

  • Copper Quantification in Liver Biopsy

  • Imaging Studies

  • Rule Out Other Causes

  • Genetic Testing (optional)

Treatment and Management Options

The goal of treatment for canine copper-associated hepatopathy is to lessen liver copper toxicity, control symptoms, and promote liver health. Treatment for copper storage disease in dogs includes:

  • Low-Copper Diet: Feeding a special low-copper diet for dogs is one of the treatment's main pillars. This low-copper diet limits copper intake and works to reduce copper buildup in the liver. 

  • Chelation Therapy: Chelating agents are drugs that can help the body get rid of extra copper. These substances aid in the excretion of copper through the urine or feces by binding to copper. In veterinary medicine, chelators like trientine and D-penicillamine are frequently used. A veterinarian typically recommends and oversees chelation therapy.

  • Zinc supplementation: Zinc inhibits the absorption of copper in the intestines by acting as a competitive inhibitor. Zinc supplementation reduces the body's absorption of dietary copper. When administered under veterinary supervision, zinc supplements can help reduce copper accumulation in the liver.

  • Symptomatic Treatment: Medications to treat nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and improved appetite are examples of symptomatic treatment. In addition, your veterinarian may recommend specific supportive care measures to address specific symptoms.

  • Proper monitoring: Close monitoring of the dog's copper levels and liver function is critical during treatment. Regular blood tests are required to assess liver enzyme levels, copper concentration, and other relevant parameters. Monitoring determines the efficacy of treatment and allows for adjustments as needed.

Preventive Tips

There are certain preventive actions that can help minimize the incidence of copper liver disease in dogs or halt its course. These include:

  • Breed selection: Choose a breed that is not known to be prone to copper-related hepatopathy. Keep in mind, however, that copper-related hepatopathy can still occur in breeds that are not generally associated with it.

  • Genetic testing: This can assist in identifying dogs who carry the genetic alterations associated with copper-related hepatopathy in breeds prone to the ailment. Breeders can utilize this information to make more educated breeding decisions, lowering the risk of passing on the genetic propensity to future generations.

  • Balanced Diet: Feed your dog a nutritionally balanced food based on their age, size, and overall health. Consult your veterinarian to verify that the food does not include too much copper. Avoid feeding restaurant scraps or prepared diets that may be high in copper inadvertently.

  • Water Quality: Keep an eye on the water your dog drinks. Copper levels in some water sources, such as well water, can be high. If you feel there is a problem, have your water tested for copper concentration. Provide your dog with filtered or bottled water if necessary.

  • Avoid Excessive Copper Supplementation: Exercise caution when using copper supplements or drugs. It is critical to adhere to the specified dosage and duration of use. Before giving your dog any new nutrients or drugs, consult with your veterinarian to confirm they are safe and appropriate.

  • Environmental Risk Assessment: Examine your dog's surroundings for possible sources of copper exposure. Copper pipes, copper-containing home objects, and the availability of copper-rich minerals are all aspects to consider. Limit the dog's exposure to these items or substances to lessen the risk.

  • Routine veterinarian check-ups: Make an appointment for your dog to get frequent veterinarian checkups. Blood testing and routine checks can help find any early indications of liver malfunction or copper buildup. Early identification enables prompt intervention and therapy, perhaps halting the disease's course.

The preventive strategies above and the treatment options will help dogs avoid and overcome this condition if the right combination is used. However, if you notice any strange observations on your dog, inform your vet immediately.

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