Dogs that suffer from vacuolar hepatopathy (VH) need special care. Their liver is not functioning properly and can't do its job well. This can cause a buildup of toxins in the dog's system and lead to other problems. The article talks about this severe health condition and the steps to deal with it.
Vacuolar hepatopathy is a rare liver disease that affects dogs, and it's caused by damage to the cells in the organ. It can be hard to diagnose, and treatment is complex, but there are several things you can do at home to help your pet live as comfortably as possible. One thing for sure is the balanced diet as recommended by your veterinarian. This article will cover everything you need about vacuolar hepatopathy in dogs below.
What is Vacuolar Hepatopathy in Dogs?
In simple terms, vacuolar hepatopathy is a liver disease that causes cells to swell up and die. It can happen for various reasons, such as infection or toxins. If your dog has this condition, it may experience anorexia, jaundice, and abdominal pain.
How long it takes for your pup to recover will depend on what caused her liver issue. If it's been caused by something treatable, like an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria, she'll likely bounce back quickly after treatment or administering antibiotics for dogs. If it were due to something more severe, like cancerous tumors, it would be tough. Not to forget the poisoning issue, a common problem in dogs. What's alarming is that 232,000 pets are reportedly poisoned annually in the United States, which is a considerable number.
Why Do Some Dogs Get Vacuolar Hepatopathy?
It is not yet understood how vacuolar hepatopathy in dogs manifests, but it is thought to be caused by a genetic mutation. It means that the disease is hereditary and will likely affect any offspring from the affected dog.
It is also possible for dogs to get this disease later in life. Even if your dog was born without vacuolar hepatopathy symptoms and never showed signs of having the condition, it could develop later. The condition can affect male and female dogs of any age or breed. However, it has been noted that smaller breeds seem more susceptible than larger ones.
Symptoms of Vacuolar Hepatopathy in Dogs
You can notice the following symptoms of vacuolar hepatopathy in dogs:
In addition, your dog might have a swollen abdomen. It is because there is excess fluid in his liver that causes it to swell.
You would also see blood in his stool or vomit, which may be a sign of bleeding from the stomach or intestine.
He may develop jaundice which is the yellowing of the skin due to excess bilirubin.
Vomiting and weight loss are common among pets suffering from this condition, but they are not always present as symptoms. Vets can usually prescribe pet medications like Denamarin, which supports good liver health, or Ursodiol for dogs which supports the smooth functioning of the liver and also helps in preventing other liver diseases.
Diagnosis of Vacuolar Hepatopathy in Dogs
Your vet must diagnose your dog's condition based on clinical signs and blood test results. Blood tests are usually the first step in diagnosing VH. Liver enzymes that help with metabolism in dogs, called serum liver enzymes, may be slightly elevated (10% to 50%) or normal. A few other tests that you can expect your vet to include the following:
Serum bile acids test: It measures how much bile is made by the liver and how much can be excreted into the intestine. It is often used as a way of diagnosing liver disease. Bile acid levels generally increase when there is damage or dysfunction in the liver cells producing bile acids.
Albumin/globulin ratio: This test compares albumin levels, a protein mainly found in blood plasma, with globulins. An elevated ratio indicates poor liver function; low ratios suggest good function.
Bilirubin level: Bilirubin is produced when red blood cells break down. High levels indicate blockage within certain parts of your dog's body, including their gallbladder, which can cause some severe issues if not treated right away.
Blood urea nitrogen (BUN)/creatine clearance ratio: This calculates how well his kidneys are removing waste products from his bloodstream along with excess fluids entering through digestion processes
Treating Vacuolar Hepatopathy in Dogs
By 2030, it is anticipated that the U.S. companion animal health industry will be worth USD 11.39 billion. It is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.2% between 2022 and 2030. This market is primarily driven by the growing number of pet owners who want to provide better healthcare, healthier diets, and upscale grooming and training services for their companion animals. Thus we can say that people care for their pets to a great extent.
Several treatments are available for canine liver disease, but the most effective option is to perform a liver transplant. This surgery involves removing the diseased organ and replacing it with a healthy one from another dog or an organ donor.
Several drugs can be prescribed to treat its symptoms. Some drugs, like Gabapentin for dogs, aim to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. While supplements like Denosyl improve liver function. It does this by increasing bile flow through the bile ducts.
Taking Care of a Dog Suffering from Vacuolar Hepatopathy
According to the 2021-2022 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 14% of people claimed to have acquired a new pet since the pandemic's start. To help your loving pet dog get through this, you should keep them well-hydrated. The best way to do that is by frequently giving them water or chicken broth. The best practice would be to keep your dog's bowls filled with fresh water always.
It would help if you also fed them a low-fat diet to decrease the chances of liver damage and keep their weight healthy. Some vets recommend giving your dog food with high protein and low-fat levels, such as chicken breast meat or turkey breast meat without skin. It will help ease the burden on their liver and prevent further damage.
If your dog suffers from VHL, it's important not to give them alcohol or caffeine because these substances could worsen the symptoms. It's also imperative not to provide any medications or supplements without consulting your vet first. Some may cause further harm if misused in combination with VHL treatments.
How Long Does It Take for a Dog to Recover?
As you may have gathered from the previous section, vacuolar hepatopathy is a severe condition. However, it is not necessarily life-threatening or fatal, and when you consider that most dogs with vacuolar hepatopathy recover fully, it can be seen as a blessing in disguise.
In some cases, recovery time for dogs with vacuolar hepatopathy can take days to weeks. However, the time it takes for a dog to recover doesn't depend on how long it has been sick with the condition. Instead, it depends on how severe its symptoms are and whether or not it started treatment early enough to reverse all of them. However, a healthy diet can play an important role in healing. Diets like Hills Prescription diet for liver care can be ideal for such situations. However, consult your vet first before feeding any diet to your pet.
Dogs Suffering from Vacuolar Hepatopathy Recover Completely if Treated Well and on Time
The doctor can treat the disease, and the dog will recover entirely if you care for him well. The condition is not contagious to other dogs or humans, so it can't spread from one dog to another. However, you need to check your pet's diet and ensure they eat only high-quality food with all the necessary nutrients for its healthy growth. You should also avoid giving such foods like chocolate or ice cream as these may increase liver problems in your pet's body.