Chronic active hepatitis is a disease found commonly in small to medium breed of dogs. Typically, breeds like spaniels, terriers, poodles, and Dobermans have a higher affinity for this problem more than other breeds, but Labradors are no exemption. They still run the risk of acquiring this illness, especially without the proper care and nutrition. Usually, it manifests when the dog is fairly matured to older age and there is no specific gender that is affected by hepatitis.
Chronic active hepatitis is an autoimmune, inflammatory disease that damages specifically the liver. What happens is that the body reacts to the liver as if it does not belong to the body, so the dog’s body tries to reject the liver by making it dysfunctional and draining it of nutrients enough to kill it.
Possible sources and causes of Chronic Active Hepatitis
There are no known primary causes that specifically lead up to having a chronic active hepatitis, but here are some commonalities found by veterinarians that has a high probability of leading to hepatitis. First of all is heredity. As mentioned before, there are certain breeds that have a higher risk than most breeds. Even if it does not include Labradors, there is still a relatively bigger chance of having hepatitis when your pet’s genetic history reflects parents or siblings having this disease. If you are planning to adopt a new Labrador, it would be advantageous to know these details so that you can be prepared for potential problems ahead.
Nutrition is also a key factor in hepatitis, since the liver is part of the digestive system that sifts through everything that is unacceptable to the body. There are studies that show that an accumulation of copper in the liver leads to hepatitis. Along with some drugs or medications for other problems like worms and convulsions. The best way to prevent this from happening is to always consult with your veterinarian on the safety of the medications or drugs you use. It also wouldn’t hurt if you watch what you feed your dog and check the label/ingredient list.
Other triggering factors include bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infections. Unless your Labrador is exposed or fed these bacteria, fungi, and parasites, this is less likely to happen. It is not unheard of, however, that it can also cause hepatitis, especially if the parasite or bacteria uses the liver as its home.
Symptoms to watch out for
Chronic active hepatitis is like cancer where it progresses slowly, so the illness will be asymptomatic at first as the dog’s immune system is slowly attacking the liver cells. And like most diseases, early detection makes a big difference in treating your pet. So, watch out for these symptoms in your Labrador.
Firstly, your pet would be acting depressed where he or she would not eat or play. There would be a decrease in physical activity and energy and your dog would likely lose an alarming amount of weight. The weight loss could also be explained by other symptoms which are vomiting and diarrhea. More on physical appearance, the Labrador will look jaundiced where there is a yellowing in the skin and mouth areas. Excessive bleeding in small injuries is also another sign of chronic active hepatitis, along with excessive drinking and peeing or polyuria. The abdominal area in general would be filled with fluid and bile, but only vets can confirm this.
Treatment and care
Once chronic active hepatitis is confirmed by your veterinarian, the first priority would be stabilize your pet and try to reduce the occurrence of the symptoms mentioned before. So your pet will be placed in a lot of preapproved medication to help ease his discomfort and prevent any inflammations as well as infections. There would be antibiotics, electrolyte therapy to cope up with the dehydration from all the vomiting, choleretics, and diuretics. For the more severe cases, the dog may need to stay in the hospital for proper monitoring and intensive treatment. There will be dietary restrictions as well, which will most likely be imposed for the rest of your dog’s life. Sodium and protein should be reduced or restricted and an increase in Vitamin K is highly recommended.
Having chronic active hepatitis is unfortunate for any pet. With a dog, if it’s caused by an overdose of toxic chemicals the prognosis is relatively more optimistic than if it was immune-mediated, where your dog is predicted to have a maximum of three years to live. It is also saddening to note that once your dog acquires this illness, he or she would most likely go through a series of medication and medical tests for the rest of its existence. So, be sure to take good care of your Labrador because these are not the consequences you would ever want to face.