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What is Copper Hepatopathy in Labrador Retrievers?

Copper Hepatopathy in Labrador Retrievers

First studied in 1979, a copper hepatopathy is a form of liver disease caused by gene coding problems that make the biliary excretion of copper difficult. Cats and dogs could be affected by this disease, and the Labrador Retriever is one breed of dog that is particularly susceptible to this genetic illness. Learning more about this disease could help your lab, and you can find out symptoms as well as possible prevention methods.

Copper in the Body

The science behind what is going on in your dog’s body involves lots of big, technical words, but you might like to know how copper could cause such a problem for your canine companion. Small amounts of copper are found in many foods, and copper is needed to help with some of the biological processes that help the body function at its base level. Copper is absorbed by the small intestines and the stomach before eventually heading to the liver. It can then travel to many other places where it is needed. When the body does not need any copper or too much is consumed, it is turned into bile and excreted. This is what happens normally but not with copper hepatopathy.

The Problem with copper hepatopathy

When copper cannot be excreted or is excreted slower than normal, copper builds up in the liver. Copper is an essential nutrient, but only a little bit of it is needed at a time. When there is more copper than the liver can store, oxidative stress occurs. This stress could lead to damage at the cellular level, cause inflammation, lead to hepatitis or scar the liver.

Causes of copper hepatopathy in Labrador Retrievers

Copper hepatopathy is passed down through hereditary, and this illness could also be secondary to another disease caused by abnormal metabolism of copper in the body. Females are more prone to develop this condition than males, and dogs with this disease are likely to be carriers of it. When you are thinking about adding a Labrador to the family, ask if the dog’s parents have a history of liver problems.

Types of copper hepatopathy

This liver disease may come in different forms and manifest differently among many Labradors. There are three types of this sickness a dog could suffer from.

In subclinical cases, this condition is not noticeable immediately as it can be present even though no physical changes or abnormal signs are visible.

Acute cases occur suddenly with young dogs. Copper hepatopathy in these cases could take place with hepatic necrosis, which deteriorates liver tissue, and the cause of death in these dogs is usually the death of liver tissue. Symptoms of acute liver disease include:

The chronic liver disease takes place when dogs are middle-aged or older, and symptoms could become noticeable when a dog also has a scarred liver or hepatitis. Along with lethargy, depression, vomiting and jaundice, signs of chronic liver disease include:

  •    Lethargy
  •    Vomiting
  •    Depression
  •    Jaundice
  •    Dark urine
  •    Anemia

Related Illnesses

  • Unprompted bleeding
  •    Weight loss
  •    Diarrhea
  •    Excessive thirst or excessive urination
  •    Abdominal distention
  •    Nervous system dysfunction

Typically, other liver problems could also lead to copper hepatopathy. Labs who have a different liver disease along with the gene for this sickness might be especially likely to develop it. Additionally, the slow release of bile caused by this hepatopathy may cause one related condition, which is called cholestatic liver disease.

Diagnosis of copper hepatopathy

When trying to determine whether your dog has copper hepatopathy, you can assist your veterinarian by being ready to discuss your dog’s history. Information about the dog’s growth and development should be readily available, and you might need to figure out when your pet’s symptoms first occurred. A complete blood profile and urinalysis sample will be required, and ultrasounds will take place to observe the present condition of the liver. When diagnosing this liver disease, a vet also tries to assess whether another condition caused it or not.

Treatment of copper hepatopathy

Treatment methods will vary depending on the severity of the disease. Dogs with liver failure may need inpatient care while other dogs might be put on a modified diet of food with low copper content. It is important to ask for recommendations from the veterinarian because commercially available foods typically contain high amounts of copper. Any mineral supplements your dog takes should not include copper, and a vet could also recommend different vitamins like zinc or vitamin E.

Biopsies are used to screen dogs for an existing liver disease and to monitor their progress in the treatment period, but a surgical liver biopsy is not the best option for all dogs. Biopsies can be risky depending on a dog’s age and overall health as they require anesthesia. This slows a dog’s heart, and older dogs and those in poor health might not wake up when given anesthesia.

Living with Labradors

Since this liver disease is caused by another condition or genetics, there is usually not a cure. However, your Labrador can still live a happy life when given the proper support. Labrador Retrievers with copper hepatopathy are normally prescribed a therapy plan from a vet, and the progress a dog makes with therapy will be monitored. Blood tests are needed every six months to keep track of the enzyme levels in your dog’s liver.

Changes to your Labrador Retrievers living environment and lifestyle are likely needed so that your pet can live with this condition, and this involves improving a dog’s diet and weight. The best thing for you to do if your dog is suffering from copper hepatopathy is to maintain your dog’s proper diet and food intake at all times.

To prevent this liver problem from becoming an issue, you could find out how much copper your dog needs and work to limit excess copper intake. You might wish to talk to your vet for more information about this. Copper hepatopathy may not be a problem for your dog, but you can now be prepared if symptoms occur and take action quickly.


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