Can Dogs Get Hepatitis? – Acute and Chronic Hepatitis In Dogs



Can Dogs Get Hepatitis? The simple answer is YES. Dogs can get hepatitis, but the question here is whether this hepatitis is Chronic or Acute. Many diseases are lurking around to hurt our fluffy friends. Our dogs, cats, and other pets can get sick quickly. Think of them as kids! They are so fragile, and they need our help every time they get sick.

When we talk about chronic hepatitis in dogs, then we mean that at some point, there has been inflammation in the liver and possible there was a cell death, which is called necrosis. 

Before we get into some details about chronic hepatitis in dogs, you need to understand that there is another condition, which is called acute hepatitis. I want today to spot some lights on both terms and give an overview of the differences between these two terms.  

Chronic hepatitis is a condition which is resulted from many causes that did damage the liver over time. That means chronic hepatitis in dogs is not a new event inside the body but an accumulation of the damage that has been going for quite some time, probably several weeks. 

Many infectious organisms could cause damage to the liver, such as Bacteria and Viruses. Infectious canine hepatitis is the term used to name acute hepatitis that is caused by Canine mast-adenovirus A, formerly called Canine adenovirus (CAV-1).


Chronic Hepatitis vs. Acute Hepatitis

Chronic hepatitis means that the damage process has been going on for quite some time (at least some weeks). However, acute hepatitis means the disease is still going and has been going on for just a few days.

In most cases, we can cure acute hepatitis once we know the cause of this condition. However, it is difficult to undone and cure chronic hepatitis. Because of chronic hepatitis in dogs, the liver cells are damaged, and mostly, the damage is irreversible.

Once veterinarian diagnoses the dog with chronic hepatitis, the dog needs proper treatment and monitoring to help the dog to live its life with minimal damage and clinical signs and improve the quality of life in general.

Of course, proper treatment and diagnosis of acute hepatitis are crucial to prevent it from causing damage and transform into a chronic disease and cause even more damage to the liver.

What Causes Infectious Canine Hepatitis?

There are many different ways for your dog to be infected and cause this Infectious canine hepatitis. Commonly it is transmitted through the blood, nasal discharge, saliva, urine, or feces of other infected dogs.


Symptoms & Signs Of Dog’s Hepatitis

There are some slight differences between acute and chronic hepatitis. It is essential to know these signs and symptoms and the difference between them to be able to make the right decision you notice any or some of these symptoms and signs. Remember, your dog is not going to speak to you and tell you what’s wrong. Always think of your dog as your kid!

What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Chronic Canine Hepatitis?

The clinical signs associated with chronic hepatitis vary significantly as a result of the multiple different functions of the liver. The most common symptoms & signs may include:

  • Lethargy
  • A mild-to-marked decrease in appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Diarrhea
  • A yellow (jaundiced) tinge to the skin, ears, and gums.
  • Swollen belly filled with fluid (ascites)

Infrequently, some dogs display some strange behavior or neurologic signs, such as severe aggression, lethargy, depression, blindness, standing in corners, pressing their heads into walls or corners, and, infrequently, loss of consciousness, seizures or even coma.

In most cases, chronic hepatitis is suspected during routine check-ups and blood tests. Abnormal liver function tests can lead the vet to suspect liver damage, and then they treat the dog accordingly before any serious signs develop.

What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Infectious Canine Hepatitis?

The clinical signs associated with infectious hepatitis may vary. But there are symptoms and signs similar to any infectious disease. The most common symptoms & signs may include:

  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • An enlarged liver

In more severe cases of infectious canine-hepatitis may also have the following symptoms:

  • Swollen and enlarged lymph nodes
  • Red dots on the skin
  • Bruising of the skin

Once you start to suspect any of the signs from acute or chronic hepatitis, you must contact your vet about them. What you want here is to protect your dog from further damage and early diagnosis.


Diagnosis Of Canine Hepatitis

Chronic hepatitis in dogs may show small irregular liver (Nodular liver). Also, in some cases, dogs will show signs of fluid accumulation in the abdomen, which is called Ascites. 

The definitive method to diagnose chronic hepatitis is via Biopsy. The dog will have a small surgery using laparoscopy under Ultrasound guidance to take this biopsy sample. 

After performing this surgery, the tissue taken from the liver is studied. The information from this biopsy study is essential to determine the type and severity of liver disease ( remember there are many causes for liver damage other than chronic hepatitis such as cancer). 

After that, your vet will have a proper assessment of the dog’s prognosis and outline the appropriate treatment options accordingly. 

Your veterinarian may recommend other methods to reach a proper diagnosis, such as ultrasound-guided aspiration of the dog’s liver. This way is considered less invasive, and your vet may do it before deciding to take the invasive procedure we mentioned above.

However, before doing all these procedures, lab tests are done by your vet. After blood work, physical examination, and checking all the symptoms and signs your dog has, your vet going to take a good idea about what may cause this problem. Then your vet will decide to do more tests and what options your dog may have.

Also, a variety of blood tests, radiological images (like X-ray), and Ultrasound are commonly used to asses the size and appearance of the liver.


Treatment Of Hepatitis In Dogs

Treatment Of Chronic Hepatitis In Dogs

Many things play a role in treating chronic Hepatitis in dogs. The treatment of chronic Hepatitis can be complicated and vary depending on the severity and the type of disease. 

Hospitalization is the first approach to treat your dog. Your vet will start giving your dog intravenous fluids and supportive care in severe cases. 

Commonly, your vet would use Immunosuppressive or anti-inflammatory medications. Also, Dietary modifications may be considered in some conditions. Now, it depends on the primary type of the disease and the cause; your vet may prescribe additional medications. 

Unfortunately, all these measures are enough to improve the overall prognosis and ease the dog pain. There is no cure for Hepatitis in dogs. These treatment aims to improve the clinical signs, quality of life, and overall condition.

Treatment Of Acute Infectious Hepatitis In Dogs

Unfortunately, there is no cure for canine hepatitis. That’s why the best thing you can do is to vaccinate your dog to protect it from hepatitis.

However, if your pet is already infected, then the best approach is to contact your vet. Your vet will start the proper treatment to suppress the disease from advancing and causing more damage. This way of treatment is not a cure; it is just a way to help the body to manage the disease and win the battle against this virus.

The treatment will consist of things to support the body, such as fluids, to dilute the toxins produced by the virus in the dog’s blood, and encourage the kidney to remove it via urination.

Your vet may also prescribe antibiotics or blood transfusion in severe cases. The good news is that the survival rate is excellent and promising, although young puppies and old dogs may find some difficulties fighting this disease because of their weak immune system.

After your dog is well treated, and the illness has passed, your dog will need several weeks to recover. Your dog will need plenty of rest and a balanced diet your vet will prescribe to lessen the burden on the liver to give enough time to heal.

Can Infectious Canine Hepatitis Be Prevented?

Yes! Infectious canine hepatitis can be prevented with the right vaccination. Therefore, they must get the necessary vaccines at the right age.

Puppies usually begin a vaccination program at the age of six to eight weeks. Your vet will give your puppy their first booster for infectious canine hepatitis at a period of 11-13 weeks. Only after this first booster will your puppy be protected from hepatitis.


It doesn’t matter which is disease lurking around your dog. What matters is to educate ourselves enough about our fluffy health and life. As you may be noticed, it is important to know information about these diseases such as Hepatitis in dogs to be able to prevent it from doing more damage to our dogs and pets.

Can dogs get hepatitis? Yes, and it is not curable if it turns into Chronic! So, pay more attention to your dog and make sure to take every action possible to keep your dog happy and healthy.

So finally, I hope you found this article useful and informative. Let me know your answer. What do you think? Do you have more information about hepatitis in dogs? Write them down below.

If you have any other questions or different opinions about it, leave a comment below.

Today’s Quote:

“There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.” — Bernard Williams


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4 years ago

It’s so hard to see your pets in pain or feeling unwell. Very important to watch out for these symptoms that you mentioned and seek help from a vet as soon as possible so it doesn’t get more serious and so they don’t have to suffer more than necessary. Thank you for sharing valuable information!

4 years ago

I did realize that dogs could get hepatitis, but I didn’t know it was incurable. I’m wondering if the symptoms you mentioned would be pretty much the same for cats. The ones you mentioned could almost be mistaken for mange by a not-too-savvy owner, such as myself. Once I realize there are no mites, the possibility of hepatitis will stay in my mind. It is definitely something to be on the lookout for. Thank you for this handy article!

Snoop Doggy
4 years ago

Hi Mohammad,

Being an 11-year-old Jack Russell / Dachshund Mix, who has traveled the World and had to get surgery twice on different occasions am very happy to see another great Human helping Dogs and Pets live a happy and healthy long life.

I was actually shocked to read about Hepatitis and also Leptospirosis in Dogs. I was very relieved when I saw it can be cured and is only dangerous to Puppies or Dogs without vaccination since I got all my shots in order. My Human was wondering if it can be also transmitted or dangerous to humans when being around Dogs without vaccinations?

I’m very happy I found this website, to find helpful information and home remedies for various common Dog Diseases, and cure myself if necessary.
Thanks a lot! I’ll be strolling by more often from now.

Keep it Up Doc!

much Love & Respect

Snoop Doggy

4 years ago

Wow!! I had no idea. Great article and very informative. I too am a dog owner and will be discussing this disease hepatitis with my vet. There are many diseases around us and our dogs, as a dog owner I always feel worried when I heard or read about these diseases and I make sure to be informed so I can help my dog when it’s needed.

Thank you

4 years ago

We have had a rescue dog for a bit over a year now, and many of the common diseases are still pretty new to me (my first dog). She’s around ten years old, and we went to vet just yesterday because she’s been having incontinence issues.

Have you experienced this? I read that common causes in older spayed female dogs are hormones. Diabetes and kidney stones can apparently also cause this, and I see you have listed increased drinking and urination as symptoms of hepatitis as well.

Fortunately, the urine test didn’t show any sugars, and we are still waiting for results on bacterial cultivation to rule out any infections. She’s otherwise healthy and alert, so the vet concluded that it’s probably just age-related, so we are keeping our fingers crossed. I guess hepatitis would show other symptoms like lethargy and nausea. Do you know if it shows up in a urine test as we didn’t draw blood?

We are planning several month road trips across Europe (we live in Finland) next fall, so I’m definitely going to get hepatitis vaccines in check for her, thanks for the tip!

4 years ago


Interesting article; I wasn’t really familiar with hepatitis in animals other than people.
We had to get vaccinated for Hepatitis B, which requires 3 separate injections, prior to starting medical school, but I had never heard of hepatitis vaccinations for animals. I imagine the disease process is overall pretty similar between animals and people, as hepatitis is literally inflammation of the liver, which can lead to scarring and disfunction (cirrhosis) over time. Also interesting how dogs can develop ascites (fluid in the abdominal cavity) with liver disease.


4 years ago

Very informative article. I do not own a dog but it helps to learn about these things so that we can spread a word around. A lot of people are not informed about these diseases although they own dogs. As you’ve mentioned treat your dog like you’ll do your child. Just like us humans dogs are also affected by bacteria and viruses. Knowing your dog and paying attention to the changes that might be taking place will help saving its life before it’s too late and vaccination is a way to go as you’ve mentioned. Excellent article and thanks for posting.

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