Liver is not only the largest gland in the body, it is also an important and vital organ in the body as it performs several functions which are essential for life. Some of the liver functions include production of bile (the fluid substance that helps in fat digestion), production of albumin (a protein present in blood plasma), and more importantly, the detoxification of chemicals and drugs that pass through the body.
Hepatotoxins are toxics that can damage the liver. While some toxins are always toxic to the liver, there are situations where a dog may incur liver toxicity due to a particular drug while another dog may not under very similar conditions. This type of reaction is called an "idiosyncratic reaction" and can sometimes lead to unpredictable injury.
Location of the liver and its central role in the metabolism of toxic chemicals and drugs makes it more susceptible to adverse toxicity reactions. Liver toxicity is most commonly associated with adverse drug reactions.
Age of dog, nutritional status, concurrent diseases, heredity factors, other drugs being used and previous exposure to same or similar drugs, all these factors play an important part in the severity of liver toxicity.
Liver toxicity is more prevalent in young dogs due to their immature liver metabolism functionality and excretory functions. Some breeds are predisposed to toxicity from certain drugs. These breeds include Dalmatians, Dobermans, Samoyeds, Labrador retrievers, German shepherd dogs, and herding breeds.
Signs and symptoms vary in accordance with time of exposure and type of toxin. Some common symptoms include
Loss of appetite
Jaundice (often progressive)
Fluid in the abdominal cavity (ascites) – this symptom is often indicative of advanced disease
Petechia (minute red or purple spots on the surface of the skin as the result of tiny hemorrhages of blood vessels in the skin)
Ecchymosis (the escape of blood from ruptured blood vessels into the surrounding tissue, forming a purple or black-and-blue spot on the skin)