Chronic Active Hepatitis in Dogs

Chronic active hepatitis (CAH) is a medical condition that is a result of the ongoing inflammation and scarring of the liver that eventually leads to a decrease in liver function. If the liver has been inflamed for over six weeks, then the diagnosis is typically chronic active hepatitis.

The causes of CAH usually include immune-mediated diseases, leptospirosis, and infectious canine hepatitis.

In fact, sometimes no cause can be found and it is merely inherent in certain breeds.

What Are The Symptoms of Chronic Active Hepatitis?

  • terrier vet exam for hepatitisNo symptoms in earliest stages
  • Increased urination and thirst
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Fluid retention in the abdomen
  • Jaundice
  • Altered behaviors
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Weight loss
  • Jaundice
  • Neurological symptoms

What Causes Chronic Active Hepatitis?

The most common causes of Chronic Active Hepatitis are the following:

  • Infections
  • Toxins
  • Scarring of the liver
  • An abundance of copper
  • Autoimmune Disease
  • Genetics

There are many cases of CAH in dogs that don’t have an actual inciting cause which is why it’s very difficult to diagnose.

Breeds That Are Pre-Disposed to Chronic Active Hepatitis

The following breeds have a genetic pre-disposition for inflammation of the liver:

Diagnosis of Chronic Active Hepatitis

The diagnosis of CAH can be difficult to pinpoint because there are many infections that can affect the liver.

Blood work is usually taken by your vet to look of an infectious disease that might affect the liver.

A liver biopsy is conducted which is typical of any disease affecting the liver and is the best test to diagnose the condition as chronic active hepatitis.

Ultrasounds, urinalysis, and X-rays are sometimes taken as well.

Treatment for Chronic Active Hepatitis

Your vet will treat the CAH by identifying the cause and addressing the best supportive treatment.

If an infection was identified, then antibiotics are usually prescribed.

If the cause is just merely inflammation and no specific trigger, then your vet will prescribe medications that can help support the liver and reverse the damage.

Prednisone, azathioprine, and cyclosporine are sometimes given depending on the cause and other drugs that support liver function are also prescribed.

Drugs to help reverse the complications of CAH, such as abdominal fluid accumulations, blood clotting, and gastrointestinal ulcers might also be needed.

Your dog’s diet is equally important in treating chronic active hepatitis.

A low protein, high-calorie diet can help with is often recommended as well as vitamins.

Because weight loss can occur with ACH, it is important to find a high-quality nutritious food that your dog will eat that is lower in protein.

Your vet can give you some recommendations for the best food for your pup.

Does Pet Insurance Cover Chronic Active Hepatitis?

Pet insurance can help cover most of the costs that are related to Chronic Active Hepatitis.

Just the diagnosis alone can range anywhere from $600 to $3,000.

And the treatment can be very expensive if your dog needs to be hospitalized.

With some cases, if the liver damage is severe, the cost can be upwards of $7,500 since the drugs are very expensive and it can take years to correct the damage.

If you have enrolled your dog in a pet insurance policy, like Healthy Paws, up to 90% of these costs will be covered and that will be a relief to you financially.  And, you can get your dog the best care possible.

As with any condition or illness, your dog must be enrolled prior to the chronic active hepatitis being diagnosed so it is not considered pre-existing.

Prevention

Because the liver is so resilient, when the disease is caught early enough it can often be managed and result in a long, quality life.

The best way to prevent pets to any sort of liver damage is to vaccinate against any infectious diseases that might cause the liver to swell.

Any drugs that your dog might be taking that could cause liver damage should also be monitored.

Any breeds that are pre-disposed to Chronic Active Hepatitis and have the disease should be discouraged from breeding.

The best pet insurance plans can help cover the expensive treatment and diagnosis for Chronic Active Hepatitis or any other condition that your dog might encounter as long as you insure your prior to any disease occurs.

If you want to learn more about the different health issues that might occur in your dog, our dog health glossary is a great place to start!

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