Prognosis of liver disease primarily depends upon the following factors:
* The type of liver disease – hepatitis, cancer, liver shunt, drug induced or others.
* Primary or secondary – whether the disease originated in the liver or the liver is affected as a fall out of disease elsewhere in the body.
* The time factor – the stage to which the disease has advanced at the time of detection.
A close look at different types of liver diseases is necessary to understand the prognosis of each type.
* Chronic progressive hepatitis, inflammation of the liver, may be immune mediated or idiopathic (arising from unknown reasons). It is common in Terrier breeds due to their inherent inability to expel copper from their body. Some other reasons that may cause hepatitis include virus and drug induced inflammations.
* Acute hepatitis, on the other hand, is mostly caused by accumulation of toxins, which may be ingested or due to some internal inability to process toxicity. Many times acute hepatitis is caused by bacteria like Leptospira, Salmonella. Aflatoxin, bacterial endotoxin and blue green algae are potent toxins, some of which may be broken down and released inside the body after they are ingested. Acute hepatitis may also occur due to trauma, acute inflammation of the pancreas, and hemolytic anemia or oxygen deficiency due to surgical intervention.
* Cirrhosis is the last stage of inflammatory liver diseases. In majority of the cases the cause of cirrhosis remains undetermined.
* Internal as well as administered corticosteroids are one of the major reasons behind liver disease in dogs as the canine liver, due to some reason or the other, is more sensitive to them.
* The liver is also a favorite site for primary as well as metastatic tumors.
* Liver shunt is a genetic disorder, which may also be acquired in certain cases, where the blood bypasses the liver and enters the blood stream without filtration.
When diagnosed early, the prognosis for treatment of liver disease can be very good. However, quite a few numbers of diseases are confused with liver diseases, making it difficult to diagnose canine and feline liver disease. Symptoms of liver disease in dogs and cats imitate other conditions and so do the pathological results.
For example, liver enzyme levels increase during pancreatitis, diabetes mellitus and hyperthyroidism and also in the case of a liver disease. Similarly, levels of bilirubin, an important indication of liver disorders, increase even during non-hepatic conditions like a sustained loss of appetite, destructive metabolism and infection. Late detection can lead to liver failure unless aggressive treatment is used.
Acute conditions present a good prognosis and the liver’s regenerative capacity can be boosted by modifying diet and looking for alternatives to drugs that cause them.
Care has also to be taken that the pet is not exposed to external toxins so as not to ingest them. 95% of the cases of liver shunt are cured successfully with the aid of replacement surgery. Chances of recovery of the liver from secondary diseases depend largely upon the prognosis of the primarily affected organ.
Idiopathic and immune mediated liver diseases present a fair to poor prognosis. They require constant monitoring in conjunction with dietary changes and steps to boost the immune system. Primary or secondary liver cancer, on the hand, has a very poor prognosis and much depends upon the extent to which the liver has been affected by the malignancy.