Copper Storage Liver Disease in Dogs

Copper is an essential trace element that dogs need in order to be healthy. The liver is the mainCopper Storage Liver Disease in Dogs organ that contains copper and releases it to be used in other parts of the body. Although it is a required nutrient, copper can reach high levels within a dog’s liver that are considered toxic.

Liver toxicity secondary to copper accumulation is often seen in specific breeds that have inherited forms of copper storage liver disease. This has been confirmed in Bedlington Terriers. There is evidence for familial copper storage liver disease in Dalmatians, Doberman Pinschers, Labrador Retrievers, West Highland White Terriers, and Skye Terriers. A dog can also develop excessive copper in their liver secondary to certain types of liver disease that decrease the flow of bile out of the liver. This typically doesn’t cause a liver toxicity.

Your dog will need diagnostic tests to determine if there is copper storage liver disease. YourCopper Storage Liver Disease and Dogs veterinarian will need to have your dog’s blood analyzed to determine if the liver enzymes are abnormally elevated and to evaluate the liver function. If there is evidence of liver disease based on the blood work then an ultrasound and liver biopsy will need to be performed. In addition to evaluating histopathology of the liver biopsy, special stains and copper quantification will need to be done on your dog’s liver biopsy to determine if there is copper storage liver disease.

Copper storage liver disease in dogs can cause inflammation of the liver and can progress to liver failure if untreated. The good news is there are medical and dietary treatments that can reduce the level of copper in the liver. There are prescription liver diets that have less copper and more zinc which aids in reducing the copper level in the liver. There are also copper chelator medications (D-penicillamine or trientine) that remove copper from the body. Other medications or nutritional supplements, such as zinc, ursodiol, or S-adenosylmethionine can be benificial for dogs with copper storage liver disease.

Click here to learn about chronic liver disease in dogs, or here to learn about liver shunts.

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Dr Peter Nurre

Peter Nurre, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM (internal medicine) is a board- certified veterinary internal medicine specialist. His professional interests include internal medicine and cardiology.

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