Chronic hepatitis describes a prolonged inflammation of the liver (exceeding 3 month). Progression of the condition will lead to tissue remodelling and scarring which, in terminal stages, is referred to as cirrosis .
The severity of the disease usually depends on the duration, cause and dimension of the inflammation of the liver tissue. Since the liver has a high ability to compensate for dysfunction, the dog's general condition is usually only impaired at a later stage of the disease when the liver is already extensively damaged. The first sign the animal exhibits is decreased appetite and increased thirst while at the same time losing weight. Chronic diarrhea and/or periodical vomiting may also occur. In later stages the mucuous membranes might develop a yellow discoloration known as jaundice or icterus. Another later stage symptom can be a swollen stomach due to ascites, a accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity. Chronic hepatitides can also have severe consequences like liver cirrhosis (irreversible liver tissue damage), edemas and gastrointestinal ulcers, all of which are very dangerous health conditions.
The causes of a chronic hepatitis in principle correspond to those of the acute variant. Basically, bacterial or viral infections, poisoning, genetic dispositions or a long-term administration of certain drugs come into consideration. In general, all acute hepatitis infections may take a chronic course, particularly when they are not treated or do not completely cure.
The diagnosis of the disease is at first made by means of preparation of a blood count. The increased affection of certain liver enzymes in the blood mostly indicates a disease of this organ. Depending on the symptoms and/or aftereffects, different therapeutic measures are required which may be made up of the administration of certain liver protecting drugs, the administration of infusions as well as vitamin cures, etc. Additionally, there are some diet measures which above all shall deliver energy. In doing so, the amount of protein to be administered needs to be determined individually for each dog. Meat should be abstained from since it is in general quite indigestive.
In case of symptoms of a chronic hepatitis, you should consult a veterinarian as soon as possible. In case of severe characteristics, particularly with the characteristic yellow coloring of the mucous membranes or in case of longer existence of the symptoms, the consultation should be realized quickest possible.