Liver Inflammation (Suppurative) in Dogs

By PetMD Editorial on Mar. 27, 2010

Hepatitis, Suppurative and Hepatic Abscess in Dogs

The inflammation of the liver is known as hepatitis. Sometimes bacterial infections affecting the liver may involve the formation of abscesses containing pus. It also may accompany inflammation of the bile duct, the presence of stones in the gallbladder, necrotic (dead tissue) spots of the liver, and the formation of many small abscesses. Single abscesses may be present due to a tumor which becomes infected over time. Liver abscesses are more common in older dogs and patients with diabetes.

Symptoms and Types

  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Increased urine output (polyuria)
  • Increased thirst (polydipsia) and consumption of water
  • Trembling
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dehydration
  • Abdominal distention
  • Yellowish skin (jaundice)
  • Increased heart rate, increased respiration in some animals
  • Sudden collapse


  • Obstruction of bile duct
  • Infection traveling from other body site to liver
  • Wounds that penetrates deep to liver
  • Complication(s) from liver biopsy
  • Weak immune system (or immune-mediated disorders)
  • Liver tumor
  • Preexisting liver or pancreas disease


Routine laboratory tests, including complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis, will be conducted after your veterinarian records a detailed history and performs a complete physical examination of your dog. The results of these tests are informational, especially in identifying potential infections. For example, an increased of white blood cells (leukocytosis), abnormally low levels of platelets (cells involved in blood clotting), and anemia may be evident in blood testing. The biochemistry profile, meanwhile, may indicate abnormally high levels of liver enzymes, and abnormally low levels of glucose (hypoglycemia). And radiographic and ultrasonography studies may reveal an enlargement of the liver and are integral in detecting the presence of mass(es) and abscess(es).

Additionally, a small sample from the affected area can be taken through a special needle and processed further to see the type of infection. Your veterinarian will culture the sample to identify the type of bacterial infection, which helps find the most suitable antibiotic for the infection in your dog. If the bacteria are isolated, culture and sensitivity testing will be conducted to find the type of bacteria involved and types of antibiotics these bacteria are sensitive to.


In the case of severe infection, your dog may need to be hospitalized for intensive care and treatment. Intravenous fluids are started along with antibiotics to cover fluid deficits and infection respectively. Your veterinarian may also decide to drain the abscess to help in the resolution of the infection. Drainage of the abscess may be carried-out under ultrasound guidance, though in some dogs, abdominal surgery may be required.


In addition, the veterinary surgeon may pass a small tube down to the infected area, leaving one end outside to help in continuous drainage of pus material. This tube can be removed once the drainage of the material stops and the infection is resolved.

During treatment, your veterinarian will monitor body temperature, liver enzymes, number of white blood cells (to see status of infection), and evaluate the liver with ultrasound.

Living and Management

Follow the guidelines given by your veterinarian. Call your veterinarian if you observe any untoward symptoms in your dog. You may need to check the temperature of your dog on daily basis and record it for your veterinarian to see the progress of treatment. Good diet management and rest are required for your dog during the recovery period. Timely diagnosis and treatment usually resolve the problem in most cases.

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