Diabetes (Hepatopathy) in Dogs

3 min read

Diabetic Hepatopathy in Dogs

Diabetic hepatopathy is a disease of the liver which causes lesions to develop on the liver. It is associated with diabetes mellitus, and for unknown reasons, this type of liver disease is also associated with lesions on the skin. One of the possibilities may be a link to metabolic system and a change in the organ systems.

This is a relatively uncommon disease and there is no breed that is more disposed than others, but it does tend to affect predominantly male dogs that are middle-aged to older.

Symptoms and Types

  • Sudden onset
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Frequent urination and drinking
  • Yellowish skin and/or yellow whites of eyes
  • No appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Sometimes lameness
  • May be few signs
  • No energy, poor body condition, painful feet and elbows making it difficult for your dog to stand and lie down
  • Skin abnormalities


  • A deficiency of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) helps play a role in your pet’s skin disease
  • Zinc deficiency
  • Fatty acid deficiency
  • Niacin deficiency
  • Possibly too much glucagon secreted by the pancreas (a hormone causing break-down of stored energy in the liver)
  • High blood sugar — insulin resistance
  • Swallowing of anticonvulsant drugs
  • Swallowing fungal toxins


You will need to give a thorough history of your dog's health and onset of symptoms. Standard tests will include a chemical blood profile, complete blood count, urinalysis and electrolyte panel. A skin biopsy will be taken for laboratory analysis.

Using the results from the bloodwork, your veterinarian will be able to determine how advanced the disease is. The complete blood count (CBC) may show a mild regenerative anemia, and the biochemistry profile may show high liver enzymes and low amino acids.

If the liver is severely compromised, characteristic crystals will be seen in the urine (crystalluria). Abdominal X-rays can be used to look for enlargement of the liver, and in some cases, may show effusion (an escape of fluid from the organ). An abdominal ultrasound is ideal for visualizing the liver in more detail and for searching for a possible pancreatic mass. Ultrasound may show nodular lesions, a swiss cheese appearance, or an uneven shape along the edge of the liver. Your doctor may decide to take a liver biopsy, but this procedure may further complicate the diagnosis or condition, as affected dogs do not heal well from the procedure.

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