When To Euthanize A Dog With Liver Failure

Taking care of a dog with liver failure can be a roller coaster ride for many pet owners.

There are many ups and downs, good days and setbacks.

When your dog is having a good day you start to regret the feelings you had the day before, that it is time to put them down.

This can be a very challenging and emotional time for you, your dog, and your entire family.

In this article we will talk about liver failure in dogs, and try to help guide you on how to know when it may be the right time to consider euthanasia.

Signs And Symptoms Of Liver Failure

Dogs with liver failure can show any number of symptoms.

Some of the more common liver failure symptoms are:

  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased or absent appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Yellow discoloration to skin and/or the white of their eyes
  • Distended abdomen
When To Euthanize A Dog With Liver Failure

Sometimes dogs can slowly develop liver failure and not show any indication anything is wrong until it gets really bad.

That is why it is good to not ignore any subtle changes to your dog’s behavior, routine, and appetite.

If you are ever concerned something is just not quite right with your dog, always schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

Other times, such as if your dog ate something toxic, they can develop liver failure very quickly and become sick within a 24-hour time period.

Stages of Liver Failure

Early Stages

In the early stages of liver disease, when the liver is still able to function to a certain degree, your dog may just be more tired than usual or have a finicky appetite.

They also may have some nausea and vomiting.

Usually this is when there is on-going inflammation in their liver due to an underlying cause, which we will discuss in a bit.

If caught early enough, liver disease can be slowed down by starting your dog on special supplements and food.

Middle Stages

As liver disease progresses and your dog’s liver stops being able to do the things it normally does, you may notice more obvious things.

These include a yellow discoloration to your dog’s skin, the inner aspect of their ear flaps, or to the white of their eyes.

This discoloration is called “jaundice”.

You may also notice your dog’s abdomen becoming distended.

The liver makes a protein, called albumin, which helps to keep fluid within your dog’s blood vessels and organs.

When the liver stops being able to make albumin, your dog will leak fluid into the spaces surrounding their organs in their abdomen, causing them to look “pot-bellied”.

End-Stage Liver Failure

Once in end-stage liver failure, your dog may have significant depression and a change in mentality.

Other neurologic symptoms may include blindness, dizziness, seizures, disorientation, pacing, and aimless wandering.

This is called “hepatic encephalopathy”.

This occurs because a normal function of the liver is to rid the body of toxins and to metabolize proteins.

As the liver stops doing its job, toxins begin to build up in your dog’s body, causing these neurologic effects.

The liver also makes blood clotting factors when it is healthy. Once in end-stage liver failure, another risk to your dog is losing blood since they cannot make blood clots properly.

Causes Of Liver Failure In Dogs

There are many causes of liver disease and failure in dogs.

All ages of dogs can be affected and there are even some conditions that your dog may be genetically predisposed to or born with that causes liver failure.

Certain breeds are even more at risk.

Inherited Liver Disorders:

  • Copper Storage Disease
    • Labrador Retrievers are a breed predisposed to this
  • Portosystemic Shunts
    • Yorkshire Terriers are a breed predisposed to this
  • Congenital Biliary Cystic Malformations

Acquired Liver Disorders Can Be Caused By:

  • Bacterial and Viral infections
  • Parasitic Infections
  • Cancer
  • Trauma
  • Chronic Diseases, such as Cushing’s Disease & Diabetes
  • Gallstones
  • Ingestion of toxic substances

The inherited liver disorders usually start to cause problems early on in life.

This is especially true of dogs with a portosystemic shunt. They usually have stunted growth and will show neurologic signs even as puppies.

The acquired liver disorders usually do not show up or cause problems until a dog is middle-aged to older.

The exceptions to this are if they acquire an infection, have some sort of traumatic episode, such as getting hit by a car or suffering from heat stroke, or if they ingest something toxic.

Toxic Substances That Can Cause Liver Failure In Dogs

These substances need to be kept away from your dog at all cost.

Their toxic properties can lead to liver failure.

  • Xylitol (in sugar-free gum and other sugar-free foods)
  • Blue-Green Algae
  • Amanita Mushrooms
  • Aflatoxins
  • Sago Palm Plants
  • Overdosing certain medications
  • Some anti-inflammatory medications

Try to keep these substances away from your dog.

If your dog accidentally ingested too many pills of a medication they were prescribed, call your vet right away to see if it was one that could have harmful effects on their liver.

Also, if your dog ever accidentally gets into any of your own medications, always call your vet to see if it was one that could be toxic to your dog.

Diagnosing Liver Failure In Dogs

To diagnose liver failure, your dog will need to have comprehensive blood work performed.

This will involve checking what is called a Complete Blood Count and a Chemistry Profile.

It will also usually include checking a Bile Acids test. The Bile Acids test gives a good indication if your dog’s liver is able to metabolize proteins and get rid of toxins or not.

You dog may have already been diagnosed with elevated liver enzymes and now is the time to find out why.

Your vet may also want to schedule an abdominal ultrasound for your dog.

An ultrasound allows your vet to look inside your dog’s abdomen and liver.

This helps them get a better idea of what the underlying cause for liver disease could be such as cancer, infection, gall-bladder issue, or something else.

Treatment For Liver Failure

Unfortunately, once your dog’s liver has progressed to failure, there is not much that can be done.

Treating the symptoms with anti-nausea medications, anti-diarrheal medications, and pain medications is all you can do.

If an underlying cause is identified, treatment can also be aimed at that.

This may include antibiotics or anti-parasitics for an infection or surgery to remove a tumor or to fix a portosystemic shunt.

Special Food

There are special prescription foods available for dogs with liver disease and liver failure.

These foods are formulated to help prevent the occurrence of neurologic signs in your dog and are easily digestible.

These can greatly help your dog’s quality of life, assuming your dog will not be too picky and will eat the food.


There are supplements for everything these days. However, supplements for liver disease are definitely worth starting your dog on to help slow down the progression of liver ailments.

SAMe (s-adenosylmethionine) and Silybin are two great supplements for liver disease in dogs.

These supplements help to reduce oxidative damage to your dog’s liver cells, which is a side effect of all of the inflammation that is causing stress on their liver.

Life Expectancy Once A Dog Develops Liver Failure

A dog with liver disease has a life expectancy of a few months to years left to live.

The life expectancy ultimately depends on the cause of the liver failure, how far progressed it is once diagnosed, and the available treatments for your individual dog.

This can vary substantially based on the above information.

If it is caught early, some dogs can live for many months to a few years.

However, if it has already progressed by the time of diagnosis, your dog may only have a few weeks to months of decent quality of life left.

For instance, certain types of cancers can slowly take over until there is not much that can be done for them except keeping your dog as comfortable as possible and treating the symptoms your dog may have.

When To Consider Euthanasia

Deciding when is the “right time” to euthanize a dog can be an agonizing process.

Liver disease is an especially difficult case because your dog can still have really good days, but also very bad days.

You never know which one you will wake up to.

If you feel comfortable and are able, talk with as many people as you can.

Family, friends, your veterinarian and their office staff can help you cope with this decision.

Other people may have gone through the same situation and can be great resources for helping you cope. Talk things through, and get an idea for what to expect and what helped them make their decision.

Pay attention to your dog, are they having more bad days than good?

Are they able to get up and walk around, doing some of the things they used to enjoy?

Are they able to hold their bladder and bowel movements until they get outside or are they starting to have a lot of accidents in the house? Do you still see a light in their eyes?

There is no clear cut answer on this decision and it will be different for every dog.

Keep giving them as much love and care as you can. Talk with your veterinarian about your concerns, and try to gauge your pet’s comfort and pain levels daily.

Also See: When To Euthanize A Cat With Liver Failure

There are 36 comments:

  • Tiara at 6:15 am

    My 11 year old male chihuahua has recently been diagnosed with liver failure. 3 months ago blood test results showed he was low in red blood cells. Within that time, we noticed he was losing weight (but looked pot bellied) I also noticed he was eating a lot of soil from the gardens. We took him to the vet where he had lots of tests done. Severely anemic, enlarged organs and liver tumour. They also found rocks in his stomach (possibly from eating soil) They operated to see if the rocks could be removed when the liver was discovered to be in very bad shape. The vet decided not to do anything in the operation in case it caused an internal bleed. My dog was then put on a 12 hour blood transfusion and we brought him home the next day. 6 days on and he isn’t looking any better. He has his good moments where he can walk a little bit outside for the toilet but most of the time he won’t move. He is slowly losing his appetite and becoming less mobile. Whether it’s the medication or not, he is also very disorientated and unbalanced on his feet. When I place him on the grass to go to the toilet, he stands stiff in one spot and makes no attempt to walk. This article has helped me process everything that has happened to him this week and prepare me for the worst. We know he won’t get better…..but I didn’t expect after 6 days a rapid decline. He is going to the vet tomorrow for a post surgery checkup, I’m expecting the worst 🙁

  • Sandra Seale at 7:23 pm

    Thank you for all the stories of your beloved pets. Our golden retriever is about 11 yrs. old and has been diagnosed with liver disease for about a year. She is on Denamarin, Metronidazole, Tramadol for pain, fish oil and glucosamine. She has lost most of her energy and just sleeps most of the day. She also have sever arthritis in her back leg so has a very hard time getting up now. But she is still so lovable and wants to greet anyone visiting. Today at the vet her ALKP was 1887, doubled from what it was three months ago. We have decided against having an ultrasound at this time because of her leg issue which is only getting worse and her age. She still likes to eat and manages to go outside when necessary. We will make a decision to say goodbye when we see she cannot continue on with a decent life and we know that is not too far off sadly.

  • Anita at 7:21 pm

    I can’t thank you enough for this article. I was feeling such terrible guilt for euthanizing my 7-year-old beagle mix. He was literally fine on Wednesday: eating, walking, playing, etc. to complete lethargy, vomiting, disorientation on Thursday. I had to take him to an emergency vet hospital in the middle of the night. The vet said Charlie needed at least three days of hospitalization, testing and meds and even then, he didn’t think he had a strong chance of making it. I made the utterly devastating decision to let him go. It completely crushed me, but your article really helped me realize how quickly this can come and through no fault of my own. I really miss Charlie because the void came so suddenly but I now believe I did the right thing by preventing his suffering. Thank you for writing it and for being so clear and forthright with the information.

    • Pam at 11:05 pm

      This is the exact story for my Riley. We decided to let him go today due to liver failure and it happened so quickly. He stopped eating yesterday and vomited last night. Became lethargic this morning and was put to sleep by the evening. He couldn’t even hold up his head. Thanks for this article. I know we did the right thing for Riley.

  • D&P at 8:47 am

    Thank you for this article, and thank you readers who have left comments about your fur-babies. It’s both sad and also comforting to read about other pet parents who are or have managed pet care with liver disease, and the love they have for their dogs. Our 15 year old Springer Spaniel, Bonnie, was recently diagnosed with liver disease after rapidly losing 25% of her body weight in very short span of time. She’s now on a special diet and medication, and her good days are still puppy-good, just a lot slower than she used to be :). We understand from our vet there’s not a cure for her in her stage of disease so we’re keeping a close eye on her quality of life, and that spark in her eye. She is a sweet girl and we love her very much.

  • Dakota M. at 4:04 pm

    My dog aspen was diagnosed with liver disease 2 years ago. She was put on denamarin and other supplements to help with her enjoyment of life. 2 months ago things took a turn for the worse, she is just not our Aspen girl anymore and though she still can get excited for walks, she isnt eating, playing, licking, or being her rambunctious self. I am absolutely devastated because she is only 4 years old and is my best friend. I am making the decision to put her down instead of letting it progress further. I am so sorry for anyone else who is going through this. I am absolutely devastated and will miss my baby so so much, but I do not want to selfishly keep her here and watch her suffer if I know what is to come. Thank you for all of your kind messages and taking the time to share your experiences. They are really helping me get through this horrific time.

    • Judy Mansfield at 1:07 pm

      We are facing the same decision now. Our boy is only 5 years old and was diagnosed with chronic active hepatitis with stage 3 fibrosis 4 months ago. He has dental surgery on two months before (cracked tooth)and his liver values were normal. This diagnosis has devastated us. We keep trying to think about why this was not discovered before now. What did we miss? Did we do or not do something that caused this to happen? Kodi is never left alone, not even for short periods – in in the back yard. We are retired and keep him with us always. Kodi is seen regularly at the vet and we take him in when there is the slightest change in his behavior. Everything, in terms of labs, has been normal until now. I just don’t understand why. He has been on 8 medications, including high doses of prednisone which have now caused thinning of his skin (creating lesions) and muscle laxity in addition to profound hunger and thirst. While most he has more good days than bad, and seems happy and is still playful, loves his walks, is eating well and has no gastric issues, we have gotten to the point that the cure is becoming worse than the disease. Discovering the lesions this week was like a punch in the gut. My poor baby. How much does he have to endure? In spite of everything we have done, his liver values remain high. He is the light of our lives and I can’t imagine what life will be without him. Yet, we love him so very much and do not want to see him suffer just to keep him with us. Right now, I am keeping a calendar, marking good days and bad days. When the bad days begin to outweigh the good, we will say good-bye to our beloved companion. And my heart breaks a little more each day.

    • M. Napier at 9:56 am

      So sorry. My baby is just starting to show signs
      We are devastated.

    • Jen miller at 9:43 am

      Hi, I’m in the UK, my 14 year old dog was diagnosed 2 weeks ago with a liver tumour. Having had her since she was 10 weeks old, and she’s been in a bad treatment and we had to reassure she was loved. I love her so much and since my husband died 8 years ago she’s been my rock. I don’t want her to suffer any pain or discomfort but it will break my heart. I’m so sorry for your loss too.

  • Machell Denson at 9:22 pm

    Thank you all for the loving, caring and encouraging words! Our family dog Cupcake was put to sleep this afternoon due to liver and kidney failure, after giving us so much love for 17 years. She was truly a part of our family, I’ll remember the great times, especially the way she would roll over and stick up her legs for me to rub her tummy! The many comments have helped tremendously, knowing that I’m not alone and it’s so very hard to lose a pet, but again, Cupcake was more than a pet, I’ll miss her!

    • Kim at 1:23 pm

      I am faced with having to put my sweet dog Chloe down. She’s 14 1/2 years and is suddenly failing quickly with what I believe is liver and/or kidney failure. We see vet in the morning. Much vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy. I’m not ready for this, but do not want to see her suffer. Such a difficult decision for sure.

  • Kelly at 1:37 pm

    Our 3 year old Springer Spaniel started having seizures in April. They became more frequent. Our vet put him on K-Brovet and phenobarbital. Sadly, the side effects of the medication made him constantly ravenous. He started eating almost anything…including cat poop, tissues, paper towels. Last week he apparently ate a bunch of figs that have ripened and fallen from the tree. He became sicker and sicker and wouldn’t eat, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy. We got him to the vet, but significant liver damage had already set in. I am mostly writing to thank you for this informative article because we are facing crossing him over – probably next week. He has suffered enough. Prognosis bad. 😭

  • Victoria at 2:12 am

    My poor baby was diagnosed with liver disease 6 1/2 years ago. He’s on Denamarin, Ursodiol, Prednisone, Thyroid tablets, milk thistle seed powder, 14 mushroom blend powder, golden paste, along with a raw and canned food mixed diet. He had surgery beginning of July for an abscess in his mouth, the carnassial tooth was removed. He’s acted like a puppy ever since. Now for the last two weeks he will vomit small amounts of bile, tonight was a big load. I think the time is getting closer, but the hard part is he loves to eat, obviously he’s tired and sleeps a lot, he is 11 years old. He has a growth on his stomach, it’s a little bigger than my thumb nail now, very slow growing, but that might have something to do with what is now going on. The biggest gift is to have any of my four legged babies pain free. The kindest thing to do is also the hardest thing to do as well. He’s just like a baby, with the acting like a puppy, so I know I have to be the one to make the difficult decision. My other baby has Cushing’s disease too, and that was diagnosed last year.

    • Leslie at 10:31 am

      Hi Victoria, thank you for sharing your story as I am sure others who are reading this will take comfort in your wisdom. What I loved about what you said was “The kindest thing to do is also the hardest thing to do as well”. Knowing when is very difficult because we don’t want them to suffer but can’t bear the thought of losing them.

  • Susan Snead at 11:57 pm

    We just found out our sweet Folly is in Liver failure. She had been at the vet a month ago and given a clean bill of health. She is a Chesapeake Bay Retriever and normally very active. I noticed her being tired lethargic and also her belly big. My husband took her to Virginia Tech and the vet hospital there said not much more could be done. They don’t exactly know what caused it and we decided not to put her through a biopsy of her liver. They have put her on many medicines and a special diet and we are just going to love her until we decide she may be suffering. Our hearts are breaking and we don’t know exactly. There were no cancer cells in her blood and she has been taken very good care of. I did just read for the first time in this article it could have been triggered by a heat stroke. She did almost have one about two years ago. She can go in and out of the basement and my husband was cutting the grass in about 100 degree weather and she stood out in the yard for an hour barking while he was cutting. Something she still does. He went in for water looked out the window and saw her having a seizure from heat. The other mention was copper disease. It doesn’t matter at this point because we are just going to surround her with love.

    • Leslie at 2:37 pm

      Hi Susan, so sorry to hear this! Please whatever you do, do not blame yourself or your husband. Liver failure in our dogs can popup without any warning or any doing on our part. The most important thing to do now is what you have said. Surround her with love and care and watch to make sure she does not suffer.

    • Susan Snead at 9:45 pm

      Aww. Thank you so much for that response. My mother was also looking at the same site and noticed your response to my comment. It’s so hard when we know she is so sick but still wagging her tail taking long walks and loving all of us. I am just praying we will know. They say a lady knows when it’s time to leave and Folly is truly a lady. 💕

  • Cathi at 3:43 pm

    Hi. My Italian greyhound is 15, will be 16 Christmas Eve. He threw up 14 times the other night. It came on sudden, was playing ball and barking till last week. He’s on Cerenia, denamarin, metronidazole. Didn’t have ultrasound yet? Will that diagnose degree of damage? He’s just been sleeping all day. He’s shaking and is weak. His teeth have been atrocious for years, but my vet said it’s common with greyhounds. His teeth are really bad and he lost a lot. He’s gotten better before with metronidazole for his teeth, they gave me an estimate of ultrasound. Just praying and seeing that maybe the meds would help clear up. Know bilirubin and alt/ast really elevated. Requesting a copy of bloodwork.

    • Leslie at 2:40 pm

      Hi Cathy, will be interesting to know what your vet says about your greyhound. The ultrasound shouldn’t be too expensive but should also provide you with some more answers.

  • Julia at 3:35 pm

    We have made that hard decision to put my 10 yr old Black and Tan coonhound down. It was also found this week that she has an enlarged heart and kidney disease. This article helped as I know it’s the right thing to do, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Thank you.

    • A. Crawford at 12:11 am

      I’ve got a 6year old Black and Tan coonhound also. Just found out this afternoon she is experiencing liver failure. Not looking good. I don’t want to put her down but I don’t want her to suffer either. I’m heartbroken

  • deb rawson at 10:43 pm

    Very informative article, thank-you. Our 12yr old Irish terrier has just been diagnosed with liver failure, has only shown signs of illness in past 2-3 weeks. We have her home and keeping her comfortable until she tells me she has had enough. Thank goodness for euthanasia, at least we don’t have to prolong the inevitable. Going to miss my beautiful girl so will be making the most of the next few days 😪

  • Stan B at 12:15 pm

    So our Jack Russel presented with a mass in her abdomen – on the right side. She is now almost 12 years old and we first noticed this about one year ago.

    We have not been able to determine exactly what caused her, but our suspicion is that it could be from her catching (lots – sometimes several per day) of toads in our yard (getting frothy at the mouth, every time) and this taxing the liver. Alternatively, it could be from a serious bout of billary she contracted when a tick was missed under her front “arm.” We took her to the vet, they examined her but missed it and it tool us almost a month (with her being ill) until we eventually found it and could take her in for the tick to be removed. This was a white tick, so it was very hard to see.

    Her initial symptoms included nothing more than a physical lump you could only feel at first. After several months, it became visible and over the remaining 6-9 months it became very obvious. Shortly after the billary episode her liver function was checked and the figures were high – but it was expected.

    A later liver test revealed that her “numbers” were better, but she started presenting with a “pot belly” by then (a classic EARLY liver failure symptom).

    Right up until today (October 19, 2020), she still has the very visible mass, “poking” out of her abdomen and the “pot belly.” We took her back to the vet today and her enzyme tests revealed that her reading are “off the charts!” This confirms that her “mass” which is now occupying almost her entire abdomen, is affecting or attached to her liver – so there is little that can be done, anymore.

    To this, however, there are no obvious (scary) symptoms yet. Her energy levels are actually good, she eats regularly, drinks water and still plays, barks, runs and begs for treats. Her skin is fine, there is no hair loss, her bladder and bowels move reasonably and there is no jaundice, seizures, neurological effects or anything specifically threatening.

    She has started to become “attached” over the last two days, though, and this prompted us to take her to the vet, to ensure that this is a reaction to us having been away (leaving her in a neighbors care) for three days. She has also started coming to our bed and “staring at us” and then leading us around the house to the kitchen, when we follow to see what she wants.

    Other than this, we have had her on an occasional mild pain tablet for days that she presented with some shivering, cowering and hiding (probably cramps, the vet says), on Probiotics and occasionally on a laxative. We have started with a highly administration of some THC oil, but an extremely small dose. We have taken her off all dry pellet-foods and eliminated all oily and fatty foods. We are only feeding her chicken and rice now and it seems to have reduced the number of “shivery” days.

    If it wasn’t for the visible mass and for the very minor symptoms, we would not even have known that she was facing liver failure problems.

    I am not asking for advice (unless there is something specific), but I am hoping that my shared story will cast some light on the experience of others, with their dogs.

  • Gil Talkington at 3:24 pm

    Good article. My advice is take any necessary action quickly. We took our sweet beautiful 5 year old white boxer (also deaf) for an appointment last Wednesday for a routine CBC (blood work). After her liver values were so high, well over 2,000, x-rays were done, then an ultrasound was done on Friday. We then got the worst news possible. She had a mass on or near her liver, which was also spreading to her gall bladder and kidneys. She had lost 17 pounds in 4 months and 12 pounds in the last 7 weeks. Because she had basically stopped eating, the vet was not optimistic anything could be done. We had to put her down the next day on Saturday. We are in complete shock and devastated. In addition, we lost our 2 older brindle boxers (siblings) last May and last November due to different health issues. Yes, it’s been a very rough last 10 months. In fact, this is the first time in over 35 years we have not had one or more dogs in our home. If you see any signs of liver disease, losing weight, lack of eating, or jaundice, please don’t wait to go to your Vet.

    • Leslie at 1:13 pm

      Hi Gil, so sorry to hear about the loss of your beloved dogs. You are right about not waiting to see your vet at first signs of any health problems.

  • Linda Edmonds at 7:09 pm

    My dog Molly, is a mix rat terror & Jack Russell and has been diagnosed with liver failure. She had pancreatic in hospital 1st of August one month ago. She recovered, had a good recovery. Now she is diagnosed with liver failure. She is doing great. Still eats great, takes walks & chase squirrels. You wouldn’t know she is sick. She is on denamarin meds and also is on thyroid med. She eats royal canine heptatic food. I know one day she will start having bad days, but I’m going to let her enjoy her quality of life. She is a great dog. Instead of not eating she wants to eat more, but she is dieting. We love our Molly Dog. She is so loved by everyone. Thanks for letting us know what to except down the road.

    • Leslie at 1:18 pm

      Hi Linda, thanks for sharing your story! You are doing well and letting your dog enjoy life as much as possible. The hardest part of this journey is knowing when to put them down so they do not suffer. I’m glad you read our article and now know what to expect down the road. That’s one of the main reasons why we do what we do. Helping people know what to expect because each dog will have different experiences and quality of life with liver failure.

  • K. Youngblood at 10:02 pm

    I was told my baby was diagnosed with a tumor that has consumed her liver which is inoperable. Many of the same symptoms in the article I’m also seeing. Its really hard to tell when she’s ready to let go. This has helped me start to prepare myself.

    • Leslie at 1:23 pm

      Hi, one of the hardest things you can do is make that decision to put your baby down. I believe only you will know when they are suffering. Just watch for those signs of suffering (not eating, not drinking, in pain, sleeping all of the time, sudden change in behavior). Enjoy them as much as possible, take pictures, go for walks, do what they love more now than ever!

    • Sarah Szmuller at 3:46 am

      Thank you so much for your helpful article and the thorough explanations. It was something I needed to read as I try to understand and become more educated about liver disease in dogs.

      My almost 14 year old dog (an 18 lb terrier mix – very much like a Dandy Dinmont Terrier) refused to eat and drink on Thursday, and that was accompanied by bouts of vomiting and nausea and suddenly Thursday night, his urine turned orange-like in color.

      We saw the Vet on Friday for an exam, and when the labs came back, his ALT was 3440. Due to his age, I did not pursue further diagnostics such as x-ray or CT scan. I had tremendous difficulty processing what I was being told – that he has End Stage Liver Disease – he is terminal. Just Wednesday he was jumping around like a puppy and doing his circle happy dance if there was a food item that he felt belonged to him. True, he has been sleeping more than in the past, but I figured, he is an old man. It seemed to me that this change was so sudden – like a light switch on/off.

      My dog is a rescue, but the truth is, he really rescued me and my family. I had to euthanize a loving dog once before, and 13 years later, still feeling the guilt. I really do not want to be responsible for taking another life by euthanasia, but I do not want him to suffer either. I will not let him suffer but I do worry about the right to euthanize (I mean the ethical and moral right) and the right time to euthanize. Thank you again.

    • Leslie at 2:45 pm

      Hi Sarah, thank you for the kind words and glad that this article could give you some help. Regarding euthanasia, that is a difficult subject as you have mentioned. Some people will let nature take its course and their dog will suffer while others will put them down before things get too bad. Seeing both of these ends, the suffering part is probably the hardest to see. I trust you will make the right decision for you and your beloved dog.

    • Deborah Zwicke at 12:33 pm

      Your pup will let you know when they look at you 1 day and you see it in their eyes. Most all my dogs have given me a sign when it is time.

  • Tressa Powell at 9:43 pm

    I have worried over the right time to euthanize. This article was extremely helpful and the practical information brought me much needed peace about my decision. My pup is only eating a tiny piece of bread a day and is getting more and more yellow. I’m sure it is time. Thank you for sharing your kind wisdom.

  • Daryn at 10:34 pm

    I just found out today that my 6yr old Great Dane, Garbo, has liver failure. It happened so suddenly and now I feel like there’s not much time left. She’s jaundiced and her belly is distended. I noticed tonight on our walk that her legs are beginning to swell. I can’t believe this is happening. We just lost her older sister, Harlow, in January. She’s been depressed and having seizures ever since.

    I’ll know more once the ultrasound is done but it’s two weeks away. I’m scared spitless. This article has at least given me an idea as to what I’m looking at as far as a timeline with regards to the progression of the disease. I wish they could live forever, or at least as long as we do. It breaks my heart to know that my baby girl may be with her sister sooner rather than later.

    Thank you for the information.
    Daryn & Garbo

    • Stacia at 3:23 pm

      Hi Daryn, so sorry to hear about your Great Dane’s liver failure. Now is definitely the time to get as much time as you can with Garbo. Get pictures! I’m also glad our article can help you through this process and to know what to expect.

    • Carla Scott at 8:14 pm

      My Pit/Great Dane Mix is in the end stage of liver failure. It was sudden and developed quickly. It started with vomiting, and he’s lost over 20 lbs. in a matter of 3 weeks, he gone from happy go lucky to lying around. I’ve had so many tests run on him, all kind of ultrasounds, bloodwork, diagnostic testing…just to find out I’m going to lose my baby. I’ve had him since he was 6wks and he will be 8 in December. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much.

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