Diagnosing Copper Storage Disease in Dogs
Blood and urine tests will usually show signs of liver failure, especially if your dog has significant symptoms. Some blood tests may require fasting. X-rays and ultrasound may be taken to check for an enlarged liver as well as eliminate some other causes of liver failure. A definitive diagnosis of copper-associated hepatopathy is made with a biopsy of the liver. This is an invasive procedure that will not be possible with dogs experiencing symptoms of acute liver failure.
The veterinarian will want to know your dog’s breed and family history to help determine how likely it is that your dog has this condition. Your dog’s age could also be relevant. Past and present medications can help determine if drug poisoning or toxicity could have contributed to the liver failure, and the veterinarian may also want to know the dates of your dog’s last vaccinations to eliminate some infectious causes.
Treatment of Copper Storage Disease in Dogs
Acute liver failure will need to be treated supportively. Fluids and electrolytes will be given to help flush toxins out of the body. Blood transfusions may be necessary for dogs with high levels of red blood cell destruction and copper-induced anemia. Severe acute attacks can end up being fatal even with treatment.
Several medications are given to help reduce copper accumulation. Copper chelators bind to the copper in the liver so that it can be excreted in the urine. Over time, this can reduce high copper levels and reverse liver dysfunction. These medications do have significant side effects, however, and they must be taken over a period of 4-6 months to have an effect. Copper deficiency can also be a problem.
Zinc can reduce copper absorption in the intestine. This medication is sometimes used in milder cases. It should not be combined with chelators as the two medications can negate each other. Zinc can also have significant side effects in some dogs, and blood tests will be necessary to avoid toxic levels. The veterinarian may need to try several medications to see what works best for your dog. Vitamin E and other antioxidants are often given along with both medications to reduce liver damage.
A diet change may be prescribed in many cases. Some veterinarians may recommend dog food designed especially for dogs with liver disease. This type of food is lower in copper and protein. Others may recommend a homemade diet. Avoid feeding your dog any supplements that contain copper as well as organ meats that are high in protein and minerals. Small carbohydrate-based meals put less stress on the liver.