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Copper Storage Disease in Dogs

Image of a dog looking sad and lethargic to illustrate an article about copper storage disease in dogs

Copper Storage Disease in dogs leads to significant liver concerns in our beloved animal companions. This condition, also referred to as Copper-Associated Hepatitis (CAH), involves the accumulation of the mineral in question within the liver cells, instigating oxidative damage and inflammation, which can potentially contribute to the development of several conditions. So, although CAH may be unfamiliar to many pet parents, it is a health concern that warrants our attention and understanding.

The well-being of your cherished furry family member hinges on understanding the potential causes, recognizing clinical manifestations, and appreciating the diagnostic and therapeutic approaches available to support their liver from conditions like Copper Storage Disease in dogs. By embarking on this journey, you are taking the first step towards ensuring your pet receives the exceptional care they deserve.

What Causes Copper Storage Disease in Dogs?

Our furry friends get trace amounts of copper through their diet and water. This mineral is absorbed in the intestines, transported to the bloodstream, stored in the liver, and released to other body tissues. In a healthy dog, the portion that is not absorbed is eliminated by the feces. In cases of dogs with Copper-Associated Hepatitis, the mineral gradually accumulates in the pet’s liver.

Science has yet to determine the root cause behind this copper accumulation in the liver in many cases. However, high copper intake from an imbalanced diet can contribute to this issue.

A lot of data also points to a possible genetic predisposition to copper storage disease in dogs of certain breeds. In these cases, the dogs have an inherent defect within their copper metabolism process.

Notably, age and gender are also potential contributors to a higher tendency of developing CAH, with a notable proclivity observed in female Labrador Retrievers and Dobermans, for example.

What are the Clinical Signs of CAH in Dogs?

Copper Storage Disease can cause different symptoms in pets. Affected dogs may exhibit a loss of appetite and persistent low energy. Gastrointestinal disturbances are also common, including symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and, in more severe instances, bloody stools. Physical indications of the disease can manifest as icterus (when you notice your little one turning a bit yellow) or abdominal swelling (ascites).

Moreover, increased water consumption (polydipsia) and more frequent urination (polyuria) may be observed in some cases. Neurological signs, indicated by alterations in gait and movement in your little one, can also become apparent.

What are the Diagnostic Tests for CAH?

The vet will likely request blood and urine tests at the first signs that something might be wrong with your dog. In the case of CAH, results usually show signs of liver issues. X-rays and ultrasounds may then be taken to check for visual alterations of the organ, like enlargement, and eliminate other possible underlying conditions. A conclusive diagnosis of Copper Storage Disease in dogs can only be made with a biopsy of the organ, a procedure that entails the extraction of a tiny liver tissue sample for microscopic examination.

Treatment Options for Copper Storage Disease

Photo of a Jack Russell Terrier dog looking up to the camera with a bowl of kibble on the floor to illustrate possible treatments for copper storage disease in dogs.

Treatment focuses on helping support the liver function and preventing complications that could affect their quality of life. Therapeutic options include:

  • Copper-chelating drugs.
  • Therapeutic copper-restricted diets life-long.
  • Liver cell protectors (e.g., S-Adenosylmethionine, Milk Thistle, and vitamin E).
  • Natural herbal supplements.