Liver transplants in dogs are fairly uncommon due to ethical considerations and logistics. However, there are some veterinarians who are experimenting with partial liver transplants rather than whole liver transplants in canines.
Causes of Canine Liver Disease
Liver disease in dogs can be caused by hepatitis, acute injury, anemia, pancreatitis, bacteria, viruses and fungi. Parasites, such as heart worms, can also cause problems with blood flow to the liver, thus leading to liver disease in dogs.
Canine liver transplants pose specific ethical concerns because the donor does not have an extra organ to spare--as in a kidney transplant, for instance. As a result, the donor animal in a whole liver transplant would be unable to live, causing an ethical dilemma.
Most veterinarians do not have the facilities available to keep potential canine liver donors alive in order to harvest the organ.
Partial Liver Transplants
The best option for a dog liver transplant is a partial transplant of the liver, thus allowing for a live donor to keep part of the liver. Currently, veterinary surgeons are experimenting with the procedure and expect results to be similar to those in human partial-liver transplants.
The prognosis for a dog liver transplant is not good, because it is extremely rare and costly. In fact, a dog receiving a transplant is an exceptional event, with most eventually succumbing to liver disease.