Copper-associated hepatitis is a chronic inflammation of the liver caused by the accumulation of copper in liver cells. While the exact mechanism of the disease is unknown, it seems to be caused by an inability to excrete or remove copper from liver cells. Copper is highly destructive once significant concentrations develop within the liver cells. The disease is not caused by abnormal amounts of copper in the diet.
The disease is inherited, and most cases have occurred in Bedlington Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, and West Highland White Terriers. Although the disease may be chronic, mild, and slowly progressive in some dogs, in others the condition is rapidly fatal. Affected dogs should not be used for breeding purposes.
Treatment is necessary throughout the dog’s life, and the prognosis is always guarded.
Important Points in Treatment
1. Various laboratory tests and biopsy of the liver are usually necessary to determine the degree of illness and to monitor treatment.