Copper associated chronic hepatitis is a progressive inflammatory disease of the liver which is caused or worsened by high levels of copper in the liver and bloodstream. The condition affects middle-aged to older dogs and Dalmatian are at higher risk than other breeds of developing the disease. Chronic hepatitis is characterized by inflammation, scarring and destruction of the cells and tissue of the liver, which can result in loss of liver function and, if left untreated, liver failure. It is currently not known why the Dalmatian is predisposed to develop the condition, but a genetic defect in copper metabolism in this breed is likely. Early diagnosis of chronic hepatitis is difficult because the clinical signs are non-specific and include weight loss, weakness, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Signs of later stages of the condition include abdominal swelling and jaundice, and confusion/altered consciousness may occur when increased copper levels affect brain function.
David C. Twedt, DVM, presented a seminar about the copper storage disorder in Dalmatians at the DCA National in May 2018. His slide deck is available as a PDF download or you may choose to view Hepatic Copper Storage Disorder in the Dalmatian on our YouTube channel by following this link.