Copper-associated hepatitis of Labrador Retrievers

From Dog

Copper-associated chronic hepatitis is commonly associated with Chronic Hepatitis of Bedlington Terriers but has also been reported in the Labrador Retriever breed[1].

This form of hepatitis is caused by a defect in hepatic copper metabolism, which most likely originates from a genetic defect[2].

The clinical features are similar to those of chronic hepatitis dogs, with late-onset (8 - 9 years) weight loss, anorexia, polyuria, polydipsia, icterus and in advanced cases, hepatic encephalopathy and ascites.

Blood tests usually reflect hepatopathy, with elevated ALT, hyperbilirubinemia and hypoalbuminemia[3].

Liver biopsies usually reveal elevated copper levels (> 300 μg/g of dry weight)[4].

Pathological changes observed on histopathological analysis include centrilobular hepatitis characterized by macrophages with abundant intracytoplasmic copper and hemosiderin[5].

Long-term therapy with d-penicillamine is required to manage this disease and in dogs with prolonged prothrombin time and thrombocytopenia, survival rates are significantly diminished.

Diet may also be an important factor in therapy since it has been shown that high dietary copper and low dietary zinc levels are significantly associated with high hepatic copper levels in this breed[6] and feeding low copper diets is recommended[7].


  1. Fieten H et al (2013) d-penicillamine treatment of copper-associated hepatitis in Labrador retrievers. Vet J Jan 30
  2. Hoffmann G et al (2006) Copper-associated chronic hepatitis in Labrador Retrievers. J Vet Intern Med 20(4):856-861
  3. Shih JL et al (2007) Chronic hepatitis in Labrador Retrievers: clinical presentation and prognostic factors. J Vet Intern Med 21(1):33-39
  4. Johnston AN et al' (2013) Hepatic copper concentrations in Labrador Retrievers with and without chronic hepatitis: 72 cases (1980-2010). J Am Vet Med Assoc 242(3):372-380
  5. Smedley R et al (2009) Copper-associated hepatitis in Labrador Retrievers. Vet Pathol 46(3):484-490
  6. Fieten H et al (2012) Association of dietary copper and zinc levels with hepatic copper and zinc concentration in labrador retrievers. J Vet Intern Med 26(6):1274-12780
  7. Hoffmann G et al (2009) Dietary management of hepatic copper accumulation in Labrador Retrievers. J Vet Intern Med 23(5):957-963