Hepatitis related to high levels of copper occurs in Doberman Pinschers, Bedlington Terriers, West Highland Terriers, and Skye Terriers.
In Bedlington and Westies, there is an inherited defect in copper metabolism that enables toxic concentrations of copper to accumulate in the liver.
In Dobermans, copper concentrations are increased in most but not all affected dogs. It is unclear in the Doberman and Skye Terrier whether high copper levels are the cause of the hepatitis or the result. Copper can accumulate in the liver as a consequence of hepatitis alone. As a rule, the higher the copper concentration, the more likely it is that copper is the cause.
Genetic testing for copper toxicosis in Bedlington Terriers and for Doberman Pinschers is available through VetGen.
Treatment varies with the affected breed. Medications can be given to move copper out of the liver into the circulation where it can be excreted in the urine. The absorption of copper can be decreased by giving oral zinc products that bind copper in the gut.
Dogs with inherited defects in copper metabolism should not be bred.
Please contact your veterinarian for more information regarding this condition.
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