• Open Access

Dietary Management of Hepatic Copper Accumulation in Labrador Retrievers


Corresponding author: Gaby Hoffmann Dr med. vet., DACVIM, DECVIM-CA, Department of Clinical Sciences of Companion Animals, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Yalelaan 108, P.O. box 80.154, 3508 TD Utrecht, The Netherlands; e-mail: g.hoffmann@uu.nl.


Background: Copper-associated chronic hepatitis (CACH) recently has been recognized in the Labrador Retriever as an inherited disorder with a late onset of clinical signs. No studies have investigated dietary management for the long-term treatment of this disease or for its potential in delaying the onset of clinical signs in subclinical cases.

Objectives: To investigate the effects of a low-copper diet and zinc gluconate on hepatic copper concentrations in Labrador Retrievers with abnormal hepatic copper concentrations.

Animals: Twenty-four client-owned Labradors that were related to patients affected with CACH and that had been diagnosed with increased hepatic copper concentrations.

Methods: Hepatic copper concentrations were assessed before and after an average of 8 and 16 months of treatment. During this time, all dogs were fed exclusively a low-copper diet. In addition, dogs were assigned to 1 of 2 groups in a randomized double-blind manner to receive a supplement of zinc gluconate or placebo.

Results: Twenty-one dogs completed the study. Hepatic copper concentrations decreased in both groups at recheck 1 (n = 21; group 1, P < .001; group 2, P= .001) and at recheck 2 (n= 16; group 1, P= .03; group 2, P= .04). No difference in hepatic copper concentrations was found between the 2 groups before treatment (P= .65), at recheck 1 or at recheck 2 (P= .52–.79).

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance: Feeding low-copper diets to Labradors is effective in decreasing hepatic copper concentrations. Adjunctive treatment with zinc does not appear to increase the copper-lowering effects of dietary management.