It’s hoped the test, based on insights from human patients, could help vets start treatment earlier and save the lives of many dogs.
Current diagnosis is based on biopsies, which are expensive and can lead to complications.
Vets based at the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies teamed up with medical doctors to look at blood levels of a molecule known as miR-122 in 250 dogs.
The molecule is found in high levels in people living with liver disease.
Dogs with liver disease were also found to have significantly higher levels of miR-122 compared with healthy dogs.
The team is to launch a testing kit to help vets worldwide following the study, published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
Lead vet researcher, Professor Richard Mellanby from The Hospital for Small Animals at Edinburgh University, said: “We have found a specific, sensitive and non-invasive way to detect liver damage in dogs. We hope that our test will greatly improve outcomes by allowing vets to make rapid and accurate diagnosis.”
Dr James Dear, reader at Edinburgh University’s Centre for Cardiovascular Science and NHS doctor, who co-led the study, said: “I am delighted that the blood test we developed to improve the diagnosis of liver disease in humans can be used to help dogs too.”