Liver problems in the dog
Liver problems occur regularly in dogs. The question is, however, when you speak of a problem. We speak of a liver problem if the liver can perform its functions reduced. For this a very large part of the liver must have been destroyed.
The liver has a huge capacity for recovery. You can surgically remove 70% of the liver in dogs, after which the liver grows more or less completely back.
Below we have listed the most important information pages about liver problems in the dog. Since this is a very large subject, it is almost impossible to treat all information about liver problems in the dog. We will limit ourselves to the most important issues.
What is the function of the liver in the dog?
The liver is also called the factory of the body. The tasks of the liver are very extensive. Below are the most important ones:
Role in sugar metabolism
Converting sugars, storing sugars, processing hormones such as insulin, glucagon and growth hormone.
Role in fat metabolism
The liver is essential in the processing and production of all essential fats
Role in protein metabolism
The production of almost all amino acids, coagulation proteins, albumin, etc.
Role in the vitamin metabolism
Activate and store vitamins
The liver is an important defense organ
Processing of hormones
Processing waste and toxins such as medication
In short, the liver has a very extensive range of tasks and is therefore very essential for the normal functioning of the animal.
What can cause liver problems in dogs?
There are many different causes of liver problems. The most important ones are discussed below as well as their treatment. The treatment differs depending on the cause.
Acute liver inflammation (hepatitis)
This condition occurs rarely in dogs. There are various possible causes such as viral infections, poisonings and infections with bacteria such as leptospirosis or sepsis (blood poisoning).
In acute hepatitis, the liver is acutely inflamed and blood levels have almost always increased (ALT, ALKP, AST, GGT). Depending on the severity, massive cell death may occur. The dogs can be very critically ill and mortality is no exception. If the acute phase is survived, full recovery can occur. The treatment consists of tender loving care. The animals must be admitted for intensive care.
Chronic liver inflammation (hepatitis)
This can result from acute hepatitis (about 30% of acute liver inflammations degenerate in a chronic form), viral infections (canine adenovirus type 2) or chronic venom intake (fungi). Copper accumulation can also be the cause (Bedlington Terrier, Labrador, Doberman, all Spaniels, West Highland White Terrier, Skye Terrier and Dalmatian). Initially, animals with chronic liver inflammation are not ill until a large part of the liver is destroyed. therefore it is very important to check whether an acute liver inflammation is completely cured (by means of liver biopsies about 6 weeks after the acute liver inflammation). The treatment consists of long-term prednisone administration and control biopsies of the liver.
These occur regularly with the dog. The most common tumor in the liver is malignant lymphoma, a form of leukemia and a tumor starting from the immune cells of the body, the lymphocytes. Sometimes large tumors come from the liver (low-grade malignant carcinoma). These carry a good prognosis and often heal after surgery. Also metastases of tumors elsewhere in the body we see regularly in the liver.
Some diseases elsewhere in the body can also lead to increased liver enzymes (ALT, ALKP, AST). Usually, however, no liver failure occurs. Examples are Cushing’s disease (dog), thyroid problems (cat), medication use (prednisone, phenobarbital), intestinal complaints, etc. Treatment is sometimes not necessary or consists of removing the underlying cause.
What are the symptoms of a dog with liver problems?
The symptoms of liver problems are often vague and not specific. Other illnesses can give a similar image. Symptoms only occur when a large part of the liver stops working. The clinical symptoms can be:
Drink and pee a lot
Poor appetite, vomiting and losing weight
Jaundice. This is due to an increased content of bilirubin that is excreted by the liver.
Moisture in the abdominal cavity (ascites). This is due to a low albumin content.
Increased bleeding tendency. This is because the liver also produces clotting proteins.
Deviating stools. The liver plays an important role in fat digestion.