Elevated liver enzymes in dogs is a serious health problem and can be a sign of liver problems, damage and even cancer. On this page we have discussed the symptoms, causes, diagnosis and how this problem is treated.
What does the liver do?
The main function of the liver is to help with your dog’s digestive system and to also help to get rid of nasty toxins and waste material. Alongside these functions the liver also metabolizes Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat – all of these complex functions are undertaken via your dogs blood stream – in fact 20% of a dogs blood is goes via the liver.
The liver is also the first point of contact as a working organ that has the opportunity to benefit from the nutrients absorbed by the stomach and intestines. Alongside all of these function the canine liver also helps to regulate the dogs temperature.
Before a vet can undertake an accurate diagnosis and then treat elevated liver enzymes in dogs the vet will need to compare the individual blood levels i.e.
- Total Bilirubin
- Total Protein
- Gamma Glutamyl Transpeptidase
- Serum Glutamate Pyruvate Transaminase
- Alkaline Phosphatase
The vet will then compare how these compare with a dogs previous levels.
Why Proper Liver Function Is So Important
A dogs liver needs to be working properly so that it can perform all the tasks that we previously discussed i.e. getting rid of waste material, toxins and basically clean the dogs blood! The liver also can also store important vitamins including vitamins A, D, K and E. During all of these important functions the liver needs enzymes and if the liver is not functioning properly then the enzymes can become elevated which will lead to future health problems.
Also when liver cells start to die mainly as a consequence of an infection or problem with the blood supply enzymes specific to the liver will be secreted and released including ALT (Aspartate Anticonvulsants) or SGOT (Serum Gultamic Pyruvic Transaminase).
If a dogs serum levels do become elevated this can cause gastrointestinal tract problems, Hemolyctic Anemia and even heart failure. It is also not uncommon for a dog that is being treated with glucosteroids and anticonvulsants to exhibit raised Alanine Aminotransferase levels. When other liver enzymes including Asparate Aminotransferase and Serum Glutamic Oxaloacetic Transaminase which are found in the dogs muscle tissue and red blood cells become elevated a dog can get serious health problems more serious then ALT.
Sometimes if the bile duct has become blocked this be as a consequence of raised CGT levels or (Gamma Glutamyl Transpeptidase).
Causes of Elevated Liver Enzymes in Dogs
- Metabolic diseases (obesity) can cause raised liver enzymes in dogs due to fat deposits starting to become deposited on the liver.
- Diabetes is another cause of elevated liver enzymes in dogs.
- Thyroid problems can cause the problem.
- Jaundice is another cause of the condition – your dog will show symptoms with the whites of the eyes becoming discolored (yellow). Jaundice normally develops when the liver is not functioning properly and not getting rid of the waste material known as bilirubin.
- If the liver has come under attack from parasitic infections like Herpes the liver will then produce more enzymes to attack the herpetic infection.
- Some medication can cause elevated liver enzymes in dogs including corticosteroids – epilepsy medicine can also raise the liver enzymes.
- Cushings disease another cause of the condition – this is due to too many adrenal hormones being produced.
- Hypothyroidism cam also trigger elevated liver enzymes.
- If the bile duct has become blocked or your dog develops pancreatitis this can cause the illness.
- Heat attacks (congestive) and cancer can also cause elevated liver enzymes in dogs.
Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- The opposite reaction may also occur i.e. constipation.
- Lethargy and tiredness can also be symptoms of raised enzyme levels.
- Your dog might also start to lose its appetite and may also lose weight as a consequence.
- You may also notice when your dog poops the poop is grey as opposed to its normal brown color.
- Anemia may develop.
- Fluid may also start accumulate in the abdomen.
- Your pooch may appear depressed or out of sorts.
- Bleeding disorders can also occur.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Elevated Liver Enzymes in Dogs
The vet will start by looking at your dogs previous medical history as this may give an indication as to whether your dig is showing the same symptoms. The diagnosis of raised liver enzymes will normally be achieved through X-rays, blood tests, liver biopsy and urinalysis.
Treatment may depend on how ill your dog is and how badly affected the liver is. Treatment may include a better diet that is low in protein and low in sodium levels. To support the liver and improve its health the vet may prescribe a medication called Denosyl or antibiotics.
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