Handling Hepatic Harm: An Owner’s Guide to Pet Liver Problems
The liver may not be the most glamorous internal organ, but as far as function goes, it is the workhorse of the body. Having a happy liver is vital to good health. Unfortunately, liver issues are not uncommon to find in our pet patients. Animal Family Veterinary Care Center wants all of our pet parents to understand why the liver is so important and what to expect when we find pet liver problems.
The Lovely Liver
As internal organs go, the liver is a large one. Residing in the abdomen, it filters all of the blood circulating throughout the body. It has many important functions, including:
- Filtering and detoxifying the blood
- Storing vitamins and minerals
- Regulating blood sugar
- Ensuring proper blood clotting
- Manufacturing essential proteins
- Housing the biliary system
A properly functioning liver keeps the body in good shape. When things go wrong, hepatic havoc can have a dangerous effect on your pets.
Trouble in Paradise
Liver dysfunction can be very mild or very severe. Many times we may not realize that the liver is having a problem until we stumble upon it when we run blood tests. This is why routine wellness screening is so important. It is much better for us to find trouble before it becomes serious than waiting until after your pet is showing symptoms, such as decreased appetite, weight loss, increased thirst, digestive problems, jaundice, behavior changes, abdominal fluid, blood clotting trouble, or neurological symptoms.
There are several values on a blood panel that may tip us off that your pet’s liver is unhealthy, but none of them are specific to a certain issue. This means that while we may recognize that your pet’s liver is in distress, further testing is typically needed to get to the bottom of the issue.
There are many pet liver problems that we might diagnose, however some of the more common hepatic issues we see include:
- Portosystemic shunt (a congenital problem)
- Gallbladder disease
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Leptospirosis infection
- Hepatitis (viral or bacterial)
- Mineral storage problems
- Hepatic lipidosis (cats)
Handling Pet Liver Problems
When we diagnose pet liver problems, treatment largely depends on what the underlying cause is. This makes it extremely important for us to run additional diagnostic tests so that we can arrive at the proper diagnosis. A portosystemic shunt might need surgery, a copper storage disorder requires steroids and dietary management, and Leptospirosis infection requires hospitalization and antibiotic therapy. Obtaining an accurate diagnosis makes successful treatment more likely.
Recommended diagnostics may include more advanced blood tests or radiographs. In many cases, ultrasound and/or ultrasound guided liver biopsies are needed for diagnosis. Once we have this information, we can put together a treatment protocol and prognosis specific to your pet’s individual situation.
Your pet’s liver is very important to his or her overall health, and pet liver problems can be quite serious. When caught early and treated properly, though, many of these problems are successfully treated. We are happy to help you in keeping your pets (and their livers) in tip-top shape.