An Animal Owner’s Guide to Pet Liver Problems

french bulldogThe liver is the workhorse of the body and has a variety of functions that are essential to life. Not only does the liver act a filter, removing toxins from the blood stream, but the liver also stores many vitamins and minerals, produces several important proteins, helps to regulate blood sugar, and even plays a big part in blood clotting.

Pet liver problems are one of the more common issues we diagnose. The most difficult part of hepatic issues is often identifying exactly what the problem is. A proper diagnosis is important so that we can most effectively treat the affected pet.

Arriving at a Diagnosis

Symptoms associated with pet liver problems can vary widely. Most often we find out that there is a liver health issue when a blood panel is run on a seemingly healthy pet, or on one with nonspecific symptoms.

Common complaints in pets suffering from a liver condition can include:

  • Decrease in appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Jaundice
  • Drooling
  • Changes in behavior/neurological changes
  • Fluid in the abdomen
  • Trouble clotting

Routine blood tests can help us identify that there is a problem that involves the liver, however they are not able to tell us specifically what is wrong. When pet liver problems are diagnosed, additional diagnostic tests are often required.

Specialized blood tests are often helpful in diagnosing certain types of issues, while imaging such as abdominal ultrasound is needed in many cases to assess for other issues. Sometimes a biopsy is required to achieve an accurate diagnosis.

Treating Pet Liver Problems

There are a wide variety of liver issues that we might diagnose. More common pet liver problems that we see include:

  • Congenital problems (portosystemic shunt)
  • Genetic issues (copper storage disease)
  • Toxicity/poisoning
  • Hepatitis
  • Steroid associated
  • Infections (leptospirosis)
  • Gallbladder and bile duct problems
  • Cancer

Depending on an individual pet’s diagnosis, the treatment can vary. The liver is a very hardy organ and if the underlying problem can be corrected, most pets do quite well. Surgery may be required such as in the case of a tumor or liver shunt. In other instances, such as an infection, medications or a special diet may help the liver to function better.

Liver problems in pets are a little scary, but with a proper diagnosis many are treatable. Allowing routine blood work to be completed on your pet as recommended can alert us to a problem long before your pet becomes sick. At Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates, it is our goal to keep your pet happy and healthy. Thank you for allowing us to do so.