When Good Livers Go Bad: Pet Liver Problems
As far as internal organs go, the liver is generally underrated. It is not an organ that we tend to talk about very much, but is extremely important to your pet’s overall health. The liver helps to detoxify the body, stores vitamins and minerals, regulate blood sugar, ensures proper blood clotting, and produces several very important proteins.
By understanding what the liver does and what problems can occur, pet owners can be better attuned to its health. Pet liver problems are not uncommon, and it is up to us to make sure that this important organ is functioning properly.
Identifying an Unhealthy Liver
Liver dysfunction can be mild to severe. Often, we find out that a pet’s liver is not in good condition by running blood work. Several different parameters on a routine blood panel may tip us off that the liver is in trouble, even though there are no apparent clinical signs. This is one of the reasons that screening blood tests are so important.
As liver disease progresses, however, more specific symptoms may occur. Pets may experience:
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Increased thirst
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Yellowing of the skin (jaundice)
- Behavior changes
- Fluid in the abdomen
- Trouble clotting
Because the liver is vital in so many normal body functions, severe liver disease can have serious consequences on your pet’s overall well-being.
Common Pet Liver Problems
There are many different problems that can affect the liver. Some can be difficult to diagnose without advanced diagnostic tests. Some of the more common pet liver problems we see include:
- Portosystemic shunting (a congenital malfunction of the liver)
- Copper storage disease
- Gallbladder/bile duct problems
- Bacterial or viral infection
- Cushing’s syndrome
Diagnosing and Treating Liver Issues in Pets
We identify that something is wrong with the liver based on a pet’s physical symptoms and diagnostic testing. It can be more difficult, however, to identify the specific cause of liver dysfunction. Because a bacterial infection, acetaminophen ingestion, and copper storage problems are all treated very differently, obtaining an accurate diagnosis is very important when it comes to pet liver problems.
Specialized lab tests can be helpful, and in many cases, ultrasound is utilized in order to obtain a diagnosis. This non-invasive technique uses high frequency sound waves to obtain a picture of the internal organs. This allows us to look at the liver in detail. Sometimes a biopsy of an abnormal area may be needed in order to confirm or hone in on a diagnosis.
Treatment of pet liver problems depends largely on the nature of the diagnosed problem. Some conditions might require surgery, while others better respond to antibiotics, a prescription diet, or liver supplements.
Liver problems in pets can be a serious issue, but if caught early enough, most are able to be successfully managed. Schertz Animal Hospital knows how important your pet’s liver is, and it is our mission to keep it healthy and functioning for a long time to come.
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Schertz Animal Hospital
Since 1976, Schertz Animal Hospital has offered the greater San Antonio area outstanding pet care. Our state-of-the-art animal hospital in Schertz, TX compliments our stress-free handling and experienced veterinary staff. Make an appointment online or give us a call at (210) 659-0345 today!