Dog liver health is essential for your pet. Human liver transplants have saved the lives of thousands whose livers were either diseased or damaged. Unfortunately, that''s not the case for our canine friends, and every dog needs a functioning liver to survive.
The liver is a vital organ, and without one life is impossible. It performs several physiological tasks which are central to a properly functioning body.
For one thing, the liver filters out or neutralizes waste and other toxins in the blood. It produces substances that help boost your dog''s immune system and help it fight off potential infections.
Plasma proteins that aid in regulating blood clotting are synthesized in the liver, which also produces the bile that helps your dog digest fats and absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin E.
It synthesizes and stores the important energy source called glycogen, and it is primarily responsible for maintaining your dog''s metabolic equilibrium. In short, the liver plays a significant role in several essential physiological processes.
When Things Are Less Than Optimal
A diseased or dysfunctional liver is unable to perform some important physiological functions effectively, and a dog with an unhealthy liver will quickly start experiencing several problems that can be potentially grave.
That''s why maintaining a good dog liver health is so crucial for your pet. Obviously, if something goes wrong with your dog''s liver, a quick diagnosis and the proper treatment are extremely important.
Several symptoms can indicate possible liver disease, and if you know what to look for you might speed your dog''s diagnosis and treatment.
Classic symptoms of liver disease include weight loss, decreased appetite, excessive urination and excessive thirst. Jaundice, caused by elevated bilirubin, can give a yellowish cast to a dog''s skin, gums and the whites of his eyes.
Fluid retention and liver enlargement may cause a painful, distended abdomen. Diarrhea and vomiting are possible, and the stools are often gray or lighter-colored than normal.
The urine is often darker than normal and might have an orange cast due to elevated bilirubin. Weakness, lethargy, confusion, depression or an overall lackluster approach toward life are also common.
Consult your veterinarian immediately if you see any of these warning signs, because a delay in obtaining treatment can be fatal or at least life-threatening.
Diagnosing An Affected Liver
Unfortunately, diagnosis can be difficult because the liver has a large reserve capacity, and symptoms might not even appear until much of the liver (up to 70 to 80%) is damaged or diseased.
Treatment of advanced liver disease is problematic, and the condition can ultimately be fatal. Fortunately, if treatment is successful, the dog might completely recover because the liver can regenerate itself.
Once again, if you see any symptoms that might indicate that your dog has liver disease, take him to the vet for diagnosis and treatment immediately.
Because some symptoms of liver disease are similar to those seen in other health conditions, diagnosis of dog liver health is accomplished through a combination of diagnostic procedures, including a physical exam, blood tests, and an evaluation of the liver''s size and morphology by means of x-rays, biopsy, a CT scan and/or an ultrasound exam.
Once diagnosed, treatment to restore your dog liver health will depend on the cause of the liver disease.
For example, antibiotics are appropriate when an infection is responsible.
On the other hand, if contaminated water, poisonous plants or some other environmental toxin is causing the liver damage, treatment will include preventing access to the source of the toxin, cleansing the dog''s colon and possibly chelation.
When trauma is the cause, supportive care in a veterinary hospital may be all the treatment that''s needed.
You Can Help
In addition to these dog liver health treatments, it''s very important to manage your dog''s diet.
Although the dog''s food must of course be nutritionally balanced, most dogs with liver damage or disease will require a diet that''s low in sodium, high in protein, and low in copper in order to reduce the liver''s workload.
Dietary supplements can provide some additional assistance. For example, antioxidants such as glutathione and vitamin E can improve liver health by reducing free radicals and helping to prevent continuing liver damage.
Herbal supplements such as burdock and greater celandine can benefit liver health by detoxifying the blood, promoting the production of digestive enzymes, and generally protecting the liver from toxins.
Milk thistle is another herbal treatment that has been proven to improve dog liver health. It acts as an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory, promotes the development of new liver cells, and helps protect the liver from certain toxic substances.