Ask the Vet | Abnormal liver function in dogs

Your dog’s liver and pancreas work together to make the digestion process run smoothly and efficiently. The liver stores essential Vitamins A,D,E and K and it produces bile, which is crucial to the breakdown of fats. The pancreas plays an important role in controlling blood sugar by secreting insulin and glucagons, two very important hormones. The pancreas also produces pancreatic juices. These juices contain digestive enzymes that help breakdown food. If the dog liver and pancreas malfunction, a number of conditions can develop. Below are some signs to look out for to keep your pet’s liver and pancreas healthy, 

Abnormal liver function is both one of the most crucial conditions to your pet’s health and also one of the most difficult to recognise for an owner. The liver is one of the single most important organs in the body; it is responsible for storing different types of vitamins and for producing bile and other substances that help to process fats and other cells in the body. Without proper liver function, your pet will decline in health. Liver disease is one of the more common causes of death amongst older pets, although it can affect dogs at any age. 

Detecting abnormal liver function

The best way to prepare for and detect abnormal liver function is to have your pet’s liver routinely examined by your vet. Because the liver is difficult to access directly, the way that a veterinarian tests the liver functionality is by taking a small blood sample and running a series of tests. This set of tests is not entirely inexpensive, and it may be prohibitively expensive for some pet owners. However, if you can have your pet’s liver function tested with blood work, it’s a good idea to test it approximately once per year, particularly after the age of about five years in most dogs.

Otherwise, it’s a good idea to always be on the lookout for signs of the liver damage and liver disease. Liver damage is difficult to pinpoint and recognise because it is associated with a wide variety of different symptoms. There are also many different ways in which abnormal liver function can be caused (i.e. diseases of different types, diet, genetics, and more). Some of the more common symptoms associated with abnormal liver function in dogs include:

-Vomiting and diarrhea



-Changes in attitude or behavior

-Increased thirst

-Distended abdomen

-Jaundice (yellowing around the eyes, face and other parts of the skin)

Of all of these different symptoms, jaundice is the only one that is distinctly associated with liver function problems.

Diagnosing and treating liver function problems

At the first sign of any of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to have your veterinarian take a look at your pet. He’ll need to conduct a series of tests in order to figure out exactly what is causing the problem; in many cases, it may be a mild disease or other condition that presents symptoms that are similar to those of abnormal liver function. Between a physical examination, analysis of the symptoms, and a series of blood and urine tests, your veterinarian will be able to determine whether your pet’s liver function is causing his health issues.

Antioxidants are a great dietary supplement for dogs with poor liver function. In the case of serious problems of the liver, your vet may prescribe any number of different drugs and supplements to help remedy the problem. Consult with your vet for more information.

Hope this info helps 

Till next week, 

Dr Ruan Bester

Ask the Vet:

Royal Veterinary Centre

Tel: +853 28501099, +853 28523678

Emergency: +853 62662268


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