An Animal Owner’s Guide to Pet Liver Problems
Liver problems are usually serious for a pet. As a pet owner, you want to better understand what is happening with your pet, even if they know he or she is in good hands. There are many different pet liver problems that dogs and cats can have. Read on to learn what you should know if your pet is having liver issues.
Pet Liver Problems: The Rundown
The liver is a very important organ, and pets and people alike need it to stay healthy. The liver has several vital functions including helping in digestion, aiding in proper blood clotting, regulating blood sugar, producing essential proteins, and detoxifying the blood. If the liver isn’t working right, serious problems can develop.
Pets may develop liver problems for a variety of reasons, including a congenital problem (one he or she was born with), a genetic issue, trauma, infection, or toxin ingestion.
Some of the more common liver problems that we see include:
- Leptospirosis (a bacterial infection primarily of dogs)
- Hepatic lipidosis (fat accumulation in the liver seen in cats)
- Neoplasia (cancer)
- Toxicity (acetaminophen, poisons, household chemicals, etc.)
- Portosystemic shunts
Diagnosing Liver Issues
Pets with a liver problem are often quite sick. They may have yellow mucous membranes causing them to look yellowish (called being jaundiced) and often have a decreased appetite, vomiting, and/or weight loss. If the disease process progresses to liver failure, the pet may experience seizures, neurological symptoms, the inability of the blood to clot, and fluid buildup in the abdomen.
When a pet is exhibiting symptoms that could be associated with liver disease, often blood tests and imaging, like radiographs (x-rays) or ultrasound, can help us confirm that suspicion. If further information is needed to make a diagnosis, a liver biopsy may is usually required. OVRS is able to accomplish this laparoscopically, making it a relatively non-invasive procedure for your pet.
Treating Pet Liver Problems
Many pets who are suffering from liver problems can be managed, or even cured. If the pet is very sick, though, he or she may need to stay in the hospital to receive supportive care. This is because we must work to remove the cause of sickness, when possible. This may involve surgical repair of a portosystemic shunt, antibiotics to treat an infection, or detoxification of the organ.
Thankfully, many pets with liver problems have a good prognosis. This can vary depending upon the extent of damage that the pet has suffered.
We hope that your pet never has to deal with a liver problem, but if he or she does, please know that we are here to help. Oakland Veterinary Referral Service’s expert and compassionate staff have all of the resources at our disposal to provide our patients with the best possible outcomes.