The liver is the main filtering system for the body since all blood supply
travels through it to be detoxified. The liver performs many critical functions
• metabolism of fats, protein and carbohydrates
harmful substances from the blood (e.g. toxins and/or medications)
of vitamins and minerals
• production of bile which aids in digestion and
absorption of nutrients
• glycogen storage (involved in blood sugar
• synthesis of important proteins such as albumin and clotting
• red blood cell maintenance, in conjunction with the spleen
pet may have NO outward symptoms that the liver is overburdened. It may only be
discovered in a laboratory test and/or a physical exam by your veterinarian that they have liver disease (elevated liver enzymes).
During the physical examination, your veterinarian will look for signs of liver
disease (elevated liver enzymes) such as a distended abdomen due to enlargement of the liver, bruising
under the skin, fever (due to secondary infection or inflammation), pain when
pressure is applied to the abdomen or yellowish discoloration of the ears, gums
and hairless areas of the skin. Anemia might be observed by checking the mucous
membranes for a normal pink color.
Since pets may have no
symptoms however, diagnostic laboratory tests that check for liver disease (elevated liver enzymes) will provide the most valuable
source of information. For example, a young pet may have a congenital condition
such as microvascular dysplasia or a liver shunt and the symptoms may not be
apparent until the pet is one or years old. A blood test may be the only way to
know. There are certain blood values, for example, that if abnormal, may signify
liver disease (elevated liver enzymes).
Liver Values That Can Appear in Your Pet's Test Results
Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT)
- An enzyme that becomes elevated with liver disease.
- An enzyme produced by the biliary tract (liver) can be
elevated in liver and non-liver related diseases. High levels can indicate bone
disease, liver disease or bile flow blockage.
• Gamma Glutamyltransferase
- An enzyme produced in many tissues as well as the liver. Like
alkaline phosphatase, it may be elevated in the serum of patients with bile duct
diseases. Elevations in GGT, especially along with elevations in alkaline
phosphatase, can indicate impaired bile flow.
• Total Billirubin (TBIL)
- A component of bile, bilirubin is secreted by the liver into the intestinal
tract. Bilirubin is a byproduct of the breakdown of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is
found within red blood cells and carries oxygen to the tissues. When red blood
cells die, hemoglobin is broken down by the liver as bilirubin. Elevated
bilirubin levels can be caused by excessive numbers of red blood cells breaking
down or when the liver is diseased and unable to clear the bilirubin from the
blood. Also if there is an obstruction in the bile duct, the flow of bilirubin
into the intestine is impaired and this can also cause elevation of bilribuin in
• Albumin (ALB) - Produced by the liver, albumin is a
plasma protein that helps control osmotic pressure in the tissues. When albumin
is low, fluids can leak resulting in a swollen abdomen. Low levels of albumin
can indicate chronic liver or kidney disease, or parasitic infections such as
hookworm. High levels indicate dehydration and loss of protein.
analysis and XRAYS can provide valuable information as well. If signs and
symptoms appear that a pet’s liver is not functioning optimally, additional
tests are warranted to determine the underlying cause. A bile acid test,
ultrasound and/or liver biopsy may be needed to determine the reasons behind
your pet’s poor liver function. Your veterinarian will recommend medications,
diet changes and potential surgical procedures upon determining the cause of
your pet’s liver disease (elevated liver enzymes).
In many ways, your pet’s liver is analogous to the oil filter in a car. You need to keep it clean or the “blood” (e.g oil in the car) gets dirty. When the liver’s job becomes overextended, the body cannot filter out as much as it should and toxins are released into the bloodstream. These toxins can cause harm to other tissues which in holistic medicine, is thought to be the root of disease. Since the liver is an integral component of so many critical bodily functions, it is easy to see a domino effect that can occur when the liver becomes overloaded and leads to liver disease (elevated liver enzymes). For instance, when a person drinks too much alcohol, the liver can’t keep up with the necessary “cleaning action” to process out the toxins, and people often develop other health conditions, such as increased levels of fat in the blood (triglycerides). Similarly, if the liver becomes overloaded following years of poor diet, medications and exposure to toxins, your pet’s liver can become overburdened as well which leads to liver disease (elevated liver enzymes).
It is a good idea to help your pet’s liver function by using holistic care BEFORE liver disease (elevated liver enzymes) sets in. For example, if your pet is taking pain medications such as Rimadyl or Deramaxx, these medications can negatively impact your pet’s liver. However, if you use liver detoxification supplements such as Liver and Gallbladder Support for Pets or ApoHepat, you can minimize the potential impact of these medications. The liver is one of the few organs in the body that can regenerate new healthy tissue so it is not uncommon to see patients with compromised liver functions show significant improvements with our holistic protocols.
Certain foods can help to naturally detoxify the liver. Green vegetables contain not only valuable vitamins and minerals but they also contain natural cleansers and antioxidants that help to purify the blood and the liver. Giving your pet green vegetables such as green beans, squash or asparagus, along with some carrots can provide fresh enzymes and extra nutrition. Omega 3 fatty acids found in Amazing Omegas can be very helpful too. In general, pets with liver conditions need a diet low in animal fat, high in Omega 3s, reduced protein and high in fiber. Prescription diets are available but a homemade, balanced diet specifically for liver conditions is best.
It is never too late to give your pet increased vitality and energy by adding a liver support supplement and extra nutrition to their diet. Oxicell, for example, contains key antioxidants that support the liver in an easy to use topical cream (nutrients absorb through the skin). Many pet owners notice their pets have extra energy after just a few days. And, reducing animal fats (e.g. never give pets chicken skin or fat off meat for example), increasing Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish and flax seed oil and extra vegetables can all help to support your pet’s liver and longevity.