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Liver / Hepatic Disease

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Overview
Liver Disease is a condition that affects many cats and dogs. While liver disease is more common in older pets, younger pets may also be susceptible to the condition. Liver disease affects many body systems, especially the digestive tract. Possible causes of liver disease include trauma to the liver, exposure to toxins, prolonged use of certain drugs (primarily steroids and non-steriodal anti-inflammatories), bacterial/viral/parasitic infections, and a portosystemic shunt (where the circulation bypasses the liver). Liver disease is also commonly a byproduct of other disease processes such as anemia, cancer, or pancreatitis.

Clinical Symptoms
Liver disease is diagnosed by your veterinarian via a physical exam, case history and blood and urine analysis. The use of radiographs and ultrasounds of the liver as well as biopsies may also be necessary. Common symptoms which could indicate that your pet has liver disease include: jaundice, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, frequent urination, lethargy, change in appetite, abdominal swelling, excessive bleeding, and neurological changes.

Blood Tests
Blood test results can be difficult to interpret without medical training, so you should consult your veterinarian to thoroughly review you pet's labs. Below is a list of the most critical values for liver patients:
-ALT
-ALP
-AST
-bilirubin
-glucose
-urea
-electrolyte levels
-albumin
-globulin
-bile acid levels


Treatment
The critical factor in determining an appropriate course of treatment is an accurate diagnosis of the cause of the liver disease by your veterinarian. For example, if the cause is a bacterial or parasitic infection, appropriate prescription medications should be administered. If the cause is trauma, hospitalization may be indicated. Most treatments for liver disease focus on supportive care to reduce the burden on the liver and encourage it to regenerate. The most common treatments for liver disease are:
-Herbs- Milk Thistle, SAMe, Denosyl, Marin and Denamarin
-Lactulose - to increase bowel transit time, alter bowel ph, and stimulate normal colon bacteria
-Ursodiol - a prescription medication to aid in replacing toxic bile acids
-Fluid therapy - Administration of IV or subcutaneous (SubQ) fluids can be beneficial to dehydrated pets. Liquid vitamin b-complex is often added to the fluid.
-Vitamin supplementation, particularly vitamin e and b-complex vitamins
-A moderate protein, high quality diet free or preservatives

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