The liver of cats and dogs is more susceptible to disease than other animals. Its large size is an indication of the important role it plays in these animals overall health. From filtering toxins to providing energy and nutrients, it is involved in practically all the biochemical processes that go on in their bodies.
When toxins increase, the liver is called upon to perform beyond its normal capacity, which may lead to liver failure. Initially liver disease shows mild symptoms like:
- Anorexia ( refusal to eat)
- Weight loss.
- Pale gray and soft feces.
- Weakness and lethargy.
The symptoms of liver disease in dogs are almost similar to those of feline liver disease. This similarity exists even in causes like excessive toxin intake and secondary infections caused due to disease in other organs. However, feline infectious peritonitis, leukemia virus, and feline immunodeficiency virus are some of the most common causes of liver disease in cats.
Left untreated, toxins may build up and the disease progresses and presents the following symptoms that may point to liver failure.
- Fluid retention and a distended stomach.
Liver disease can progress to a stage where treatment may become cumbersome and in certain cases, even impossible. It is therefore advisable that action be taken when even a mild suspicion of liver related symptoms occurs. Call your veterinarian so he may check the animal and interpret the symptoms.
The best way to prevent liver disease is to check what goes in: diet as well as drugs. Some drugs that can potentially increase toxins are:
- Steroidal compounds.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Heavy metals: for example mercury from deep sea fish and lead from paint chips.
- Phenobarbital, a barbiturate used as a sedative.
It pays to find alternatives to drugs that are known to cause liver toxicity. For example, potassium bromide is considered safe and works as well as Phenobarbital. Try to seek advice from a holistic veterinarian who will not hesitate to make use of natural and safer homeopathic remedies.
Even though many of the specific causes of different types of liver disease that ultimately lead to liver failure are not known, obesity in cats is suspected to be one of the primary reasons. Controlling obesity with a healthy diet will greatly contribute to the prevention of liver disease.
Cat owners who are overly concerned about the health of their companion should try to inform themselves of what causes feline liver disease and adhere to a liver friendly diet from day one since diet plays an essential role in preventing liver disease in dogs and cats. A low fat diet rich in antioxidants and easily digestible grains provide a well needed rest to the liver so that it self-heals using its regenerative capacity. Restricting protein intake will lead to lesser production of ammonia. Small yet frequent feedings of proteins that are high in nutritional value such as eggs and milk, as well as a diet high in fiber will ensure proper nourishment.