Before understanding the treatment of liver disease in dogs, it is necessary to understand the functions that the liver performs in the body. The liver is the largest and among the most important organs in the body with an immense reserve capacity. Its multiple functions include the following:
- Regulation of the level of most of the chemicals in the body
- Production of proteins for blood plasma
- Conversion of waste products
- Support in the regulation of fat distribution in the body
- Production of bile for easy digestion
- Regulation of amino acid levels
- Storage of glycogen for later use as an energy source as per need of the body
- Elimination of toxins from the blood
Some of its functions are similar to those of other organs, which is one of the reasons that symptoms of liver disease in dogs resemble those caused by minor ailments of other organs.
Dietary modification is crucial for restoring liver functions. Liver cells have an incredible capacity of regeneration if the disease has not aggravated unreasonably. Adequate rest and a nutritional diet can aid in the process of regeneration of cells to a great extent.
Treatment of pet liver disease, including feline liver disease depends largely on the cause. Where the cause is known, the first effort is to remove the underlying condition. Antibiotics are used for bacterial infections. Drugs that may be causing toxicity are discontinued. Fluids and electrolytes are administered intravenously to take care of dehydration caused by loss of appetite. Diuretics are used to help in urination to reduce fluid retention. If it is suspected that the immune system is involved, the veterinarian may seek the aid of corticosteroids.
If dogs are not vaccinated, Infectious Canine Hepatitis can occur at any age. Like all viral treatments hepatitis is also treated symptomatically, often involving administration of intravenous fluids. The liver plays an important role in blood clotting. Hepatitis can cause clotting problems and a loss of blood may result in the need for blood transfusion. Severe hepatitis may lead to a comatose condition, which necessitates giving glucose intravenously.
The liver also manages the level of copper in the body. Copper storage disease is mostly breed specific and common in some Terriers and Dobermans. Treatment is targeted at speeding up copper excretion and restricting further absorption of copper from the intestines. Penicillamine, a chelating agent, is given for helping in excretion and zinc for inhibiting absorption.
Perhaps the most dreaded of all liver diseases is malignant tumor in the organ. Liver cancer may be primary (originating from the liver itself) or secondary (cancer in another neighboring or distant area that spreads to the liver). Primary cancer involves surgical removal of the affected lobe and secondary cancers are treated with chemotherapy. Where more than one lobe is affected, surgery is ruled out.
The liver is a composite organ performing multiple actions at the same time, which makes it difficult to classify and understand liver disease. Liver diseases can be fatal despite the organ’s vast capability to continue to function under stress. The best method of preventing it is to be aware of your dog’s specific needs of diet and exercise right from the day you bring your pet home.