Liver problems can develop for a lot of different reasons and it’s often a surprise when we find out that our companion is suffering with a liver problem.

It wasn’t long after Lulu had pretty invasive surgery to have a cancerous tumor removed in her bowel that her blood work showed elevated liver enzymes.

Her surgeon was confident that he was able to remove all of the tumor which gave us great relief, but our next hurdle would be to stabilize her liver problem.

What The Liver Does

After skin, the liver is the largest organ with a huge job too! It manufactures blood proteins, fats, proteins responsible for blood clotting, energy storage for the manufacturing of blood sugar as needed by the body, it stores fat soluble vitamins and iron, it detoxifies the body of drugs, chemicals and other useless substances; it’s responsible for the inactivation of hormones that the body no longer needs as well as the secretion of bile.

Plus, in order to prevent harmful bacteria from moving to other parts of the body, the liver filters the blood coming from the digestive tract.

It’s the liver that actually prepares all the toxins and waste in the body for elimination through the kidneys.

Common Testing For Liver Problems in Dogs

There are quite a few tests vets want to do when determining that your dog has a liver problem. Blood tests are probably the most common diagnostic test which is used to check the dog’s blood including red and white blood cell levels and enzyme levels within the liver.

Alanine aminotransferase and alkaline phosphatase are liver enzymes that often appear elevated if your dog is suffering from liver disease. This was the case with Lulu. Veterinarians will usually want to do a bile acid test and a urinalysis as well.

Besides the above testing, most vets will want to get x-rays and an ultrasound as well. The x-rays will help your vet to actually identify any odd characteristics of the liver such as size whether unusually small or enlarged.

The ultrasound will allow your vet to actually examine the internal structure of the liver and help to figure out what liver condition he is actually dealing with.

In certain cases, a vet may recommend surgery in order to actually explore the liver hands on and gather a sample for a biopsy.

DIET Plays a Large Role In Your Dog’s Treatment For Liver Disease

If your dog has elevated enzymes or has been diagnosed with liver disease then diet is an area that you will NEED TO FOCUS on. There are certain supplements that are needed as well.

This is the first article in a series of “Liver Disease in Dogs”. In this series, I will be sharing Lulu’s diet(s) along with the supplements that she took as well. Her diet and recipes were specifically created by a canine nutritionist tailored specifically for liver disease.

If your dog has liver problems, please don’t ignore them.  Your dog’s health can go from bad to worse very quickly.  Use my search bar or category menu to see all my articles and recipes dedicated to dogs diagnosed with liver failure.

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Showing 31 comments
  • Elaina

    Hi, my dog Missy, is a Yorkie and she’s 11. She has always been healthy and we see the vet regularly for ANYTHING. She is like my child I am 32, and she has literally been with me since she was 6months old. And known me since the day she was born. I need her. I am going through a horrible breakup, and she has ALWAYS been my reason for going on. I love her so much. She had a lump appear in her neck before xmas. So we had it surgically removed and I was terrified for her to even be put under. We got the results and she was fine! I was so grateful to be over that hurdle. Well I had her annual shots scheduled this past weekend but she hasn’t been acting the same, and not too interested in food. I discovered another lump in her neck area and took her for this instead of shots. The vet took blood, said her Liver enzymes were elavated. Well he gave meds and we went home. The next day she showed signs of hope and wanting to play with her toys… well then since Monday she has acted like she is starving but WONT eat much. Today she won’t eat at all. Took her back he took xrays and more blood. He said her liver is enlarged. He saw the fear and heartbreak in my eyes. SO I am to give her liquid medicine and see what happens between now (weds) and friday. She is so lifeless and she doesn’t want anything to do with water or food. She had been drinking water regularly till after the vet. She got extremely worked up and I am not sure if she is just acting like this because of her shots, and all the excitement or if she is just getting worse. I can’t bare to lose her .. I need more time with her. I don’t want her to suffer for sure… but I am curious is there anything I can do? Food suggestions? ANything … I am desperate. I will lose everything I own to keep her longer. I know it is not her time. She was a girl who shocked people hearing she was 11. she doesn’t act or look old at all. PLEASE HELP. Any and all suggestions welcome. I know I probably sound crazy, but I really need my doggie to stay by my side a little longer..

    • janie

      Hi Elaina:

      I’m so sorry to hear about Missy.

      The real tragedy is that your vet would even vaccinate her. There should never be ANNUAL shots. I sent you a private email if you would like to respond there please.


  • Joanne

    My 13year old dog has been diagnosed with liver cancer his abdomen is swollen with fluid he had an ultrasound he is a short legged staffie his abdomen is the size of a medicine ball hard as well he doesn’t drink much eats his meals OK fluid has been drained by the vet she said it contained blood protein and water it was a little thick in consistency she said to put him down but he still seems to want to carry on he has a cough vet said that’s because the fluid is pushing his organs under his diagram what can I do to make him better he’s a wonderful loving best friend to my sons they don’t want to give up hope

    • janie

      Hi Joanne:

      Has the cancer spread to the liver? Or just in the abdomen? What are you feeding him with regards to food, treats, supplements? What medications does he take?

      When was he vaccinated and how often in his life? Do you use chemical flea and tick products?

      Would you be willing to home cook for him and include supplements?


  • Susann

    My dog, Nick developed liver disease, no cause was seen on his ultrasound. our doc started him n SAMe and it’s helping. His appetite was nothing and we have had to syringe feed him, but the 2-3 weeks on the SAMe he’s improved. Less sleepy, starting to eat and actually played briefly just yesterday. He wouldn’t eat anything beef based I thought because of the syringe feedings of it. I got some chicken flavored digestive care and he actually ate it without coaxing or a syringe. We have noticed one of our cat’s bullies him away from his bowl. I can’t help wondering did Nick not being able to eat because of this cat start us on this road? I have no idea how long it might have been going on because the cat eats Nick’s food despite having it’s own bowl full all the time. Do you think that’s possible or will we never know what brought this on. Thanks.

    • janie

      Hi Susann:

      I’m sorry to hear about your boy’s liver disease. I doubt that the cat’s bullying had much to do with your dog developing liver disease, if at all. I’m not sure what his diet was before you started him on what I hope is a whole, healthy diet for his current liver issues? But, if it was kibble and you also used chemical flea and tick products on him and vaccinated him routinely; I would say that is where your answer lies. Unfortunately, this is way too common in how many pet owners feed their dog and provide general maintenance which can cause A LOT of health problems for the dog, especially as he ages.

      But, we are seeing more and more dogs developing chronic diseases at younger ages now which is even more frightening. My advice, seek out a holistic vet; avoid chemical flea and tick products on this dog and future dogs and use titer testing for vaccinations which a good holistic vet can help with. Don’t get bullied into vaccinating your dog for diseases that are not required by law.

      Hope this helps.


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