Liver Disease Holistic Protocol for Dogs and Cats has been developed by a certified Master Herbalist and certified Canine Nutritionist with The Pet Health and Nutrition Center. Our Liver Disease Protocol is the finest coordination of science and research-based recommendations that include diet, supplementation and herbal remedies to help support your dog or cat with high liver enzymes and other symptoms of liver disease. Everyone here at The Pet Health and Nutrition Center truly cares and wants to help your pet get better, so give our suggestions a try because we are confident you will be pleased with the results.
1. What is Liver Disease in Dogs and Cats?
The liver is responsible for many important vital functions. Due to these important activities, the liver is exposed to a number of insults and is one of the body's organs most subject to injury. The primary functions of the liver include:
- Bile production and excretion
- Excretion of bilirubin, cholesterol, hormones, and drugs
- Metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates
- Enzyme activation
- Storage of glycogen, vitamins, and minerals
- Synthesis of plasma proteins, such as albumin, and clotting factors
- Blood detoxification and purification
Liver disease, also referred to as hepatic disease, is a broad term that covers all the potential problems that cause the liver to fail to perform its designated functions. The liver is responsible for many critical functions as described above and should it become diseased or injured, the loss of those functions can cause significant damage to the body.
Usually, more than three quarters of liver tissue needs to be affected before a decrease in function occurs. This can be a blessing or a curse as once symptoms are noticed much of the liver may have already been damaged. This is why liver cancer is often not discovered until the later stages. One warning sign to pay attention to and take seriously is when higher than normal liver enzymes are discovered during a blood test. This is a warning sign that the liver is struggling.
Fortunately the liver has a remarkable ability to heal itself. This is due to the working cells of the liver known as hepatocytes that have a unique capacity to reproduce in response to liver injury. Although the liver's ability to react to damage and repair itself is remarkable, repetitive insults can result in liver failure that may, or may not, be able to be reversed depending on the amount of damage to healthy liver cells.
What is Hepatitis in Dogs and Cats?
Hepatitis is quite simply inflammation of the liver. This differs from infectious canine hepatitis that is caused by a viral infection. The term "hepatitis" is often used interchangeably with "liver disease" because both terms indicate an inflamed, struggling liver. Chronic hepatitis is often determined to be of unknown cause or "idiopathic" by the veterinary community. Although we often determine the causes to be quite clear - dogs and cats are frequently diagnosed with hepatitis after a vaccination, the use of flea and tick chemicals and various medications that place stress on the liver to detoxify the body. Copper and iron accumulation is often seen in dogs with chronic hepatitis and should be considered.
What are High Liver Enzymes in Dogs and Cats?
You may be wondering what it means if your dog or cat has what are considered to be high liver enzymes on a blood test. The reason for concern is that elevated liver enzymes may indicate inflammation or damage to cells in the liver. This is because inflamed or injured liver cells leak higher than normal amounts of certain chemicals, including liver enzymes, into the bloodstream, which can result in elevated liver enzymes on blood tests.
Dog or cat elevated liver enzymes most commonly found during a blood test are:
- Alanine transaminase (ALT)
- Aspartate transaminase (AST)
- Alkaline phosphatase (ALP)
- Gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT)
In most cases elevated liver enzymes in a dog or cat are only temporarily elevated and don't signal a chronic, serious liver problem. In fact, you may not notice anything different in your canine or feline because bodily functions are not being affected. However, this should be paid close attention to, especially if liver enzymes don't return to normal in a timely fashion, because high liver enzymes can be a predictor or indicator of a more serious liver condition.
High liver enzymes can be due to something that recently placed extra stress on the liver such as exposure to chemicals found in vaccines, flea and tick products or a medication. Remember, as mentioned previously, one of the main functions of the liver is to detoxify the blood and while doing this the liver may be exposed to toxins that can cause inflammation in the liver and cell damage that results in high liver enzymes.
High liver enzymes don't necessarily indicate liver disease or failure and since liver cells can be very resilient they often bounce back by themselves, or with a little help, and liver enzymes will begin to return to normal. However, when bodily functions are affected by a liver that is injured this is a more serious condition and is when a diagnosis of liver disease in your dog or cat may be made by your veterinarian.
2. Causes and Symptoms of Liver Disease in Dogs and Cats
What are the Causes of Liver Disease in Dogs and Cats?
You can separate liver failure into acute and chronic cases. Acute liver failure would be that which results in sudden loss of liver function. Chronic could be defined as that which slowly comes on over months or years as the result of excessive burden placed on this organ over time. Causes of liver disease in dogs and cats includes:
- Damage caused by the metabolizing of medications
- Injury caused by the ingestion of substances that are toxic to the liver including heavy metals, certain herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, rodent poisons, aflatoxins (produced by mold and found in pet food and cat litters), amanita mushrooms, cycad plants (Sago palm ornamental plants for the yard and home), and blue-green algae.
- Over-supplementation with fat soluble vitamins like vitamin D (common in pet food recalls)
- Several types of infections may affect the liver, including viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic diseases.
- Infectious canine hepatitis - a viral infection
- Leptospirosis - a bacterial infection
- Toxoplasmosis - a parasitic disease
What are the Symptoms of Liver Disease in Dogs and Cats?
Since the liver has multiple functions, including removing toxins from the blood and producing blood clotting proteins, when it is not working properly, many other organs and systems can be affected. Symptoms of dog and cat liver disease include:
- Loss of appetite
- Jaundice (a yellow tinge noticeable in the skin, mucous membranes, and eyes)
- Seizures or other neurological problems
- Blood clotting problems leading to gastrointestinal bleeding
- Fluid collection in the abdomen
- Excessive urination and thirst
- Changes in liver size and discomfort in area
- Weight loss
- High liver enzymes on blood tests
3. Standard Veterinary Medicine Treatment for Dogs and Cats with Liver Disease
Veterinary care for a dog or cat with liver disease begins with testing that can include:
- Blood test for signs that may indicate liver malfunction for such things as liver enzymes, albumin, glucose, urea and cholesterol.
- A urinalysis to check for abnormalities in the urine.
- Testing that may indicate poor liver function such as bilirubin, bile acis, ammonia and coagulation factors.
- Imaging to check liver size, position and shape that includes radiography and ultrasound.
After that, depending on the veterinarian's diagnosis the most common approaches a vet may take to treat your dog or cat with liver disease include:
- Antibiotics to eliminate potential bacteria
- Anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce liver inflammation
- A prescription diet
4. Holistic Liver Disease Protocol for Dogs and Cats
The goal of our Natural Liver Disease Protocol is to support the proper functioning of one of your dog or cat's most important organs - the liver.* Buy doing this we help to support and maintain the functions of the liver so important to the body described at the beginning of this page. At the same time, in a holistic fashion, we want to address any contributing factors to your pet's liver failure whether these are in your pet's diet, environment or are related to medication side-effects. Since we do not necessarily know the root cause(s) of the imbalance in your particular animal, we do know from our research and experience what are the primary culprits.
Core Recommendations Suggested products are included in the Core Liver Disease Package found below.
Our "Core Recommendations" form the backbone of our Liver Disease Protocol. They consist of supplement recommendations that we feel are the most important to provide to your dog or cat for this condition. They are displayed as a package and individually at the bottom of this page along with other helpful products for iver disease from which you may make additional selections.
A complimentary Liver Disease Help Sheet is included with every core liver disease package purchase. If you require more direction please feel free to use our Email Consultation Form.
Core Recommendation #1 - Daily Multi Plus
Our Daily Multi Plus is formulated with organic, whole foods that are extremely important to an animal's nutritional needs but are often missing from the majority of canine and feline diets. This special formula provides the enzymes, probiotics, prebiotics, glandulars, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients that are so beneficial to the body's daily maintenance and repair needs for healthy aging. In this formula you will find the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants recommended by the veterinarian community for liver disease - only in an organic, whole food form! Feeding a dog or cat organic, whole foods is holistic therapy for liver failure at its best!
Core Recommendation #2 - Liver Tonic
Our Liver Tonic will help to gently detoxify and improve the function of the liver and gallbladder to help improve your dog or cat's liver function*. This will help to reduce stress on these important organs and improve the bodily functions that are affected with liver failure by improving bile production and secretion. Bile begins the process of breaking down fats (emulsify) and is produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. If these organs are not functioning properly, perhaps being damaged by drug therapies, the pancreas will suffer as a result.
Core Recommendation #3 - Milk Thistle Seed
Our milk thistle seed is made with organic, freshly ground seeds that can help repair cell damage caused in a dog or cat with liver disease. A complex of flavolignans called silymarin are the plant constituents found in milk thistle that have been shown to protect the liver from damage related to toxins and disease. In studies, silymarin has also been shown to reverse damage to this very important organ by promoting the growth of new liver cells that for obvious reasons can be very potential to the dog or cat with liver failure.
Core Recommendation #4 - Liver Glandular
Research shows that nutrients from glandular tissue travels to the corresponding glands in the body. This means that when you provide a liver glandular supplement, liver specific nutrients travel to your dog or cat's liver to support this particular organ. This is a very simple yet effective way to support an animal's body in the case of liver failure.
Whole Food Nutrition
We suspect poor nutrition/lack of important nutrients/low-quality protein play a role in a condition like liver disease in a dog or cat. Poor diet may not be the catalyst for the liver failure but months or years of improper nutrition can result in an organ in a weakened state and more susceptible to injury. Because of this we believe it is vitally important that you feed your dog or cat the best diet within your budget. We highly recommend a whole-food diet that provides real nutrients, not primarily synthetic, like commercial pet foods. We urge you to find a local raw food diet that you like and try that.
If a raw food diet is not your cup of tea, the next best thing would be a cooked, whole food diet. There are now many quality premixes to choose from to which you can add your own raw or cooked meat. If you decide to make a homemade diet for your canine or feline please research the proper way to do this and make sure to add a calcium source. For a quick and easy way to add high-quality protein for your dog or cat with liver disease take a look at our Whey Protein Isolate. For more information read our article How to Feed Your Dog or How to Feed Your Cat that can be found in our Education section.
The bile acids found in ox bile can help your dog or cat with liver disease by beginning the process of breaking down fats thereby reducing digestive stress on the liver while helping to detoxify this organ. In addition, the components of ox bile help to improve liver and gallbladder function while helping to prevent the accumulation of cholesterol particles that could interfere with organ health and possibly contribute to the formation of gallstones or other issues in the future.
There are numerous studies that support the use of turmeric root for supporting liver function and detoxification. The well known anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric root can be a beneficial addition to a protocol for a dog or cat with liver failure.
This special blend of four unique algae was developed by a Russian Scientist, Dr. Michael Kiriac after decades of research. It is grown in controlled hydroponic conditions so it is the purest microalgae supplement on the planet. Its thousand of nutrients are so bioavailable they do not have to be digested, they easily pass through the digestive tract and feed liver cells on a cellular level. BioPreparation can cross the blood brain barrier to feed the brain, support the hypothalamus to help balance the entire endocrine system and even cross the blood retinal barrier to nurture the eyes. We have had outstanding success with this product for dogs and cats with liver disease so it is highly recommended. We recommend Biopreparation F3+ Forte for canine and feline liver failure problems.
Vaccinations and Toxins
As mentioned a number of times already, one of the primary activities of the liver is to detoxify the blood to protect the body from poisons. So it should come as no surprise that the chemicals/toxins found in vaccinations, topical flea and tick products, household cleaners and lawn chemicals may contribute to liver inflammation and the eventual progression to liver disease in dogs cats. Unnecessary booster vaccinations should be avoided for those canines or felines diagnosed with liver failure, titer test instead, and you should be able to get an exemption for the rabies vaccination for your animal from your vet because dogs and cats with a condition like liver disease should not be vaccinated (read our article: Are You Over Vaccinating Your Dog or Cat). Topical pesticide products would be a big 'no' for your dog or cat and you should eliminate their exposure to household and lawn chemicals for the good of your pet's long term health because all of these chemicals can increase the intensity and progression of a condition like like liver failure. A successful holistic dog or cat liver disease treatment protocol incorporates taking the "whole" animal into consideration (diet, supplementation, environment and health care) and in doing so try to make choices that are the healthiest and safest possible for your canine and feline companion(s).
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Elevated liver enzymes. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/elevated-liver-enzymes/basics/definition/sym-20050830
Bayton, W. (June 17, 2019). What to do if you suspect liver disease. Retrieved from https://veterinary-practice.com/article/what-to-do-if-you-suspect-liver-disease