The liver is the filter of a dog’s body. It removes harmful chemicals and toxins from the blood, produces key digestive fluids, enzymes, and proteins, stores essential vitamins and minerals, excretes harmful substances, and generally ensures that your pup’s nervous, cardiovascular and digestive systems remain free from impurities.
But what happens if your dog’s liver isn’t performing at peak levels? Considering that the liver is such an important organ, problems with it can be wide-reaching and symptoms can seem entirely unrelated. But what are the causes of liver disease in dogs?
Common Cause of Dog Liver Disease
Liver disease can come about due to a variety of causes. Common and preventable culprits are dietary irregularities or adverse side effects from a particular medication. If your pup is suffering from liver disease, then there is a good chance that they have ingested a harmful toxin and their liver is paying the price for trying to filter the noxious substance out of the blood stream.
This is because each time the liver is forced to break down (oxidize) or lubricate for easy expulsion (conjugation) of an ingested toxin, that toxin will send poison within the liver wreaking its fair share of havoc.
Dog livers are capable of sustaining this damage for the body because of their incredible rejuvenating properties. However, continued and unmitigated exposure to these toxins can overtax the liver and cause damage. Some of these toxins are common household chemicals, while other are ingested accidentally or are viral or parasitic in nature; they include:
- Pesticides and insecticides
- Flea and tick medication
- Processed and fatty foods
- Chemical cleaners
- Flame retardant chemicals
- Some Drugs (often sedatives)
- Food additives
- Deworming medication
Sometimes these outside factors will not necessarily be the cause of your pup’s liver troubles. Genetic predisposition to liver disease can be a common cause of its contraction. In these cases there is very little a dog owner can do besides attempting to prevent the disease early on. Aging too, is often a culprit. The longer your dog’s life is, the more toxins will have been filtered through their liver and thus the more damage that will have been done.
Other conditions such as diabetes or pancreatic issues can also lead to liver disease in dogs as imbalances in toxins within the blood will force the liver to overcompensate and become damaged.
It can be difficult to tell if your dog is suffering from liver damage and disease. The regenerating properties of the liver make it so that most damage is healed very quickly. Long lasting damage, scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), or acute liver failure can be occurring without an owner even knowing it’s happening.
Sadly, it is often only discovered in its later, more harmful stages. There is also a high risk for developing tumors as the rapid cell growth within the liver that makes it so effective at its role, also leaves it open to malignant cell growth and the reproduction of damaged or diseased cells.
How to Prevent Liver Disease in Dogs
A healthy liver makes for a happy dog. But how do you keep this incredibly important organ functioning at max levels? The best and most important thing to do is to keep your dog as toxin-free as possible. This can mean a change in diet, a switch in medications, and a devotion to forming healthy habits like regular exercise.
A dietary switch from processed, fatty, and artificially supplemented foods may mean all the difference. A natural diet can lower the risk of exposure to toxins, while also promoting essential digestive health and allowing your pup’s liver to function normally. Overly fatty or supplemented foods can push the liver into overdrive, forcing it to ignore daily functions and thus providing an opening for other toxins to seep in.
Removing toxic and artificial chemicals from your home that might be ingested by your dog is also a very important step as these will inevitably go directly to the liver if consumed. Consulting with your veterinarian about the common causes of liver disease in dogs and how to best keep them at bay will go a long way towards prevention. If you suspect your pup is suffering from liver disease, do not wait until its symptoms grow worse and confirm your suspicion, head to your vet.