Liver, liver function, blood vessels, virus, bacteria, medication, autoimmune condition, metabolism, idiopathic, disease, changes, constipation, behavior, vomiting, swollen belly, yellow discoloration, jaundice, diarrhea, swollen belly, blood, test, biopsy, cancer, hepatic, chemotherapy, prevent, exam
How about a little anatomy quiz? Where is the liver situated in your pet's body? It is found under the last few ribs, at the upper most portion of the abdominal cavity. Ready for your next question? What is the function of the liver? If you said that it was the critical link in many metabolic pathways for the body you would correct. It's ok if you didn't get these right, just keep listening.
The liver is a highly vascular structure. A great deal of its total mass is composed of blood vessels. Because it is exposed to a high concentration of blood flow, it is at great risk for injury from toxins carried in the blood. The liver can also be damaged from viruses, bacteria, medications, inflammatory diseases such as autoimmune conditions, by products of metabolism and one of the most common causes, idiopathic. If it sounds like idiot, that's because that's exactly how I feel. I can run myriad of tests and never find the exact cause. Medicine is not an exact science.
- The signs of liver disease can be vague. The onset of the malady may be insidious leaving the pet owner to dismiss them. Common warning symptoms are
- Lack of appetite
- Being reclusive
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Change in behavior
- Weight loss
- Poor hair coat or skin
- Swollen belly
- Yellow discoloration to the whites of the eyes, gums or skin - jaundice
There are various forms of liver disease. Some are acute, occurring suddenly to chronic, long standing. The treatment is dependent on the type, the cause and the severity. Your veterinarian will always try to determine which type of liver disease is affecting your pet and the most effective manner with which to treat it. If your veterinarian suspects a malfunctioning liver, he or she may investigate by running blood chemistry tests, taking x-rays, performing ultrasounds and possibly sampling the liver directly. This is known as a biopsy. This small sample will often hold the key to the diagnosis. It can be frustrating as you wait for lab results. My clients will sometimes become disillusioned when a line of diagnostic tests does not substantiate a suspected disease. Negative news can be good news. This is especially true when one of the possibilities is cancer or other life threatening diseases. Treatment for hepatic, liver disease can also vary tremendously. Your pet may be treated by a change in diet or perhaps nutritional supplements. The treatments may involve antibiotics, chemotherapeutic agents plus a host of other medications. It is imperative that you know what you are giving, why you are giving it, how often to administer it and what possible adverse side effects your pet may experience. When in doubt, ask. Your pet relies on you and your veterinarian to work as a team. How can you prevent your pet from suffering from liver disease? Sometimes you can't. But you can help to safe guard its well being by scheduling a wellness exam for your pet at least twice a year, more often if it just doesn't seem `right'.
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