Elevated liver enzymes in dogs, its causes, symptoms & treatment

A Golden Retreiver

Before we discuss the symptoms of elevated liver enzymes in dogs it is first important to discuss what the Liver does and how it functions as this organ is of course a very important factor when a dog has high enzyme levels…

The Liver’s main function is to produce a substance called Bile – this helps support the digestive system enabling the digestive system to work effectively. The Liver is also responsible for helping to regulate and store how carbohydrates are utilized by a dogs body. The Liver is found in the abdominal area where the collective name is ‘Viscera’. This organ also helps with the mobilization of body fat, the detoxification and excretion of toxic substances.

Proteins that are found in the blood are also synthesized by this very important organ. If that wasn’t enough the Liver also helps to keep a dogs temperature stable and at a even temperature.

A female vet holding a dog

So what does the liver do…?

A dogs liver needs to function effectively otherwise you can expect your dog to have some serious health conditions and some upsetting symptoms. As previously mentioned the Liver helps to filter toxins, remove waste matter though poop and it also stores very important vitamins including A, D, E and K.

If your dog’s liver stops working properly then it is unable to perform these important functions i.e. getting rid of waste and toxins. Of course enzymes are utilized by your dog to undertake these tasks – if the Liver is unable to keep the enzymes stable and level then they become elevated and high. If they become too elevated then your dog’s body will start to react negatively to the process – with nasty symptoms and sometimes serious health problems.

What causes elevated liver enzymes in dogs…?

Sometimes enzymes, specifically ALT (alanine aminotransferase) or SGPT (serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase) can be produced when a dog has experienced an infection or had problems with their blood supply. These health problems lead to liver cells being destroyed and the ALT and SGPT being secreted. This can also lead to other liver specific enzymes to become elavated including AST (aspartate aminotransferase) or SGOT (serum glutamic oxaloacetic transaminase); these are found in the dog’s red blood cells and also inside the muscle tissue.

It is also not uncommon for certain medications to increase ALT levels particularly Glucosteroids and Anticonvulsants. Also if the bile ducts have become obstructed then enzymes such as CGT (Gamma-Glutamyl Transpeptidase) can become elevated.

Elevated liver enzymes in dogs can sometimes be caused by metabolic diseases – this refers to obesity (causing fat to be deposited in the Liver). Other causes of the condition can include diabetes, thyroid problems, pancreatitis and cushings disease.

It is also possible for parasitic infections such as herpes to raise the liver enzymes as the parasites directly affect how the liver functions. This causes the liver to produce more enzymes to fight the infection and help get rid of the parasites. As previously mentioned some medications can also cause the condition. If your dog’s liver has become unable to remove Bilirubin which is a bi-waste product produced when the liver breaks down Hemoglobin – this can cause Jaundice which then leads to the dogs liver enzymes becoming elevated.
A happy dog
What are the symptoms of elevated liver enzymes in dogs…?

1. Your dog may start vomiting or experience diarrhea.

2. Another relatively common symptom of the illness is constipation – (a very unpleasant experience for a dog or puppy).

3. Your dog may become very tired and lethargic.

4. Your dog may lose his appetite and consequently lose weight.

5.Your dogs body may start to accumulate fluid in the abdomen.

6. Anemia is another symptom of elevated liver enzymes in dogs.

7. When your dog poops the poop might be grey as opposed to the normal healthy brown color.

What are the treament options for elevated liver enzymes in dogs…?

As with any health condition it is vital that you take your dog to the vet as soon as you notice any of the above symptoms. The vet will probably look at your dog’s medical history – (for example when we took our Jack Russell to the Vet recently because he seemed to have a stomach upset – the vet was able to look back at his medical notes and could see that this was a regular occurrence and not a new medical condition).

Once the Vet has looked at your dog’s medical history he/she will use this to inform their physical examination. When dealing with high enzyme levels the vet will need to find the cause of the problem – the Vet will then either prescribe antibiotics or medication to help support overall good health within the Liver (Denosyl is sometimes prescribed for this). If the vet wants to change your dog’s diet so that your has less protein to digest the vet may recommend a low protein diet.

If the Vet thinks that your dog has a parasitic infection this will need to be treated accordingly and with the appropriate medication – it is worth mentioning that high sodium levels can also cause high liver enzyme levels so it is worth considering when choosing the best dog food for your pooch.