The central organ for so much in the body: the liver.
As long as the liver is happy, the body can continue to function without issues. Unfortunately, there are many reasons for the liver to become sick, so let's take a few moments to talk about some of the reasons why this can happen. In future posts, we will dive into these reasons a bit further.
Let's dive in
There are several causes of liver disease that can be seen throughout your pet’s life. The most prevalent categories of liver disease are as follows: infectious, inflammatory, metabolic, toxins and trauma.
The liver relies on Inflammatory processes: the adequate blood supply to complete its many tasks. Inflammatory processes that are severe enough to change this can be severe enough to affect the liver. Common inflammatory processes that you may see include pancreatitis or a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).
Many infectious diseases can affect the liver. Pathogens such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites can cause these diseases. Some of the most common infectious diseases include leptospirosis (bacteria), aspergillosis (fungus), and liver flukes (parasite).
Genetic defects are usually due to a missing or malfunctioning enzyme within the body. These defects can cause severe metabolic issues, by affecting the production of energy within the cell. These diseases are not ones that are transmissible from animal to animal. However, congenital defects can be seen with littermates, and animals that have one or both of their parents in common. Examples of metabolic diseases are hepatic lipidosis, liver shunts, and hepatic neoplasia (cancer).
Toxins and Trauma
There is a myriad of toxins that pose a threat to your pet! Most toxins are filtered through your pet’s liver. One of the most common toxins your pet may be exposed to xylitol! Other examples of toxins include acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, Amanita mushroom, blue-green algae, and Sago Palms.
Blunt force trauma, such as being hit by a car, or being in a car accident can also affect your pet's liver! Trauma does not always have to be “blunt force,” sometimes it can be sharp! An example of this sort of trauma would be a penetrating wound. Any trauma can lead to a loss of blood, which in turn leads to lower than normal amounts of blood that can flow to your pet’s liver. In addition to the trauma causing the liver damage, the loss of blood supply can cause the liver to swell, and in turn suffer from inflammatory processes too!
Any trauma can upset the gentle balance the liver helps to maintain within the body. Whether there is blunt force trauma to the region of the liver or anemia due to blood loss, the liver must deal with it all!
Consider this an overview of the reasons why the liver may not perform to its fullest potential. Look for future posts to talk more about the different reasons, and what it may mean for you and your little one at home.
Ashley DiPrete, RVT, VTS (SAIM) is a Registered Veterinary Technician practicing in California and obtained her Veterinary Technician Specialty in Small Animal Internal Medicine in 2016. She is the co-founder and a contributing author for InternalMedicineForPetParents.com. Visit her author page here.
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