When your vet doctor runs blood tests on your dog and he finds that he has elevated liver enzymes, that could spell trouble. The reason is that elevated liver enzymes usually indicate an underlying problem with the liver.
But what exactly are liver enzymes, what causes their elevation, and how can you lower these enzymes naturally?
In this post, we answer all of the above questions in detail.
What are Liver Enzymes?
Inside your dog’s liver are four enzymes vets measure and use to gauge the organ’s health.
The four enzymes are
Aspartate transaminase (AST)
AST is found in the liver, bile, red blood cells, heart, and pancreas. Therefore, abnormal AST livers could mean a problem with the liver or any other organs it is present.
To be sure, vets usually measure it ALT to understand what could be causing the elevation.
Alanine aminotransferase (ALT)
When ALT levels rise, it may indicate liver cell death or a hepatic infection.
However, ALT is also found in the small intestines and the kidneys. Thus, more tests should be conducted to determine if the liver is affected.
Alkaline phosphate (ALP)
ALP is located in the kidneys, liver, bone, and placenta (for pregnant dogs). High amounts of ALP are found in the liver and bones.
Being a homodimeric enzyme, ALP is also high in young and quick-growing dogs; thus, it’s commonly elevated in pups. If your dog’s ALP levels are high, kindly ask your doctor to probe further as the liver may have an infection.
Gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT)
Now GGT is the most helpful enzyme for assessing the health of your dog’s liver, and it can also indicate bile disease.
Veterinary doctors usually measure GGT levels and compare the values to the other enzymes to find the specific cause of the elevation.
For instance, if GGT levels are normal and ALP is elevated, a skeletal disease could be the cause, not a liver disease. However, if GGT and ALP are elevated, the liver has an infection.
GGT can also indicate the presence of cholangitis, jaundice, and cholecystitis.
What causes high liver enzymes
Phenobarbital and phenytoin, which are seizure medications, can cause elevated liver enzymes. Other drugs with a similar effect include heartworm and anti-inflammatory medications.
Viral infections interfere with the normal functioning of the liver. However, some vaccines for these infections also cause elevated liver enzymes.
For example, the Hepatitis vaccine, which has Aluminum hydroxide as an adjuvant, could kill some liver cells and lead to abnormal enzyme levels.
Hence you don’t need to worry if your dog has elevated liver enzymes after vaccination unless they are excessively high.
Endocrine interfering chemicals
Our industrialized society has led to the introduction of many chemicals your dog can easily access. Some of them are herbicides, pesticides in foods, and unfiltered water supplies.
When your dog drinks or eats foods that have these toxins, they interfere with the normal functioning of the liver, leading to elevated enzymes.
Manufactured or processed dog foods aren’t friendly to the liver. Most of them contain harmful compounds known as aflatoxins.
Aflatoxins attack liver cells and could lead to jaundice, lethargy, and weight loss, and if left untreated, may result in death.
In addition, many processed foods have synthetic minerals and by-products like acrylamides and heterocyclic amines.
All these substances create additional stress on the liver, as it will have to work extra to eliminate them from the body.
There are some foods your dog shouldn’t eat or if they do, eat them in moderation, for they are harmful to his health.
Candy and other baked goods are sweetened using xylitol. Xylitol gets absorbed fast into the bloodstream and consequently triggers the release of insulin from the pancreas.
The insulin released leads to reduced blood sugar levels, a condition known as hypoglycemia, which affects the liver and leads to elevated liver enzymes.
How to lower your dog’s liver enzymes naturally.
We have looked at the causes of elevated liver enzymes, below are measures you can take to lower them naturally.
Obesity is among the leading causes of dog sickness. The reason being obesity causes inflammation and heightened fatty acid levels.
The fatty acids, in turn, result in insulin resistance, and your dog will eventually develop diabetes.
You may have realized that it’s a chain reaction, and the only way to stop it is at the beginning.
Ensure that your dog exercises regularly so that it sheds extra weight. A healthy weight prevents the development of diseases that could affect your pup’s liver.
Other benefits of exercise are
- Reduces anxiety
- Relieves joint pain
- Removes toxins
Stop feeding processed foods.
Earlier, we learned that most processed foods are full of toxins that affect your canine’s liver and could lead to severe diseases.
Hence you can lower the enzymes by changing to a new diet with no synthetic chemicals.
You can feed your whole dog meats like beef liver, which has plenty of minerals and nutrients like
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B
Other high-quality proteins you can feed your dog are turkey, chicken, fish (remove all the bones), and eggs.
Introduce Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are perhaps the most effective way of lowering your pup’s liver enzymes.
Here is why:
They prevent hydration
Cucumbers, watermelon, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and lettuce are made of 80% water which helps with digestion.
Vegetables have phytonutrients
Studies have shown that phytonutrients could help prevent diseases such as diabetes and numerous cancers. These diseases indirectly affect the liver, so feeding your dog vegetables also protects the liver.
Fruits and vegetables support digestion.
Mangoes, spinach, asparagus, and tomatoes are fruits and vegetables with enzymes that help digestion.
Some of the enzymes also have anti-aging and anti-degeneration properties.
Fruits and vegetables have antioxidants.
The livers’ primary function is the removal of toxins like free radicals. Fruits and vegetables have beta-carotene and lutein, which are antioxidants.
These antioxidants aid by stabilizing the free radicals and lowering the pressure on the liver.
Use Milk thistle
Milk thistle is a liquid or powder supplement that facilitates liver cell regeneration.
Note: Even though you don’t need a prescription to buy milk thistle, kindly check with your vet to get advice on the proper dosages.
Provide adequate clean water.
Your dog’s liver needs plenty of water To work correctly. The liver filters waste from the blood as it passes through, and blood is mainly made of water.
Therefore, when your dog drinks sufficient amounts of clean water, the liver will have an easier time filtering the waste.
You can place your water bowls in different locations of the house so your furry friend can easily access them.
In addition, clean these water bowls daily to remove slime, which can build up quickly and cause diseases.
Remove environmental toxins
When your dog gets exposed to pesticides, human medications, fungicides, and lawn fertilizers, they may lead to elevated liver enzymes.
Therefore, limiting access to the above toxins is the best way to lower these enzymes.
Similar to humans, your furry friend needs constant care, significantly when he has elevated liver enzymes.
You can lower them naturally by feeding quality proteins, fruits, vegetables, clean water, and removing toxins from their environment.
Remember that apart from milk thistle, there are other supplements you can use, like Safe Guard probiotic. Safe Guard has plenty of friendly bacteria that aid digestion, improve immunity, and provide nutrients.