Liver Disease

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This page has a detailed description of this disease in dogs and cats (canine and feline). We will discuss proper animal care along with natural remedies including food and homeopathic treatments. Our pets cannot talk to us, so it is important that you understand this disease as much as possible.

The largest organ in the body is the liver, an indication of its importance in health. It is involved with almost all of the biochemical pathways that allow growth, fight disease, supply nutrients, provide energy, and aid reproduction. Liver cells, which are called hepatocytes, go through thousands of complex biochemical reactions every second in order to perform these myriad functions.

Since the liver is involved with almost all biochemical processes it is no wonder that there are many different diseases that will affect it. This page will cover some of the more important ones we see in animals. The beginning of this page will discuss liver anatomy and physiology, eventually leading to detailed explanations of the more common liver diseases we encounter. This complex organ does not lend itself to easy classification or understanding. Many of the functions of the liver overlap with other organs, and some of the liver’s functions involve complicated biochemical pathways. If this page is too complex for your needs you can go right to our summary page on liver disease.

Even though it makes for good reading, you can skip the anatomy and physiology section and go right to the section on specific diseases if that is all that interests you:

We have a very short Quicktime movie of a liver ultrasound that shows a stone in the gall bladder. Make sure you have Quicktime on your computer to view it. You can get it at www.apple.com


Terminology

It is helpful to be exposed to several medical terms that will be used later in this page:

hepatic- having to do with the liver icterus (jaundice) – yellow discoloration of skin or mucous membranes
hepatocyte- individual liver cell hypertrophy- increased size of an organ
hypoalbuminemia – low albumin polyuria- excess urinating
hypoproteinemia- low protein polydypsia- excess drinking
polyphagia- excess appetite PU/PD- polyuria and polydypsia
ascites- fluid buildup in the abdominal cavity gluconeogenesis- the manufacture of glucose
hypertension- increased blood pressure iatrogenic- caused by something a person does as opposed to happening naturally.
euglycemia- normal blood glucose (sugar) level homeostasis- normal physiology
hepatomegaly- enlarged liver septicemia- excess accumulation of bacteria and toxins in the bloodstream
hepatitis- a general term for inflammation of the liver parenchyma- the internal anatomy of an organ
encephalopathy- chemicals, like ammonia, that depress the brain laparotomy- exploratory surgery of the abdomen
anorexia- poor appetite H.E.- hepatic encephalopathy
metastatic- a tumor that has spread from elsewhere in the body microhepatica- abnormally small liver
cholestasis – excess bile accumulation in the liver

Next you will learn about Liver Anatomy