sick dog

Dogs are typically happy and healthy animals if they are provided for properly by responsible caretakers. Sometimes, though, they can develop a disease. Also, some dogs don’t receive love and care at some point in their life, so if you adopt an older dog, you can’t be sure how well they have been treated or whether their previous diet and lifestyle will play a role in their future health.

One problem that dog owners should be aware of is elevated liver enzymes. When people find out that their dogs have high enzyme levels, the first thing that they tend to wonder is how long a dog can live with such a diagnosis. The short answer is that it depends on the reason for the elevated enzyme levels and the extent of the elevation. Here is an easy-to-follow guide about liver enzymes and life expectancy if high enzyme levels develop in your dog.

Why a Dog’s Liver Enzymes Could Be Elevated

There are many different reasons that a dog’s liver enzymes could become elevated. First, however, it is important to understand the enzymes in question and how they play a role in liver function. Here is a breakdown of these enzymes:

  • Alanine Aminotransferase — High levels of this enzyme may indicate that the liver cells are dying. However, it’s also found in the intestines and kidneys, so elevated numbers don’t necessarily mean that a liver problem is present.
  • Aspartate Transaminase — Also found in other organs, such as the heart and pancreas, this enzyme helps metabolize amino acids. When elevated, it can cause irregularities when liver damage is present.
  • Alkaline Phosphatase — This enzyme helps break down blood proteins in the body. The liver is the main source of this enzyme in the body, but it’s not the only one. If elevated numbers of this enzyme are detected, it is important to look at the liver for a possible disease first.
  • Gamma Glutamyl Transferase — This enzyme, when elevated, is the biggest indicator of liver problems than any other enzyme. Elevated numbers typically mean that liver bile disease is present.

So, if one of these liver enzymes is elevated, it could signal a mild or serious problem with your pooch’s liver. Just like multiple enzymes could become elevated and cause problems, there are multiple causes of high enzyme levels to be aware of:

  • Prescription medications
  • Vaccinations
  • Chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system
  • Cancer
  • Cirrhosis
  • Portosystemic shunts
  • Hepatitis

The specific cause of your dog’s elevated liver enzymes can only be diagnosed by your veterinarian with further testing and monitoring.

sick siberian husky dog in vet
Image courtesy of Shutterstock

How Long a Dog Can Live With High Liver Enzymes Depends on a Few Factors

Some causes of the elevation may go away, and therefore, the enzyme levels will go back to normal. Other causes are not treatable, however, which means enzyme levels will likely never return to normal. Therefore, how long a dog can live with high liver enzymes depends on the cause of the elevation and how well the cause can be treated. If cancer or cirrhosis is present, the prognosis is typically not good, and a dog may live for a few months before succumbing to their disease. Other problems can be treated for a longer life or reversed altogether and cause a minimal threat to a dog’s life when all is said and done.

Signs and Symptoms of Elevated Liver Enzymes in Dogs

Most of the time, a dog’s liver enzymes will become elevated before any signs or symptoms arise. However, it is not necessarily too late to get help for your pooch even if you don’t know that there is a problem until symptoms show up. It’s important to know the signs so you can reach out to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Things to look for include:

  • A poor appetite
  • Seizures
  • Increased water intake
  • Increased urination
  • Abdominal fluid buildup
  • Jaundice

If any of these signs develop, don’t panic. Contact your vet and schedule an appointment for the soonest time possible. Make sure your dog gets plenty of rest and water until their appointment day. Don’t hesitate to head to an emergency vet if you feel that it’s necessary, but it shouldn’t be.

In Conclusion

High liver enzymes are not normal, so if they are detected in your dog’s blood test, there is likely a health problem present that needs to be addressed. Luckily, your veterinarian can run further tests to determine the problem so treatment can commence if necessary.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay