Liver disease is a broad term
referring to any disorder that damages the liver. Dogs and cats
suffering from liver disease can be in serious danger, as the
liver performs a number of important functions throughout the
body, including the regulation of digestion and metabolism, the
synthesis of hormones and proteins, immune response, and the
filtering of toxins from the bloodstream.
When liver disease progresses too far, it often results in
liver failure — a condition characterized by a loss of
liver function. Read on to learn about the causes, symptoms,
and treatments of liver disease in dogs and cats.
Liver Disease Causes
There are a number of diseases, infections, medications,
chemicals, and toxins that can cause damage to the liver. Liver
disease can also be genetic, and in some cases, even
idiopathic, meaning that the cause is unknown.
In dogs, common conditions that can result in liver damage
include hepatitis, leptospirosis, diabetes, tumors, Cushing’s syndrome, and
In cats, the most common cause of liver damage is hepatic
lipidosis (fatty liver), followed by cholangiohepatitis.
Feline infectious peritonitis,
toxoplasmosis, and feline leukemia can also be associated
with liver disease.
Chemicals that can produce liver toxicity include insecticides,
lead, selenium, iron, arsenic, phosphorous, and carbon
tetrachloride. Plants, including algae, ragwort, and some kinds
of mushrooms, have also been known to cause liver damage. So,
too, have a number of medications, including certain
antibiotics, antifungals, diuretics, dewormers, testosterone,
anesthetic gases, corticosteroids, analgesics, and
anticonvulsants. In most cases, liver damage caused by
medications is the result of overdose or extended use.
Liver Disease Symptoms
The symptoms of liver disease can be subtle or easily
attributed to other conditions. Keep an eye on your pet and
contact your veterinarian if you see any of the following:
Liver Disease Diagnosis and Treatment
Liver disease is commonly diagnosed through a combination of
blood and urine testing to check for abnormalities, x-ray and
ultrasound testing to assess the liver’s size and structure,
and a liver biopsy to determine the cause of the disease. Once
the cause has been identified, the appropriate treatment can
Depending on the cause, treatment could mean surgery,
medications (such as Ursodiol for
dogs or cats, or alternatives such as Denamarin), or supportive care. While
few types of liver disease can be cured outright, many can
simply be controlled, and since the liver is an organ with the
ability to regenerate, certain treatments can also have the
effect of reducing progression of the disease. These treatments
- Fluid therapy to control dehydration
- Vitamins or supplements that promote liver health, like
Denamarin or Denosyl
Diet changes that improve liver
Liver Disease Prognosis
The prognosis for liver disease will ultimately depend on the
cause, how long the dog or cat has been sick, the degree of
liver damage, and whether or not the damage can be controlled
Visit your veterinarian
regularly to ensure that problems are caught before they
become severe, and always contact your veterinarian if you
suspect that your pet is unwell.
Denamarin for Dogs and Cats: Managing Liver Disease
Liver disease in dogs
and cats is a potentially life threatening condition, but if
caught in time it can be treated. One helpful way to support
liver health is by adding the supplement Denamarin to your dog or
cat’s diet. This chewable tablet contains two different
liver-supporting components that work hard to keep your pet’s
liver running smoothly.
What Is Liver Disease?
When your pet’s liver stops functioning properly, bad things
happen. This organ plays an important role in the digestive
process, acting like the body’s checkpoint by scanning
nearly every mineral that passes through, weeding out the good
from the bad. The liver also helps to make proteins.
When a pet has liver disease, the liver fails to do its job,
allowing toxins to pass through, or blocking the passage of
nutrients. Symptoms can be vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drinking
and urination, swelling of the
liver, and cell death. Once the cells in the liver start dying
off, they are replaced with hard scar tissue. This process is
known as cirrhosis, and there is no cure for it. Luckily,
cirrhosis is the last stage, and up until that point, the
damage done to the liver is reversible.
How Can I Tell If My Pet Has Liver Damage?
A few symptoms of liver damage include:
Excessive drinking and
- Swelling of the liver
- Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes)
- Hepatic encephalopathy (brain disorder caused by excessive
amounts of ammonia)
- Spontaneous internal bleeding
- Ascites (fluid buildup in the abdomen)
Treating Liver Disease with Denamarin
For pets in the early to middle stages of liver
disease, Denamarin can help them
turn back the clock on the damage done to their liver.
Containing S-adenosylmethionine, a compound proven to stimulate
glutathione production, along with silybin, a biologically
active component shown to help proper liver function, this
supplement is proven to help pets suffering from liver disease.
It is not, however, a replacement for prescription liver
medications, like Ursodiol for dogs and
How Does Denamarin Work?
The main ingredient in Denamarin (and the sole
ingredient in Denosyl) is the
S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), which causes a rise in hepatic (or
liver related) glutathione levels, which are essential for
proper liver function. SAMe has also been proven to help
protect liver cells from cell death, reducing the risk of
cirrhosis, as well as bolster liver cell regeneration. Beyond
that, SAMe has also been shown to enhance
bile flow in cats.
The secondary ingredient is silybin, which is an antioxidant
proven to help liver function by preventing the oxidation of
various cell types, and improve protein synthesis, both of
which help with cell regeneration.
When Is It Safe To Give My Pet Denamarin?
Just because Denamarin is over the
counter, doesn’t mean it should be given without consulting
your vet. Before you give your pet any sort of supplement,
contact your vet. Aside from getting professional medical
advice, a few rules of thumb for giving your
pet Denamarin are:
- Do not give it to pets under 6 weeks of age
- Pets without liver disease do not need to be
- Pets taking Denamarin should be
given water along with the tablets to ensure that the pills are
- Depending on the weight of your pet, give them anywhere
from one to three tablets per dose
- There are no known side effects of taking Denamarin, nor
are there any contraindications (i.e., medications it should
not be taken with)
- Make sure to store your Denamarin in a cool, dry
place to ensure the tablets stay fresh
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This information is for informational
purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the
professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your
veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been
verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.