Abnormal Liver Blood Tests Continued
Your pet’s ALT is elevated
What is ALT?
ALT is a marker for liver cell damage. There are many and varied reasons that the liver cells may become damaged.
What are the reasons that liver cells may become damaged?
Inflammation, infection, benign nodules, cancers, infections, fat accumulation. Certain medications.
May be secondary to other diseases such as diabetes, pancreatitis, hypothyroidism
Are minor elevations always significant?
Many pets will have minor elevations that do not adversely affect their health. Many times the cause is not determined.
How much of an elevation is cause for concern?
This depends on many factors, age, other conditions, and the length of time the levels have been increased.
What are some guidelines that can be used to determine a course of action?
When the levels are 5 times the upper limit for normal, or when the levels are 2 times the upper limit for normal for more than 4 weeks.
What do we do next?
If the levels are elevated less than 5 times we will generally recommend retesting in 4 weeks.
What do we do for significant or long term elevations?
There are several diagnostic approaches to these cases which can include the following:
Bile acid testing – a blood test that is a good indicator of how well the liver is functioning. We usually do two tests. We do the first test, then feed the patient, wait two hours, then test again. This test is usually normal in patients that have a non liver disease that is affecting the liver. It is a good screening test to decide if further testing is necessary.
Abdominal ultrasound imaging – an imaging of the liver with sound waves. It checks for visible abnormalities of the liver. Sometimes we will do a fine needle aspirate of the liver guided by the ultrasound. We send the cells to the lab for evaluation. A blood clotting test is usually done before the needle aspirate. Usually does not require sedation.
Liver biopsy – may be the only way to obtain a definitive diagnosis. Requires anesthesia and blood clotting tests prior to the procedure. May be done surgically or with a special scope called a laparoscope.
With a proper diagnosis many liver diseases can be treated successfully. Often we can slow the progression of disease with diet and medication contributing to the patient’s quality of life for a longer time than without treatment.
In patients with abnormal liver function we will usually recommend nutritional supplements which have been shown to have liver cell protective properties.
Briarcrest Veterinary Care Center believes strongly in preventative and proactive medicine. Advances in veterinary medicine allow us to provide the best care for our patients. We believe in utilizing everything at our disposal to achieve this goal. Please feel free to discuss your pet’s condition with our doctors and staff at any time.