Pawesome writer Tara recently wrote about her dog Gida’s liver enzyme rollercoaster and how difficult learning our pets are sick can be. When Tara told us about Gida’s test results, I was shocked because it was all too similar to the rollercoaster my fiance and I have been on ourselves for over a year with our dog, Happy. It started when I took Happy in for a routine vet visit and mentioned that he vomited on, what I felt, was a regular basis. At the time that meant vomiting 2-3 times a month. We started with a stool sample which ruled out giardia and routine bloodwork. When the vet called to give me the bloodwork results, I was stunned to hear his results were abnormal, with elevated ALT liver enzymes. I really thought he’d be fine. A very long story — with many more diagnostic tests over the course of a year — short, Happy likely has low grade liver disease or hepatitis. Without an invasive liver biopsy (the only test we haven’t done), we don’t know for sure what he has.
Happy has been on a mild liver support supplement called denamarin for about a year now. At first it seemed the denamarin was working. He has been vomiting less — still about once a month — and his enzyme levels were reaching the normal range. He does display occasional lethargy and have “off” days, something that really isn’t normal for dogs. All seemed to be moving in the right direction until recently when he had his enzyme levels re-checked via a bile acid test (like little Gida had) and the results showed his liver was worsening, not improving as the previous test had shown. However, his baseline bloodwork was normal so that is good news. His bile acid test results were so poor the vet thinks it could even be a lab error (wtf?). The vet prescribed him a new medication (a liquid I have to shoot in his mouth, oy) and prescription “liver friendly” food…that set me back $150. Oh well. We’ll do another bile acid test (a $200 test) in 3 months to check his levels.
While this has all been happening, I’ve not allowed to myself to do too much googling of “liver disease in dogs” because I don’t want to scare myself. But I did force myself to ask the vet a tough question. During my conversation with our vet about Happy’s test results and the plan of action, he kept saying things like “monitor him closely,” “quality of life,” and “deteriorating.” Finally, I asked the burning question, “Do you think Happy is going to have a shorter lifespan because of this?” Happy is only 4. Much to my relief, the vet said no, with proper care and watching Happy closely he believes Happy will live a full life. He didn’t make any promises, I’m not God he said, but it sounded very promising.