Pet Corner: Herbal Treatments for Liver Dysfunction

Many herbs can help treat your pets' liver problems


| September/October 1998



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I get more calls from Western-trained veterinarians asking about alternative treatments for liver conditions than for any other problem. But whether traditional or alternative veterinarian medicine is used, there is no magic bullet for liver malfunction—the best approach is ­prevention through a healthy lifestyle.

Nutrition, exercise, and elimination of toxins and stress are key. And herbs can play a crucial role in both prevention and treatment, working to support your pet’s largest and, I would argue, most important organ system.

The liver performs hundreds of functions, including filtering and detoxifying chemical and bacterial impurities in the blood. It also processes most food, converting nutrients and synthesizing proteins; manufactures bile, which helps your pet digest fat; and prepares toxic material and waste products for elimination. Finally, the liver is a huge storage bin for several nutrients such as glycogen (a sugar source for quick energy), vitamins and iron.

When something’s wrong

Liver problems can be caused by many conditions—toxins, stress, genetics, infections, poisonous substances—but often it’s hard to identify the culprit.

There are many symptoms of liver dysfunction. A well-known indicator is jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes). Your veterinarian can analyze liver function by testing for liver enzymes in the blood, but many liver problems are advanced by the time jaundice appears or liver enzymes in the blood are abnormal.

Earlier indicators to watch for include persistent gastrointestinal imbalances (diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, bloating, bad breath, excess gas, and abnormal stools); lethargy; anxiety; itchy, watery, swollen, or red eyes; itchy or draining ears; and skin problems—especially acne and psoriasis, but also rashes, dry and peeling skin and slow-healing wounds. Liver abnormalities also can make arthritis pain worse.





elderberry, echinacea, bee hive

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