Veterinarians may perform blood tests to measure the count of liver enzymes in dogs as a way to measure the health of the liver. An elevated liver enzyme count may result from many different conditions such as trauma, toxins, bacterial infections or a lack of blood flow to a portion of the liver (i.e. because of a blood clot). Any condition that may cause death to a significant number of liver cells can cause a high liver enzyme count in dogs.
Certain medications may cause an elevated liver enzyme count in dogs. Phenobarbital is an anticonvulsant medication often prescribed for dogs in the treatment of seizures. Phenobarbital is metabolised by the liver and may cause liver damage with long term use. If your dog is taking Phenobarbital, your vet should perform regular liver enzyme checks every few months to be certain your dog's liver is healthy. Other medications such as anesthetics and pain relievers may also cause a high liver enzyme count in dogs. Liver enzyme tests such as ALT (SGPT), AST (SGOT), and GGT Alkaline Phosphatase are common methods to check for liver function and health.
Any type of blunt force trauma that a dog receives to the front of the abdomen can cause liver injury, which may lead to a high liver enzyme count. According to The Canine Liver Disease Foundation, the most common cause of this type of injury is being hit by an automobile. Other causes of trauma may include being kicked or falling from a high place. Injuries to the liver may be serious, and can cause death if not detected and treated.
Pancreatitis may cause dogs to have an elevated liver enzyme count. This is because pancreatitis may cause inflammation of the liver, which causes digestive enzymes to spill over into the liver. If pancreatitis is treated and managed, liver enzymes may return to normal. Other diseases that may cause an elevation in liver enzymes may include anaemia, hepatitis and bacterial infections such as leptospirosis.