The liver is a vital organ , and has many essential functions in the body. Some of the areas it plays as part in are:
Digestion (especially fats)
Metabolism - elimination of toxic products and waste products
Energy – regulating energy and protein metabolism
The liver can become diseased due to various reasons, this can be acquired such as infections, inflammatory disease, toxin consumption, fat infiltration (lipidosis), or due to cancer (neoplasia) . Congenital anatomical abnormalities, such as a portosystemic shunt, can also cause liver disease in young animals.
Other diseases can be linked to liver disease, such as pancreatitis, diabetes, hyperthyroidism and lymphoma.
Clinical signs of liver disease is vague, but can include:
Inappetence or anorexia
Yellow colouration to gums (jaundiced)
The liver is a highly regenerative organ, and has a large reserve capacity, so for liver failure to occur over 2/3rds of the liver has to be damaged.
In these severe cases, a process known as hepatic encephalopathy can occur as the liver cannot function properly and eliminate toxins or waste products, which can cause neurological signs in the affected animal.