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Dear Daisy Dog

My Labrador Retriever just turned 8, so my veterinarian suggested doing a "senior" blood profile to be sure everything was fine. Unfortunately, his ALT was increased, which means he has a liver problem. My vet prescribed some antibiotics and recommended we ultrasound his liver. She also wants to periodically recheck his blood to monitor his liver profile. What's involved in that blood work?

Daisy Responds

I can promise that having blood drawn periodically won't hurt -- I am proud to say that no one even has to hold me when my mom draws my blood. Since it flows through the entire body, blood provides a good picture of the health of most of the organs, including the liver.

ALT (alanine aminotransferase, previously known as SGPT) is an enzyme found in liver cells. Damaged liver cells leak ALT, which is then detected in increased quantities in the blood. AST (aspartate aminotransferase, previously known as SGOT) is a similar enzyme found in many cells, including liver, muscle, and heart.

Serum alkaline phosphatase (SAP, ALP or "alk phos") is an enzyme present in liver, bone, intestine, and kidney. Increases may result from a blockage of bile flow within or outside the liver, the actions of some drugs (e.g., steroids, phenobarbital), hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing's Disease), or even active bone metabolism, such as bone growth in youngsters.

Bilirubin (the yellow-orange pigment in bile) may be elevated in the blood if bile flow is obstructed. Since it is formed by the breakdown of hemoglobin in the red blood cells (RBC), increases may also suggest RBC destruction.

Products made by a healthy liver, and therefore found in abnormally low levels if the liver is not functioning well, include urea (BUN), cholesterol, albumin (protein), globulins (antibodies), and eventually glucose.

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