Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) encompasses a group of enzymes, mainly secreted by the liver and bone, which are active in a non-acidic (alkaline) phase. Other body parts that are responsible for the production of alkaline phosphatase are kidney, placenta, and the intestinal lining. By elevated alkaline phosphatase, we mean that the amount of ALP is higher than the recommended levels. Similar to humans, elevated alkaline phosphatase in dogs can be related to certain health problems.
The exact reasons for elevated alkaline phosphatase in pet dogs are not known as yet. In majority of cases, this abnormality is related to liver problems and bone diseases. It is estimated that a pet dog showing very high amounts of ALP has more than 50 percent chances of developing liver and bone diseases.
The prime causes of increased ALP are underlying diseases, medicinal side effects, and being young dogs. Some of the causal factors related to an abnormal canine alkaline phosphatase are as follows.
The most common dog illness associated with elevated alkaline phosphatase is Cushing's disease (hyperadrenocorticism), which causes excess production of the hormone, adrenalin. To regulate the salt balance, the dog's body starts secreting high amounts of alkaline phosphatase.
Infectious hepatitis is usually spread from one affected dog to another via direct contact or feeding on contaminated food. Over here, the invading parasites attack the liver, which in turn causes elevation of alkaline phosphatase and other hepatic enzymes.
Hepatic nodular hyperplasia is a benign liver disorder that results in abnormal secretion of alkaline phosphatase in dogs. It is a chronic condition and usually, remains asymptomatic till the final stages. Hence, an early diagnosis of nodular hyperplasia is very difficult in most cases.
Other Causal Reasons
In some cases, administration of corticosteroids and certain other medications for a prolonged period causes increased alkaline phosphatase levels. The enzyme activity is at its peak in puppies, hence they usually have higher levels. Also, certain dog breeds tend to develop benign tumor at the age of 9 - 10 years, which is characterized by a marked increase in the ALP levels.
Some of the noticeable symptoms for elevated alkaline phosphatase in pet dogs include general discomfort, lethargy, jaundice, weakness, and pain. Also, there are asymptomatic cases too. After all, the liver organ is capable of performing normal functions, unless it is severely damaged.
In addition to high alkaline phosphatase in dogs, there are also cases of abnormally low levels of ALP. In general, a very low amount of alkaline phosphatase is a genetic defect that results in bone defects and liver problems.
Elevated alkaline phosphatase in pets is diagnosed by conducting a blood test. At the time of injury and other normal activities, this enzyme is released into the bloodstream. Though a blood test determines the high level of alkaline phosphatase in the body, it is not effective to identify the source of elevation.
Hence, correct differential diagnostic methods (like affinity electrophoresis) are essential to check whether the defect is in the bone or the liver. The vet may also check for jaundice, pancreatitis, dog liver cancer, and other liver problems.
If routine blood tests show a slight increase of alkaline phosphatase from the normal level, then there is no need for therapeutic intervention. However, if the level is significantly high, the vet may suggest certain dog care tips, including monitoring and amending its feeding habits along with routine medical checkups.
Timely treatment of the pets with elevated alkaline phosphatase is necessary, if there is an increased risk for severe complications. The methodology for the treatment of an elevated alkaline phosphatase depends upon the diagnostic result and the overall dog's health.
Based on the underlying cause, the vet may prescribe specific medication for elevated liver enzymes in dogs. In order to promote the liver health, liver medications are advocated. The sick pet should be fed with low sodium dog food, and foods that contain simple carbohydrates and fatty acids.
Doing so ensures that the liver is not overtaxed during the process of digestion. With correct medications for elevated alkaline phosphatase and proper care from your side, you can make your pet comfortable and increase its life expectancy.