Spotting the signs of liver damage in horses

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The signs of liver damage can often be subtle, but they must never be overlooked.

Subtle signs

  • Diarrhoea or constipation

  • Weight loss
  • Fluid accumulation under the belly and in the hindlimbs
  • Photosensitisation (excessive sunburn on white areas arising from only mild exposure to the sun)
  • Failure of blood to clot effectively (nose bleeds and slowed wound healing due to poor blood clotting)
  • Poor or reduced performance or obvious lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Poor coat quality

Severe signs

  • Severe debility (weakness)

  • Repeated yawning and pressing of the head against surfaces
  • Swelling of the head and limbs, and fluid accumulation
    around the belly

  • Central nervous system shutdown, including depression, mania, seizures, bizarre behaviour, blindness, coma and death

To read the full veterinary feature on liver disease see the current issue of H&H (3 May 2012)

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Originally published on horseandhound.co.uk