Spotting the signs of liver damage in horses

  • 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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