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Friday, 19 August 2011

Wanted: natural remedy for poorly liver

Dear Dogs Today,

I hope you don’t mind me writing to you but I have hit a brick wall and don’t know who else to turn to. I read Richard Allport’s articles every month in Dogs Today which is why I have chosen to write to you. I have a two-and-a-half-year-old Large Munsterlander bitch named Elsa. She is very dear to me. Last January she began to show signs of illness and my own local vet was not sure what was wrong and finally after trying but failing to treat her referred her to a specialist centre. At this point her stomach had swelled up and she was very thin. She was there, after a couple of exploratory procedures and blood tests, diagnosed with Granulomatous Hepatitis (they are not sure how she contracted it but think it was bacterial) and put on 10 weeks of two different antibiotics. The signs were good and a blood test at the end of this time showed her liver results to be normal – which I think actually surprised the vet who had little hope because of the damage she had already caused to her liver. But a few weeks later after another blood test showed her liver results going up again she was put back on the antibiotics and is now on her fifth month. Her results do seem to be coming down again but I am worried because my insurance cover which is for up to £7000 is nearly up and after that time I won’t be able to afford the antibiotics which are costing about £350 a month. She is due to have another blood test next week and I am to carry on for at least another month of antibiotics even if her results are good. I will only be able to claim for a further two months or antibiotics before I run out of funds and I’m frightened about what will happen then.

I was hoping that maybe you could suggest a natural remedy I could try as I don’t want to just give up once the antibiotics are finished. I have no idea if she will relapse again and can’t bare the thought of watching her get worse each day without trying something else. She is such a sweet happy dog and even at her worst when her tummy swelled up she still looked happy. At the moment she is still underweight – her appetite is poor but she is eating. Her tummy has gone down and she isn’t drinking excessively.

Hoping you can offer some advice.

Karen Arevalo, Oxford

Richard Allport, vet, advises...

I can understand how concerned you are about Elsa. First of all here is some information about granulomatous hepatitis:

Granulomatous hepatitis is a condition in which the liver is inflamed. Further complicating this condition is the growth of inflamed tissue on the liver, a condition that is then referred to as hepatitis granulomatous (where a granuloma is a small area of inflamed tissue). This condition is most commonly due to fungal infection, but it can also be brought about by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or cancer.

Hepatitis granulomatous is relatively uncommon in dogs, but can be seen at any age and in any breed.

Symptoms can include:

Lack of appetite



Weight loss


Increased urination

Increased thirst

Abdominal pain

Yellowish discoloration of the skin and the whites of the eyes due to jaundice

Distended abdomen


Causes include:

Fungal infections

Bacterial infections

Parasitism (liver flukes, visceral larval migrans)

Neoplasia/cancer (lymphosarcoma)

Immune-mediated disorders (involving the immune system of the body)

Drug reactions

Idiopathic (cause unknown)

It’s unusual in my experience to need such a long time on antibiotics, and it may be worth considering further investigations such as abdominal ultrasound and/./or liver biopsies to get to the root of the problem, if these haven’t already been carried out.

As far as natural medicines/therapies are concerned, herbal Milk Thistle, together with Zinc as a supplement and extra Vitamin B complex will aid normal liver function. Another very good liver boost is Hepatosyl plus, a supplement that contains SAM-e and Silymarin (an ingredient of Milk Thistle), an excellent liver support remedy. There are also several homoeopathic medicines that can help, including Lycopodium, Nux vomica and Berberis – depending on individual symptoms.

Finally natural anti infective agents such as Propolis and Royal Jelly would help reduce the need for antibiotics.


  1. Dear Karen

    I'm so sorry to hear about your Elsa - it sounds as if the antibiotics are keeping the problem in check rather than curing it. I would really recommend going to a holistic vet, who can treat the whole dog - as you're in Oxford, Chris Day isn't far from you (in Stanford-in-the Vale) check out his website: I think it would be well-worth spending on the initial consultation, as future consults can then often be done over the phone (and so much cheaper).

    There are some "natural" antibiotics you can try, like Oregano Oil (which I give my dog everyday to prevent his ongoing bladder infections, caused by his inability to empty his bladder properly now as he has bad hips); olive leaf extract; colloidal silver - you probably need to google each of them and read up on what they are particularly recommended for (or try them one at a time maybe). Also, garlic added to food (one crushed and chopped clove - not bulb! - daily - one week on, one week off, as too much garlic can be detrimental) Also the herbal remedy milk thistle is excellent for helping the liver (could use the tincture from health food shops and give half the recommended dose for people). Antibiotics knock out the good intestinal bacteria as well as bad so as soon as she's finished the current batch I would put her onto a good probiotic for about a month. (Actually, I see Denes also do a Milk Thistle and garlic remedy specifically for pets).

    If her appetite is poor if she isn't already on a home-made diet I would really advise that as diet alone can treat many conditions - Chris Day is passionate about diet and would be really helpful (many dogs suddenly develop an appetite when given real food!)

    If you really can't afford to go to Chris, then Denes, Hilton Herbs or Dorwest Herbs are companies who make herbal remedies for animals and all will offer advice over the phone for specific conditions. Denes: (as above) Hilton Herbs: Dorwest:

    Very best of luck.


  2. I would advise going to see an Holistic vet who will be suitably qualified to give you advise on which natural remedies will help your dog and her condition. I would be very careful about taking advise from people about your dogs health if they are not qualified to do so, especially with her health being as it is.

    Lucy Parker, Dog Behaviourist, Staffordshire

  3. Thank you for your replies. I have taken note and will look at the websites you suggest - will also look at seeing a holistic vet. Unfortunately Elsa's recent blood test showed her LFT level had now gone up again to 706 (from 565 last month) which is not a good sign. The vet looking after her has suggested adding a third antibiotic to her current two. It looks like they are not working very well this time.