New blood test for liver disease in dogs

Monday 6th August 2018, 9:00am

Vets have developed a blood test that quickly spots early signs of liver disease in dogs. Experts say that the test - based on insights gained from human patients - could help vets identify damage and start treatment early, saving the lives of many dogs.

photo of two dogs  - image credit UoE, The Rosin Institute

Diagnosing canine liver disease is challenging and catching early signs of damage is key to its treatment. Current diagnosis is based on biopsies, which are expensive and can lead to complications. 

Findings by the University of Edinburgh suggest that thanks to the test, fewer dogs will have to undergo invasive liver biopsies.

Vets and clinical scientists based at the University's Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and The Roslin Institute teamed up with medical doctors to look at blood levels of the molecule miR-122 in dogs. This molecule is found in high levels in people living with liver disease.

They worked with pets and their owners to test miR-122 levels in 250 dogs, including Cocker Spaniels, Labradoodles and Old English Sheepdogs. Dogs with liver disease were found to have significantly higher levels of miR-122 compared with healthy dogs and dogs who had a different disease that did not affect the liver.

The team now plan to launch a testing kit to help vets worldwide quickly assess if their patient pooches have liver damage.

"We have found a specific, sensitive and non-invasive way to detect liver damage in dogs. We hope that our test will greatly improve outcomes by allowing vets to make rapid and accurate diagnosis."

Professor Richard Mellanby, Head of Companion Animal Sciences at The Hospital for Small Animals, University of Edinburgh

"I am delighted that the blood test we developed to improve the diagnosis of liver disease in humans can be used to help dogs too."

Dr James Dear, Reader, Centre for Cardiovascular Science, University of Edinburgh and NHS Doctor

The study is published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

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