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Home:Equine Diseases: Liver Damage

Equine Diseases


Equine Liver Disease is rare in horses because it has a large capacity to regenerate itself. Symptoms are generally not apparent until around 70% of it has been damaged beyond repair. When scarring occurs the damage is irreversible. Unfortunately due to symptoms only arising when extensive damage has been done – there is little that can be done to improve the condition and the horse will rarely recover. It is one of the most important and largest organs in the horse.
Loss of appetite and weight loss are general symptoms but these can also account for a variety of illnesses. When the condition gets a lot worse horses may show serious nervous signs.

The diagnosis of equine liver failure is complex enough without the added complication of elevated liver enzymes. These are often found in routine equine blood panels on what are assumed to be healthy horses. Relatively small insults to the liver, stress, and many drugs can result in increases in serum levels of liver enzymes, sometimes dramatic rises.
Equine Liver disease does not always mean liver failure. In order to confirm equine liver failure lab work must be carried out to determine accumulation of toxic metabolites that are associated specifically with equine liver failure.


1. Depression
2. Loss of appetite
3. Photosensitisation
4. Dull coat
5. Weight loss
6. Fatigue
7. Restlessness
8. Jaundice
9. Abdominal pain
10. Diarrhoea



1. Plant poisoning: Ragwort
2. Tumours
3. Chemical toxins
4. Viruses & bacteria



Currently there is no specific treatment for equine liver disease. Rest and low protein diets are recommended. High energy food is also recommended for any horse suspected of having liver disease. Antibiotics help to control any secondary infections.
B vitamins and glucose administered orally can be helpful. Alternative veterinary surgeons find that herbs can be particularly useful in equine liver disease.