Firstly, there are many who argue that the liver is really a gland, since it secretes bile. We will not engage ourselves in this debate. The liver is situated in the abdomen, close up to the diaphragm – that muscle which separates the thoracic cavity (containing the lungs and heart) from the abdominal cavity (containing the stomach, intestines, spleen, kidneys, other organs and glands).

In dogs, there are five major signs of liver ailment, viz weight loss, listlessness, vomiting, spontaneous bleeding and jaundice (the whites of the eyes and the underbelly and the inside surface of the earflaps become yellow).

Functions
We won’t get into structure and shape and size of the liver. For our discussion, it is the functions of the liver which are important. Now, these liver functions are not all clear. We know that the liver aids in the development and control of proteins and sugars, while it removes waste material from the blood. It manufacturers enzymes and secretes bile. The liver is a great agent in the detoxifying process, if the animal has had a confrontation with a poisonous material.

There are some other symptoms associated with liver ailments.

●  Diarrhoea
●  Fever
●  Blood clothing abnormalities
● Fluid accumulation in the

abdomen (Ascites)
●  Frequent urination (Polyuria)
●  Frequent intake of water

(Increased thirst = Polydipsia)

●  Swollen Liver (Hepatomegaly)
●  Reduced Liver size

(Microhepatia)
●  Loss of appetite
In the literature, one is confronted with a description of nervous symptoms (brain disorder) which have their origin in a liver ailment. The clinical picture includes wandering aimlessly in a circle, pressing of the head against an object (a post, or a wall, etc), weakness, unsteady gait, blindness, drooling (increased salivation), aggression, dementia, seizures and later a coma.

I would imagine that the failure of the liver to clear several neurotoxins (nerve poisons) is a major contributing factor to the nervous symptoms listed above. The neurotoxins that I am referring to are aromatic amino acids, some fatty acids, ammonia, among others. For example, bacteria in the colon (a part of the intestine) change proteins and urea into ammonia. This ammonia is readily absorbed into the liver circulation. In healthy animals with normal liver functions, most of the ammonia would be removed by special liver cells. But when the liver function is impaired, the ammonia remains in the blood and attacks the nerve cells of the brain. I should mention, in passing, that in cats who have stopped eating for a lengthy period, the ammonia levels in the blood increase. They then begin to act crazy. Your vet will have to counteract that high ammonia content of the blood.

A Pompek

Anyway, enough of all this science today. However, since I have some space in today’s columns and because I wish to make some comments not associated with specific ailments, allow me to share with you an emerging problem that has been causing me some concern.

High priced mongrels

Lately, I have been observing animals coming into the clinic that are exhibiting all the overt signs of incest. Many of the animals are belonging to that category of dogs going under the moniker of “cute breeds”. They are usually small and fluffy (long-haired). They are especially cute when they are puppies – and it is usually the pups that are put up for sale.

The buyers are told that they are “Pom-peks” or, as I have seen advertised recently, “Havanese Dashhunds”; pure-bred “Havanese” in Guyana? “Dashhunds”? I would hope that a breeder would know how to spell the name of the breed he is selling (perhaps it was a newspaper “typo” error). And, I don’t know since when there has been a stampede of importations of either “Pomeranian Spitz” (The “Pom” part in “Pompek”) and/or “Pekinese” (The “Pek” part of the “Pompek”). As far as I know, no respectable Canine Society or authority has designated the breed “Pompek”. In fact, if one breeds a “Pomeranian Spitz” to a “Pekinese”, what emerges is a mongrel, which should not, in my own personal opinion, be attracting high purchase prices. However, let me hasten to add that if someone is prepared to pay hefty sums to acquire a mongrel, who am I to say nay. The definition of a mongrel is an animal which results from the interbreeding of two or more breeds.

Since there is no great surge of “new blood” coming into Guyana relative to the aforementioned breeds (and others of the “cute” types, e.g. Lhaso Apsos/Tibetian Terriers), there is bound to be incest (interbreeding between closely related individuals). In other words, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, mothers and sons, daughters and fathers, cousins are mating with no control, the only motive being to produce “cute” puppies for high priced sale to a gullible public. Of course, the veterinarians then have to heal these deformed animals born of incestuous relationships in the “puppy mills”; and the owners have to pay the cost to keep alive these animals with their vulnerable constitutions (weakened bodies). Let me also explain that if you see animals with twisted torsos and legs, or with “parrot bites” (top jaw greatly overlapping the bottom jaw), or with visible prognathic mandibles (bottom jaw protruding way ahead of the top jaw), or with an umbilical (navel) hernia, then in all likelihood such animals are products of incest. It must somehow be illegal, surely unethical, for some “breeder” to sell damaged dogs.

Further, let me share with you this thought: If the inbred pup is visibly exhibiting gross deficiencies, then there might very well be other internal deficiencies (e.g. undeveloped kidneys; structural problems in the blood circulatory system; shrivelled kidneys; a hole in the heart; weak immune systems, etc) which you cannot see, but which show up later in life as life threatening ailments. Such animals are so very fragile.

This whole issue of the emergence of “puppy factories” was raised at the recent Annual General Meeting of the Guyana Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (June 25, 2010). One can now expect some action from the GSPCA executive.

Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-Heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals.  Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.