Alkaline phosphatase (ALP or ALKP) is a group of enzymes located on the membranes of liver cells and bile duct cells. An elevated level of alkaline phosphate may or may not be indicative of liver dysfunction. Several benign things, such as a dog's age, breed, and nodular hyperplasia, can elevate a dog's ALP level. However, ALP level in dogs can also be elevated due to a medical problem, such as hepatitis, cancer, pancreatitis, diabetes, gall stones, cirrhosis, ingestion of a toxin, or infection.
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How is alkaline phosphatase level measured?
Alkaline phosphatase is an enzyme produced by various tissues in a dog's body. ALP is found in the membranes of liver and bile duct cells as well as in the bones. A dog's ALP level is measured with a blood test called a chemistry panel. Chemistry panels are often done routinely at a dog's annual vet visit or as part of a pre-surgery screening.
An elevated alkaline phosphatase level may be indicative of a number of medical problems. If your dog is experiencing certain symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, drinking and urinating more often, weight changes, lethargy, appetite loss, or abdominal pain, your vet may want to order further diagnostic tests.
The normal range for alkaline phosphatase in dogs is 7 to 115 U/L There are no medical concerns when the ALPK is low in dogs. An elevated level may indicate a health problem that needs to be addressed.
Benign causes of elevated alkaline phosphatase
In puppies and young dogs who are still growing, it is not uncommon for ALP to be elevated. Certain dog breeds, such as Siberian huskies, miniature schnauzers, and Scottish terriers, tend to have benign ALP elevations.
Nodular hyperplasia is a condition commonly seen in older dogs and is also associated with a high ALP level. Certain medications, such as anticonvulsants and corticosteroids, can also increase the ALP level in dogs.
Health problems associated with a high ALP level
There are many health conditions associated with an elevated ALP level in dogs. An elevated alkaline phosphatase level can be indicative of hepatitis (inflammation of the liver), pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), diabetes, bone or liver cancer, viral or bacterial infections, gall stones, and Cushing's disease. An ALP level may also be elevated if a dog suffers trauma to his liver.
Environmental toxins can also lead to an elevated alkaline phosphatase level in dogs. These can include mold in your home or the ingestion of a toxic substance, such as human medication.
Determining the cause of an elevated ALP level
If your dog has a one-time elevation in her ALP level and seems otherwise healthy, further investigation may not be necessary. However, if your dog's ALP level is high over a period of time or if your dog is showing symptoms of illness, your veterinarian may recommend further diagnostic tests.
Symptoms that may be concerning to your vet include increased thirst or urination, vomiting, diarrhea, weight changes, loss of appetite, lethargy, and abdominal pain. Your dog's other lab results, medical history, age, breed, and medications will help your vet determine if further diagnostic tests are needed. Your vet may order further diagnostic bloodwork or a liver ultrasound depending on what he suspects is going on with your dog.
It's always important to take your dog to your veterinarian if you suspect that she is ill. Your vet will be able to determine the cause of your dog's symptoms and work with you to create an appropriate treatment plan.
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Chemistry (Cobas)
- VCA Hospitals: Testing for Liver Disease
- The MSPCA-Angell: What Does it Mean if a Dog Has Elevated Liver Values?
- Pico Veterinary Hospital: Alkaline Phosphatase Level
- Emergency Vets USA: Elevated Liver Enzymes in Dogs and What It Means