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High Alkaline Phosphatase in Dogs - ALKP in Dogs

María Besteiros
By María Besteiros, Expert veterinary assistant and canine/feline hairdresser.. Updated: July 17, 2024
High Alkaline Phosphatase in Dogs - ALKP in Dogs

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A healthy dog's body is in a state of balance. There are proteins, bacteria, enzymes and many other important compounds and microorganisms which allow a dog to function. Some may not have a specific function themselves, but are the byproduct of specific functions. Not every dog will have the same levels of these vital constituents. There is room for some variance, but there are problems when their numbers are too high or too low. This is the case with alkaline phosphatase (ALKP) in dogs. While there are symptoms of increased ALKP in dogs, it will not be until your veterinarian has performed a test that you will know this is the case.

At AnimalWised, we understand more about high alkaline phosphatase in dogs. We discover what this means for your dog's organism, how we might detect high ALKP and what treatment options are available to resolve the problem and restore normal levels.

You may also be interested in: High Cholesterol Levels in Dogs
  1. What is high alkaline phosphatase in dogs?
  2. Symptoms of high alkaline phosphatase in dogs
  3. Diagnosis of high alkaline phosphatase in dogs
  4. How to lower high alkaline phosphatase in dogs
  5. General recommendations

What is high alkaline phosphatase in dogs?

Alkaline phosphatase (ALKP) is a catalytic enzyme which is found naturally in the dog's body. It is an enzyme which breaks down proteins and is specifically important for turning a phosphate monoester into an alcohol and a phosphate when interacting with water. Essentially, it removes phosphate from compounds in the dog's body. This action is very important for various functions in the body, such as metabolism and bone formation.

Although there are important reasons for alkaline phosphatase in the dog's body, high levels of ALKP in dogs can be related to multiple disorders. They include:

  • Hepatobiliary problems (cholangiohepatitis, chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, gallbladder rupture, pancreatitis, etc.)
  • Musculoskeletal problems (osteosarcoma, osteomyelitis, etc.)
  • Endocrine problems (hyperadrenocorticism, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, etc.)
  • Intestinal problems
  • Neoplasms (hemangiosarcomas, lymphomas, carcinomas, etc.)
  • Severe starvation also increases AKLP

Other causes of elevated alkaline phosphatase may be physiologic. For example, puppies have elevated AKLP without implying any pathology. Since alkaline phosphatase is important for bone development, it usually simply means the puppy is in a developmental stage resulting in bone growth.

The administration of certain drugs and medications can also raise alkaline phosphatase. Some of these include anticonvulsants, anthelmintics, antimicrobials, antifungals or glucocorticoids.

Find out more about elevated levels of different compounds with our guides on high creatinine levels in dogs and high cholesterol levels in dogs.

Symptoms of high alkaline phosphatase in dogs

Since there are various causes of high alkaline phosphatase in dogs, the symptomology of the dog will differ. For example, musculoskeletal disorders and hepatic issues can cause a very different clinical picture. For this reason, it is important to know that high ALKP is a symptom and not a disease in itself. It is only when the dog is affected by one of these other issues that we will need to check ALKP levels in the first place.

With this in mind, we can look at some reasons we may think the dog has high levels of ALKP according to their cause:

  • Hepatobiliary problems: can result in fatigue, weight loss, jaundice, excessive drinking, vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Musculoskeletal problems: changes in gait, inability to get up, pain and abnormal movements.
  • Endocrine problems: excessive thirst, skin problems, hair loss, excessive urination and lethargy.
  • Intestinal problems: vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss and others.
  • Neoplasms: inflammation, pain, gastrointestinal issues and bleeding.

When starvation is the cause of high ALKP in dogs, we will see they have lost significant weight, are fatigued and can only move slowly. Many of the symptoms are shared with different causes, making veterinary diagnosis essential.

Diagnosis of high alkaline phosphatase in dogs

As we can see above, there are numerous conditions with which high AKLP can be related, both pathological and physiological. For this reason, it is vital we find out the underlying cause of high alkaline phosphatase levels. If we are aware our dog has elevated AKLP, it means they will have already been to see the veterinarian. Only through the appropriate diagnostic tests will we know the dog has increased levels of this enzyme in the first place.

When we see any of the symptoms described above, we need to take the dog to a veterinarian. They will perform a physical examination where they can observe for jaundice in dogs and other related disorders. We will also need to tell them about any signs we have seen such as excessive thirst (polydipsia) and excessive urination (polyuria). The vet will then perform a blood analysis on the dog and find out if they have increased ALKP, among others issues.

The alkaline phosphatase value by itself does not tell us the underlying cause. If the dog's blood analysis does not reveal anything conclusive, the veterinarian will need to run other diagnostic tests to determine the cause. It is very important we also let the vet know if the dog is taking any medications as this may result in high alkaline phosphatase.

High Alkaline Phosphatase in Dogs - ALKP in Dogs - Diagnosis of high alkaline phosphatase in dogs

How to lower high alkaline phosphatase in dogs

Alkaline phosphatase indicates that there is something wrong with our dog's body. This is except in cases where this elevation is physiological. In order for this parameter to decrease, it is necessary that we start a treatment depending on the underlying cause which has resulted in the elevation.

Given the great variance between possible causes of high ALKP in dogs, we need to ensure the underlying cause is treated. With mild gastrointestinal disorders, this may simply require some dietary changes. With serious diseases such as cancerous tumors, surgical intervention may be required. It is for this reason that veterinary consultation is essential. In some cases, the treatment may be prolonged and even be required for the remainder of the dog's life. This is the case with various liver disorders in dogs since alkaline phosphatase is primarily found in the liver.

High Alkaline Phosphatase in Dogs - ALKP in Dogs - How to lower high alkaline phosphatase in dogs

General recommendations

As we can see, there are many diseases that can lead to high alkaline phosphatase in dogs. Several will present non-specific symptoms, i.e. those common to different pathologies that may present acutely or chronically. Some of them are serious and others will need lifelong treatment.

For all these reasons, it is very important we be observant for any symptoms such as increased water intake, greater urination, yellowing of the mucous membranes, vomiting, poor body condition, fever, pain, lack of appetite or others. When we notice these issues, we need to take the dog to a veterinarian immediately. This is because prompt diagnosis and treatment administration can mean the difference between life and death.

Even if our dog does not show any signs of disease, we must go to regular veterinary check-ups. This is especially the case with dogs over the age of 7 years. This measure will allow us to detect a high alkaline phosphatase, as well as other altered parameters, and intervene early.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to High Alkaline Phosphatase in Dogs - ALKP in Dogs, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

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High Alkaline Phosphatase in Dogs - ALKP in Dogs