Managing High ALP Levels in Dogs: A Comprehensive Guide

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September 14, 2023

As pet owners, we all want our furry friends to live happy and healthy lives. However, just like humans, dogs can also face health issues. One common concern that veterinarians encounter is increased ALP (alkaline phosphatase) levels in dogs. Elevated ALP in dogs’ blood work, often referred to as high ALP or raised ALP, can be indicative of underlying health problems. In this blog post, we, at Oklahoma Veterinary Specialists, will delve into the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for dogs with high ALP levels.

Understanding ALP in Dogs

Before we dive into the details of managing high ALP levels in dogs, it’s essential to grasp what ALP is and its role in a dog’s body.

Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) is an enzyme produced by various organs in a dog’s body, including the liver, bones, intestines, and kidneys. It plays a crucial role in many metabolic processes, such as breaking down proteins and converting nutrients. In healthy dogs, ALP levels in the blood are relatively low.

Causes of Increased ALP in Dogs

  1. Liver Disease: One of the most common causes of high ALP levels in dogs is liver disease. When the liver is damaged or inflamed, it releases more ALP into the bloodstream, leading to elevated levels. Liver conditions like hepatitis, cirrhosis, and certain infections can trigger this response.
  2. Bone Disorders: Bone diseases, such as osteosarcoma or bone infections, can also cause increased ALP levels. This occurs because ALP is produced by osteoblasts, the cells responsible for bone formation.
  3. Cushing’s Disease (Hyperadrenocorticism): Cushing’s disease results from an overproduction of cortisol, a hormone that can increase ALP levels. Dogs with Cushing’s disease often exhibit other symptoms like increased thirst and urination, hair loss, and a pot-bellied appearance.
  4. Medications: Some medications, including corticosteroids and certain anti-seizure drugs, can lead to elevated ALP levels in dogs.
  5. Aging: It’s important to note that ALP levels tend to increase naturally as dogs age. This is considered normal and typically not a cause for concern unless other symptoms are present.

Signs and Symptoms

Identifying high ALP levels in dogs often involves routine blood work during veterinary check-ups. However, understanding the signs and symptoms that can accompany elevated ALP levels is essential. These may include:

  1. Lethargy and Weakness: Dogs with high ALP levels may appear tired and weak.
  2. Loss of Appetite: A decreased appetite is a common sign of underlying health issues, including elevated ALP.
  3. Vomiting and Diarrhea: Gastrointestinal issues can arise in dogs with elevated ALP levels.
  4. Jaundice: Yellowing of the eyes, skin, or gums can indicate liver problems.
  5. Increased Thirst and Urination: These symptoms are often seen in dogs with Cushing’s disease.


To diagnose the underlying cause of increased ALP in dogs, veterinarians may perform several tests, including:

  1. Blood Tests: A complete blood count (CBC) and a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) can provide valuable information about the dog’s overall health and liver function.
  2. Ultrasound: An abdominal ultrasound may reveal abnormalities in the liver, gallbladder, or other organs.
  3. X-rays: X-rays can help detect bone abnormalities or tumors.
  4. Hormonal Tests: To rule out Cushing’s disease, veterinarians may conduct hormonal tests such as the low-dose dexamethasone suppression test.

Treatment Options for High ALP in Dogs

The appropriate treatment for high ALP levels in dogs depends on the underlying cause. Here are some common treatment approaches:

  1. Addressing Liver Disease:
    • Medications: Dogs with liver disease may be prescribed medications to manage symptoms and slow down disease progression. These may include antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, and liver-supporting supplements.
    • Dietary Changes: Specialized diets formulated for dogs with liver disease can help alleviate symptoms and support liver function.
    • Monitoring: Regular monitoring of liver enzymes through blood tests is crucial to assess treatment effectiveness.
  2. Managing Bone Disorders:
    • Surgery: In cases of bone tumors, surgical removal may be recommended. This can help reduce ALP levels if the tumor is the primary cause.
    • Pain Management: Dogs with bone-related issues may require pain management to improve their quality of life.
  3. Treating Cushing’s Disease:
    • Medications: Cushing’s disease can often be managed with medication to control cortisol levels. Your veterinarian will determine the most suitable treatment plan for your dog.
  4. Adjusting Medications:
    • If medications are causing elevated ALP levels, your veterinarian may adjust or change the medication regimen.
  5. Supportive Care:
    • Providing supportive care, including a balanced diet, adequate hydration, and a comfortable environment, can aid in recovery and overall well-being.

High ALP levels in dogs are a common concern among pet owners, but they are not a diagnosis in themselves. Instead, they serve as a signal that something may be amiss within your dog’s body. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are crucial to address the underlying cause and improve your furry companion’s health.

If your dog exhibits symptoms of high ALP levels don’t hesitate to consult your veterinarian. If routine blood work reveals elevated ALP, Oklahoma Veterinary Specialists is committed to providing the best possible care for your beloved pets, and we are here to guide you through every step of the diagnosis and treatment process.

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