Vets and doctors have teamed up to develop a blood test that could spot the early signs of liver disease in dogs.
The test is set to be launched worldwide and could help vets to identify damage and start treatment early.
As well as saving many lives, it will reduce the number of dogs that have to undergo invasive liver biopsies, according to the University of Edinburgh.
Diagnosis of liver disease in dogs is challenging and spotting the early signs of damage is key to treatment. Current diagnosis is based on biopsies, which are expensive and can lead to complications.
Vets at the University’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies worked with medical doctors to look at blood levels of the molecule miR-122 in dogs. In humans with liver disease, the molecule is found in high levels.
Out of 250 dogs tested, those with liver disease were found to have significantly higher levels of miR-122, compared with healthy dogs and those with different diseases that did not affect the liver.
Lead veterinary researcher, Professor Richard Mellanby, said: “We have found a specific, sensitive and non-invasive way to detect liver damage in dogs. We hope that our test will greatly improve outcomes by allowing vets to make rapid and accurate diagnosis.”
NHS doctor Dr James Dear, who co-led the study, added: “I am delighted that the blood test we developed to improve the diagnosis of liver disease in humans can be used to help dogs too.”
The team plan to launch a testing kit worldwide.