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Published: Apr 25, 2012

Seizures in dogs can be quite scary for a pet owner, which is why it's important to get the animal to a veterinarian as soon as possible if it occurs. Once the doctor examines the animal, it's likely that they will recommend performing a bile acid test to determine the source of the seizure.

Liver disease is one of the leading causes of seizures in dogs, and a bile acid test is a good test of liver function.  Essentially, bile is produced by the liver to aid the process of digestion. Most of the time, a functioning liver will recycle bile acids in the body by removing them from the blood stream, while a damaged or unhealthy liver cannot and the level of bile acids in the blood will rise.  

The most important aspect of a bile acid test is the fasting beforehand. The dog is required to not eat or drink anything for approximately 12 hours before the test is administered, reports VCA Animal Hospitals. This even includes chews and small treats. It can be tempting for an owner to feed their dog, but it is essential that the canine does not eat during this time in order to get an accurate result.

Once the fast is completed, blood will be drawn from the dog.  The dog is then allowed to eat and digest a portion of food and a second blood sample will be drawn two hours later. Both blood samples are tested for the level of bile acids.  If the liver is working properly, a fasted dog should have very low levels of bile acids and only a slightly higher level after it has eaten.  In a dog with liver disease, both samples or just the sample taken after eating may be abnormal.  Depending on the degree of abnormality, your veterinarian is likely to recommend other tests or treatments for your dog with liver disease.