Unfortunately, liver disease in dogs is a common occurrence. Your veterinarian will help you develop an evidence-based plan to alleviate the symptoms, which will likely involve tests, medication and diet. This article will discuss specifically the dietary changes you can make for your dog with liver disease.
What is a Liver Disease in Dogs?
Liver is an important organ in a dog’s body that acts as a cleaning system, removing toxins and waste, and producing bile for better digestion. When dog's liver gets compromised, the build-up of toxins and waste can affect other organs and cause further dangerous health issues.
Causes of liver disease in dogs may be injuries, poor diet, aging or genes. It can also be a result of some infection or trauma in that area, as well as other diseases affecting the liver or even medications. Some breeds, like Doberman Pinschers and West Highland Terriers, are at higher risk of liver disease according to studies.
If you suspect that your dog is suffering from a liver disease, take him to your vet immediately. Early detection can help in treating the problem and, thanks to liver’s ability to regenerate itself, it can also lead to complete recovery, with the right treatment using medication and proper diet for dogs with liver disease.
Diet for Dogs With Liver Disease
Since the causes of the liver disease vary, the ways to deal with this problem can also be different. Developing a plan with your vet is crucial based on the causes of liver disease, but dietary changes can certainly help your dog.
Dietary changes of any kind should be made slowly. Doing it fast can hurt your dog’s stomach and make him feel worse than before. Talk with your vet to determine how to incorporate these changes.
Try to feed your dog several times every day, not just one or two meals. Stick to smaller meals and feed him 4-5 times a day to make it easier on his stomach and decrease the amount of nutrition the liver has to process.
Some holistic vets may recommend to avoid commercial dog food brands altogether since they often contain proteins, grains and starches that may negatively affect the liver. There is no clear evidence to prove one way or another at the moment, but certain dog food brands may be better than others. If, however, you choose to feed your dog a homemade dog food diet for liver disease, this article will explain dietary guidelines for it.
Some people choose to feed their dogs raw diets. Even though raw feeding is still a highly debatable topic, it's clear that practicing safe raw feeding principles can be healthier and easier for the dog's liver than many commercial dog food brands, particularly the cheap non-prescription formulas.
Some nutrients are more important than others for dogs with liver disease, and you should keep that in mind when you plan a diet for your canine.
The optimal protein intake will vary depending on the stage and type of liver disease. Some types of liver disease will demand protein increase, while other types or stages might require limiting protein. However, for the health of the liver it is important that you feed your dog high-quality protein. In fact, it is a general recommendation to ensure the protein you give to your dog is high quality, but also to feed him in moderate amounts.
The best proteins for increased protein intake are from animal sources. They have the optimal amounts of amino acids which are good for your dog in general, especially for his digestion. On the other hand, plant proteins, like grains, lack these essential amino acids. In addition to animal-based protein, veterinarians also recommend soy, dairy and eggs as protein sources.
Some animal proteins are high in copper, which is not good for liver disease. These should be avoided, especially organ meat like liver. Also avoid salmon, pork, lamb and duck since they are all rich in copper and go with chicken, turkey, beef and white fish instead.
Fats and Carbs
Again, depending on the case, some dogs with liver disease can tolerate higher levels of fat in their diet, while others should be kept at moderate fat intake. Fat is really important for energy and calories, but since it is processed through the liver, it can cause distress to dogs with liver disease. Therefore, it is best to feed only fats that are easily digestible, like coconut oil.
On the other hand, carbohydrates are important in all cases because they can help aid your dog’s digestion since they are rich in fiber. They also help remove ammonia from your canine’s system. Add white rice, oatmeal or pasta to your dog’s diet.
Vitamin and Minerals
It is important to include vitamins like vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B complex and minerals like zinc. Vitamin C is good for its antioxidant properties, just like vitamin E, and they are great for liver health. They can lead to less inflammation in the liver, among other things.
Vitamin K can help with blood clotting and also assist your dog’s body in coping with the byproducts of changed liver metabolism. Zinc is good for binding copper and also has antioxidant properties that help the liver function properly.
Structuring Your Dog’s Liver Disease Diet
As we mentioned before, consult with your vet before you add any ingredients to your dog’s diet and make sure to feed him at least four times a day.
Foods to Include
Add safe dairy products to your dog’s diet, like ricotta cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt. These foods will help his digestion and will also produce less ammonia than meat. Just make sure that you stick to dairy products that are low in salt and fat and keep in mind that goat cheese is easier to digest than cow cheese.
Eggs are a great source of protein for your dog and you should include them in your diet. Other protein sources you can include are fish, and skinless and boneless turkey or chicken. These foods are high-quality proteins that are good for your dog’s liver.
Oatmeal is great for liver disease because it contains soluble fiber that can help remove ammonia from your dog’s system, which is good for the liver because it doesn’t have to process it then. Boiled white rice is also something you should include in his diet because of soluble fiber, as well as barley and canned pumpkin.
Add a little bit of fish oil or salmon oil to your dog’s meals because they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and they can help reduce inflammation within the liver.
There is also a possibility that some fruits like watermelon, fig, and papaya can protect the liver, so try to include them in your dog’s diet. However, if you want to feed your dog watermelon, then try to take out all the seeds because they can cause intestinal blockage. Also, don’t give your dog more than a few figs because they can cause stomach upset.
Coconut, and especially coconut oil can be good for your dog’s liver. Coconut oil is particularly good if your dog has trouble absorbing fat. Just add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil daily to your dog’s diet, and use virgin or unrefined coconut oil.
Foods to Avoid
Avoid foods that are high in copper. Liver disease is associated sometimes with copper build-up and if that is the case with your dog, you should limit his copper intake. Most organ meats are high in copper, and you should particularly avoid beef liver. Chicken and turkey liver are fine since they have little copper. Avoid lamb, duck, pork and salmon as well.
Salt intake should be closely monitored because it can contribute to liver disease, particularly to retaining extra fluid. If your dog has a serious liver condition, you should put him on a low-salt diet. That will prevent the build-up of fluid in his abdomen.
Homemade Dog Food for Liver Disease
The best way to make sure that your dog isn’t eating anything that can hurt his liver is to cook for him. There are many simple and easy recipes you can make quickly. Try the one I've mentioned below, and you can also try Samantha's liver disease recipe.
Cooked Chicken with Cottage Cheese
This homemade dog food recipe is good for dogs with liver disease because it has high-quality protein in chicken, cheese and egg, but it is also rich with soluble fiber from oatmeal and pumpkin, which will help his digestion as well. It is also a pretty simple recipe that requires only around 20 minutes of prep time.
- 3/4 cup of low-fat cottage cheese
- 1/2 cup of cooked chicken
- 1/2 cup of cooked oatmeal
- 1 boiled egg
- 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin
The first thing to do is to cook the chicken. You can use chicken breasts if you want to stick to lean, low-fat meat, but other parts of chicken meat are also fine. Just make sure that it is boneless and skinless. Dice the chicken meat and then bake it, cook it in a frying pan or boil it, whatever you prefer.
Cook the oatmeal and boil the egg in advance and when your chicken is thoroughly cooked, just mix these ingredients together. After that, add cottage cheese and canned pumpkin and mix it all in one large bowl.
As soon as you mix it properly, you can serve this meal to your dog. You can store leftovers in your fridge for up to 4 days, and if you make a larger batch you can also freeze it for up to 2 months.
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