Feeding your pooch a liver disease diet is an important part of caring for a dog with liver problems. A dietary change for a pet with canine liver disease (CLD) means making sure your dog is consuming foods that are safe for their liver, like blueberries, fish, and zucchini. Some foods can help the liver heal, but others may cause more harm than good.
Best Foods for Dogs With Liver Disease
It's natural to wonder what to feed a dog with liver problems. But it's important to note that although these foods are known to be generally safe, consulting your veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist is highly recommended before feeding your dog with canine liver disease any different foods. What's best for one dog may not be best for another. Some appropriate options include:
- High-quality proteins such as chicken and turkey without the bones, fish, and eggs
- Fruits such as blueberries, figs, seedless watermelon, and papayas
- Vegetables, including potatoes and sweet potatoes, green beans, squash, and zucchini
- Oatmeal, white rice, barley, and canned plain pumpkin (for soluble fiber)
- Dairy products such as cottage cheese, yogurt, goat cheese, and ricotta cheese
- Fish oil (for the omega-3 fatty acids)
- Coconut oil
Foods to Avoid
Reducing the quantity of copper in your dog's diet and raising the amount of zinc can have a major influence on their health. Some animal proteins contain high levels of copper and should be avoided in a liver disease diet for dogs.
- Organ meat (especially liver)
When the liver isn't working properly, copper builds up. Zinc can help to reduce copper levels in the body, but it's also important to limit copper-rich foods.
Developing a Liver Diet for Your Dog
Since dogs suffering from liver disease require a change in diet, there are specific steps to take with a dog's daily dietary regimen. Of course, you will need to discuss your dog's specific needs with your vet. Generally, your veterinarian will recommend a diet for a dog with elevated liver enzymes based on commercially prepared or home-cooked meals or a combination of these.
As part of a treatment plan, a diet for dogs with liver disease includes four basic goals.
- Provide good nutrition to maintain energy and health.
- Promote liver regeneration and reduce stress on the organ.
- Prevent and minimize potential complications, such as hepatic encephalopathy, where the toxins affect the brain.
- Preclude and inhibit liver damage from the accumulation of substances such as copper.
Liver disease usually means that less protein is being processed, so your dog's protein intake will need to be monitored. The general recommendation is to ensure the protein consumed is high quality but to keep the amount to a moderate level. Some of the protein may come from non-meat sources, such as cottage cheese.
With CLD, dogs can tolerate higher levels of fat in the diet. Your vet may recommend a diet that has up to 50% fat content. Include as many omega-3 fat sources as possible, such as fish oil and flaxseed oil, to provide your dog with healthy options that their body can handle.
Carbohydrates are important to aid digestion, add fiber, and remove ammonia from the system. Cooked oatmeal, white rice, and pasta are types of carbohydrates that may be included.
Dogs with CLD, especially in the advanced stages, should have a low-salt diet. Lowering salt prevents the build-up of fluid in the abdomen, called ascites, which occurs in dogs with low liver function.
There are good supplements that may help your dog with liver problems.
- Vitamin B complex
- Vitamin E
- Zinc, which helps bind copper and has antioxidants that protect the liver
- Vitamin C, for antioxidant action
- Vitamin K, for blood clotting
- Adenosylmethionine (SAMe), which may reduce liver injury and also has antioxidant properties
Commercial Liver Disease Diets
Your vet may prescribe a special commercial dog food such as Hill's® Prescription Diet l®/d® and Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Canine Hepatic. These diets are considered to be among the best options for dogs with liver diseases.
If you decide on a prescription diet, follow the instructions on the package for your dog's weight. Break the meals up into about four or five smaller portions fed throughout the day rather than one big breakfast and dinner. This eases the stress on the body from processing a larger meal.
Homemade Dog Food for Liver Problems
If you are making your own food, you can create a basic recipe using 1 part protein and 2 parts vegetables. Some of the protein may come from non-meat sources, such as cottage cheese. Use the list of liver-safe foods to customize your own recipe.
Many vets also recommend starting with a detox, or liver cleansing diet, using fresh ingredients. You can use a mixture of 25% white fish and 75% vegetables.
Another option is a mix of white fish, such as cod or halibut, and a 50/50 mix of white potatoes and sweet potatoes. Mix ⅓ fish to ⅔ potato mixture, then as your dog acclimates to the diet, you can add cooked, chopped carrots, yellow squash, green beans, and scrambled eggs.
Canine liver disease is not a condition that should be treated without medical guidance. Your vet will be able to structure a dietary plan that will help your pet recover.
Is It Possible to Control CLD With Diet?
Managing your dog's nutrition can help minimize the effects of canine liver disease, but it should be used in combination with appropriate medical treatment, including surgery if necessary.
Once the condition has been managed, many dogs with liver disease can discontinue medications and continue on the nutrition profile the veterinarian has recommended. But it depends on the severity of the condition.
Dogs with chronic liver disease must eat a therapeutic diet along with taking lifelong liver support medication. Your veterinarian will help you determine the proper course of action.
Getting Your Dog to Eat
Sometimes, dogs with liver disease appear to lose their appetite. This could be because of the discomfort from the disease, but it may also be that the lower protein food may just be less palatable to them.
If you need help to get a dog with liver disease to eat, trying a homemade diet might make a difference, as this may be more enticing than dry kibble. If your vet agrees, you can try mixing some of the prescription diet wet food with the kibble.
You can also talk to your vet about adding some liver-safe fresh items to your dog's food to increase their interest, such as a low-sodium vegetable broth or fresh veggies and fish.
Feed Smaller, Frequent Meals
Some dogs with liver disease benefit from a change in feeding routine. Instead of one or two regular meals a day, several small meals throughout the day may promote good digestion and reduce the workload on the liver.
Remember, the liver removes toxins and waste, so breaking up meals into smaller portions more frequently will reduce the amount of work the liver has to do. Instead of the liver attempting to break through a massive meal, it can process smaller portions at a time with less stress.
Seek Veterinary Advice
If your dog has elevated liver enzymes, have a conversation with your vet about what that might mean in terms of your pet's health and diet. Caring for a dog that has liver disease means working with your vet to develop an appropriate canine liver disease diet for your pet. A good diet can help your dog feel better and heal faster.