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Dogs with liver disease - which food and treats are suitable

A dog's liver helps to digest food, filter toxins and regulate the blood (just the same as a human liver!)

A reasonably common aliment in dogs, liver disease can be diagnosed in all breeds and ages. Some variations of what causes it can be:

  • Genetics some breeds are more prone to the issue including Bedlingtons, Cocker Spaniels, Maltese, Standard Poodles, Chihuahuas, Golden Retrievers and West Highland Terriers
  • (as with people) if your dog's diet contains fatty foods over a long period it will increase the likelihood of the disease
  • Accidental circumstances such as ingesting toxic substances - for example mouldy corn, some wild mushrooms, artificial sweetener - these items may can cause liver failure and you should seek vet advice immediately
  • A different illness like diabetes or pancreas issues can lead to stress on the liver
  • A severe injury or trauma to the liver such as an accident
  • Old age - a senior dog can develop the disease as it ages, your vet will help diagnose old age issues and you can manage your diet accordingly

How can you tell if your dog is suffering from liver issues?

  • Loss of appetite, change in eating habits and/or weight loss
  • Increased drinking and the need to peeing more often than is usual for your dog
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Instability, wobbliness 
  • Signs of jaundice such as yellowing of the eyes
  • Weakness or general lethargy, if you notice changes in energy levels
  • Blood when they toilet
  • Seizures

Always seek the advice of your vet 

How will the disease progress?

Your vet will be able to tell how 'far' the disease has progressed when your dog is diagnosed.  In broad brush terms, the disease has early and later stages.

Early stages

Early stages may manifest in a smaller appetite that is usual for your dog, some weight loss and/or needing a wee and drinking more frequently. You may notice they get occasional sickness and diarrhoea.

It's not necessarily easy to detect the early signs as they can be slight and easily missed. In general, if you dog doesn't 'seem itself' then it's worth getting a check.  You know your dog best and can hopefully detect any changes in energy, personality or toilets. 

Late stages

As the disease progresses the symptoms get more severe as the liver’s inability to function deteriorates.

Jaundice of the eyes is an obvious sign and you can also check gums and tongue. The inability to hold their pee and having accidents is a sign their liver may not be functioning well.

They may go off their food, refuse food they usually like, or vomit and have bad  tummy for a prolonged period.

What diet will my dog need if diagnosed with liver issues?

Your vet will suggest a 'hepatic' dog food.

hepatic - relating to the liver. "right and left hepatic ducts"

Your vet will advise you on the best food for your dog if they diagnose liver issues. Your dog's diet will need to be carefully considered.

  • Low protein 
    Regular good quality dog food is protein high, so you will no doubt have to change the food you are using.

    The food given to dogs with liver disease will be lower in protein.
    A damaged, struggling or older liver will strain to process a high protein diet.

    Low protein liver-friendly food will still contain protein, but it will come from more easily digestible ingredients such as white fish, peas or eggs, low fat meats such as chicken or ostrich may also be suitable.

  • Easily digestible food and treats (yes you can still have treats!) 
    Everything in a hepatic dog food should be gentle and easy for the liver to process.

  • Low/no copper
    Copper build up can cause the liver to dysfunction. 

  • High zinc content
    Zinc helps to further counteract any existing copper build-up. 

  • Favourite flavours
    Your dog may have a decreased appetite so it's important they still enjoy their food

What treatments might be suggested?

The first and easiest step is to get the right food as the longer the liver is under strain processing the wrong food, the worse your dog will feel.

Your vet will determine how advanced the liver damage is and suggest treatment accordingly.

They may suggest one or more of the following options.

  1. As mentioned above, switch to a 'liver friendly' hepatic diet 
  2. The vet may prescribe drugs for any sickness and bad toilets
  3. Fluid therapy may be needed if your dog is low in fluids
  4. Nutritional supplements may be suggested
  5. Once you know your dog has liver disease, you will need to visit the vet for regular check-up and monitoring

Can you cure liver disease

The answer for dogs is the same as for humans. You cannot reverse liver damage, but you can manage and slow the progression. A diagnosis of liver damage doesn't mean your dog can't live a happy life.

Staying on top of symptoms and acting swiftly to any changes, feeding the proper food and keeping up with regular visits to your vet will extend their life and happiness.

So, what food should I buy?

Your vet may have suggestions on the brand of food to purchase. But, it's worth doing your own research too as their are now many options on the market.

Say no to cheap and nasty 'commercial' food.  You get what you pay for in life! Cheap food will most likely contain preservatives, sugars and cheap 'filler' ingredients.

There are many brands that now offer a specialist hepatic option. Here at Be More Bob, we aren't a big enough business to provide such specialist food my lovlies, but we will list a few brand options for you to explore.

  • Pooch and Mutt
  • Royal Canin
  • Purina

Does your dog enjoy a specialist hepatic dog food? Which brand do you recommend to readers?

Let's talk treats

Blueberries! A super berry that (in moderation) are packed full of benefits and can be recommended for boosting liver function. Blueberries contain anthocyanins - antioxidants that protect the liver from oxidative stress; and also Vitamin K, which is especially good for liver health. 

Bananas! Again, in moderation, don't go mad about it palsies! Bananas are high in vitamin B and are liver safe.

Eggs! A great source of protein for a dog with liver issues, nutrient-rich and gentle on digestion.

Sweet Potato! Packed with vitamin B which helps support liver function. Also rich in complex carbs and starch.

Here's a list of hard NOs!

  • Foods high in copper or salt, such as lamb, duck, pork and offal 
  • Red meats high in protein, such as beef
  • Dog food containing meat meal, preservatives, artificial ingredients and high sugar (but I would say that for all dogs! avoid avoid!)
  • Table scraps and human leftovers (no need to feed your dog human food, they will love you nonetheless, I promise!)

Here are some of our treats that could be considered (ALWAYS consult your vet for the best advice)

Treats suitable for dogs with liver conditions

1 comment

  • Thank you for the information on your website , how much blueberries to my girl Keira a Cocker spaniel 13 y
    Can please let me know who much food to give eg chicken…..
    if able to help would very helpful.
    Cheers Rosemarie

    Rosemarie Madden

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