Food for Liver Disease in Dogs and Cats What to Look for in the Nutrition Plan for Your Pet with Liver Disease

Food for Liver Disease in Dogs and Cats
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vet verified Dr. Joseph J. Wakshlag, DVM Associate Professor of Clinical Nutrition

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Ithaca, NY

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Some types of liver disease can be treated with the food you give your pet. Learn the nutritional guidelines for liver disease in dogs and cats.

Has your pet been diagnosed with liver disease, or do you suspect they may be suffering from it? While the symptoms—depression, weakness, loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, and stomach pain—can leave your companion feeling very under the weather, the good news is the liver, more so than most other organs, can regenerate.

This means if you get your pet on healthy pet foods as quickly as possible, you can help diminish the progression of the disease. Unfortunately, few types of liver disease can be cured, but there are treatment options to help improve your loved one’s quality of life, no matter the prognosis. 

How Can the Right Diet Help Treat Liver Disease?

The causes of liver disease vary. It could be the result of genetics, exposure to toxins, an infection, or even idiopathic, which means we do not know why our pet's liver is degenerating. As a result of these varying causes, the best ways to manage liver health also vary. Following specific healthy natural pet food diet and nutrition guidelines is one of the potential treatment options.

Keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all diet plan, and recommendations may evolve as your pet’s health changes. As always, be sure to consult with a veterinarian before making any alterations to how you care for and feed your canine or feline companion.

Liver-friendly dry dog food and dry cat food can be purchased or prepared at home, but it should be noted that complete nutrition is hard to achieve with homemade food, and any attempts should only be made with the consultation of a veterinarian or certified veterinary nutritionist.

Protein Intake for Pets with Liver Disease

Depending on the type and stage of liver disease, the ideal protein intake will vary. Some types of the disease will require an increase in protein, and other stages and types will require limiting protein. When limiting protein intake, veterinarians will often recommend using dairy, soy, and egg sources instead of meat sources.

What to Avoid in Food for Pets with Liver Disease

There are several ingredients that you must avoid in food for pets that have liver disease. Below are the two most critical ones.

Salt: content in foods should be carefully monitored to make sure your dog or cat doesn’t retain any extra fluid, a potential result of a declining liver. 

Copper: Though they are rare, liver disease is associated with a buildup of copper. If this is the case for your pet, absorbable copper should be limited in the diet (and your veterinarian may advise you to increase the zinc of your pet’s food as it helps to minimize copper absorption).

What to Look For in Food for Pets with Liver Disease

Vitamin E, zinc, SAM-e, milk thistle, and ursodiol are vitamins and supplements that may contribute to liver health, such as Denamarin for dogs or Denosyl. They can also improve the liver's antioxidant levels, leading to less inflammation.

In some cases of liver disease, your dog or cat might be put on long-term antibiotic treatment designed to help the body cope with the byproducts of altered liver metabolism. If this is the case, the vitamin K that is typically made by the body may be diminished. Since the liver depends on vitamin K for the synthesis of the proteins that cause blood to clot, veterinarians sometimes recommend vitamin K pet supplements be added to the diet, particularly if the dog is not eating vitamin K-enriched commercial dog food.

What if My Pet Doesn’t Want to Eat at All?

In some instances, if a loss of appetite accompanies the disease, you may need to feed your pet via syringe or feeding tube if they refuse to eat otherwise. Dehydration may result, and if so, electrolytes and an IV will need to be administered to get your pet’s health back on track. Other nutritional guidelines may come into play if your pet is suffering from additional health problems on top of liver troubles.

You might also want to look into fresh dog food, including home-cooked meals and freeze-dried dog food. Premium dog food brands like Orijen dog food, Blue Buffalo dog food, and more are also worth checking out.

Beyond the Diet: What Else Can I Do to Treat Liver Disease?

Medications (such as ursodiol for dogs or cats), surgery, and therapies may also help your pet. Pet nutritional supplements (such as Denamarin) also help promote liver health. Proanthozone for dogs and cats is another recommended liver and kidney supplement that supplies a blend of vital nutrients and antioxidants.

For a proper diagnosis of liver disease —and to distinguish the cause and best treatment— the vet will need to conduct some tests, usually starting with blood and urine tests and often ending in a biopsy of the liver for a definitive diagnosis. A definitive diagnosis will help you implement the perfect diet plan.

Is Your Dog Suffering from Low Immunity? Here is a list of Foods that Can Boost His Immune System

Your dog may be prone to illnesses and infections. While it’s important to limit his exposure to the substances that cause sickness, it is even more important to boost his immunity. Here is a list of foods that you can incorporate into your pet food.

  • Echinacea: Echinacea purpura is a herb that can boost your dog’s T-cell production, thereby increasing his immunity. From flu to respiratory tract infections, this herb can heal it all. But an important thing to note is that some dogs are allergic to the Echinacea extract. Be sure to check if your dog is allergic before incorporating this herb into your dog’s diet.
  • Mushrooms: Certain medicinal mushrooms such as cordyceps and reishi have anti-cancer properties. They can help slow and sometimes even stop the growth of tumors in dogs.
  • Fish oil: Apart from boosting your pet’s immunity, fish oil acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. Shark oil can be used to improve the health of your dog’s coat.
  • Vitamin E and Vitamin C: Vitamin E is important for your dog’s immune and cardiac health. Use supplements that have been designed specifically for dogs and not the ones made for human consumption. Vitamin C found in citrus fruits, vegetables, and organ meats can do wonders for your dog, especially if he has a weak liver or liver disease.
  • Olive leaf powder: From preventing allergies to treating osteoarthritis, olive leaf powder is highly beneficial for your dog. The powder, which is best when mixed with dog food, is a major immunity booster.
  • Rosemary: Rich in calcium, iron, and Vitamin B6, rosemary is great for strengthening your dog’s bones.
  • Peppermint: Peppermint is the best cure for your dog’s upset stomach. Apart from strengthening his immunity, peppermint reduces nausea and gas.
  • Yogurt: The only probiotic that can be consumed by dogs without concern, plain yogurt offers multiple gastrointestinal benefits to your pet.
  • Coconut oil: Coconut oil helps improve your dog’s digestion and it is best-known for preventing diabetes in pets. It is anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal.
  • Pumpkin: Pureed raw pumpkin is the best solution for constipation and diarrhea in dogs. You’ll see an immediate shift in the consistency of his stools.
  • Diatomaceous earth (DE): Your dog may have picked up parasites, which may cause a host of diseases. A spoon of DE in his meal will kill any internal parasites.
  • Turmeric: Curcumin, found in turmeric, is best for removing blood clots and healing joint pain in dogs. It can also reduce the chances of your dog developing dementia.

We are certain now that you are better equipped with better knowledge about the nutrition for pets with liver disease. It’s better to consult a veterinarian before making any dietary changes.

More on Food and Nutrition for Your Pet

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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis, or treatment by, your veterinarian. It has however been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Joe, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine.

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