Canine Liver Disease Diet

David McCluggage, D.V.M., C.V.A.

Liver disease is a serious problem in dogs. Perhaps the most important treatment for dogs with liver disease is a home prepared diet.

Not all patients have the same type of liver disease and severity of liver malfunction; diets should therefore be specifically tailored to your dog's degree of liver disfunction.

Most patients need a diet low in copper and sodium. Antioxidants should be available in a plentiful amount!

The guidelines for a liver diet include:

  1. The liver has a diminished ability to detoxify. Thus, we need to feed adequate, reasonably high levels of easily digested proteins, free of aflatoxins, hormones, herbicides and pesticides.
  2. Limit further damage by limiting copper and, again, pesticides and other toxins.
  3. Support liver regeneration by supplying high levels of antioxidants and free radical scavengers.
  4. Dogs with liver disease are usually suffering from a condition where less protein is being broken down (catabolic) resulting in increased energy needs and therefore the need for more protein.
  5. Prevent the build-up of blood borne brain toxins, called hepatic encephalopathy.
  6. Dogs with liver disease can usually handle very high amounts of fat in the diet (30 - 50% of calories).
  7. Moderate amounts of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber can help a dog with liver disease. Soluble fiber such as beet pulp and gums lowers the production and absorption of ammonia and helps the growth of beneficial bacteria.

    There are two ways to mix up a home cooking recipe. You can simply eyeball the percent estimates we provide, or you can weigh the ingredients until you get good at mixing the recipe using the eyeball estimate.

    Liver Diet using estimates:

    • Ground beef (20% fat) lightly cooked-45%
    • Carbohydrate source: Rice, Quinoa-35%
    • Veggies (carrots are great)-20%
    • Coconut oil- 1 tsp per meal for each 15 lbs. body weight
    • Thorne Canine Sport Vitamin-1/4 per meal for each 15 lbs. body weight
    • Sea Salt (for trace minerals)-salt to taste
    • Some dogs will not have a good appetite when sick, so you can season the diet to improve taste, for example, you can add some garlic for taste
    • A fiber source, such as Thorne's Medibulk-1/2 tsp for each 15 lbs. body weight

    Cook the meat and carbohydrate source then mix them together with the meat being slightly more by volume than the rice/quinoa. Then add the cooked carrots (alternately you can buy frozen carrots and peas). Make up a large amount of this and you can then freeze into smaller containers. You will feed approximately the same amount as you were feeding before you started the diet (if you were fed a cup twice daily, continue to do this). Then, at each meal, mix in the remaining ingredients.

    Liver Disease Diet using weighed amounts:

    This recipe uses 2 pounds of ingredients, already cooked and prepared for mixing. You can double, triple, etc., the amount you are making by simply doubling or tripling the amount you cook up. Remaining portions should be frozen if not used within three days.

    • Chicken breast, with skin-1/2 pound (250 grams)
    • Cooked White Rice-2/3 of a pound (650 grams)
    • Cooked Carrots-50 grams
    • Coconut Oil-50 grams
    • Fiber Source (eg. Thorne's Medibulk)-1 tsp/50 grams
    • Antioxidant supplement (eg. Metagenic's Oxygenics)-1/4 tablet for each 20 lbs. body weight

    Feed the same amount, by volume, that you would any other diet.

    Liver Diet including some dry dog food (kibble)

    Take either of the cooked diets and mix 50/50 with a commercial diet designed for feeding to Liver Disease patients (one of these diets is called Prescription Diet l/d).

    The more fresh foods or home cooked foods you feed, the better the chance your dog will have to heal from her liver disease, so always feed at least 50% of the diet as the above home cooked recipes.