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By Lew Olson • April 2004 Newsletter
This article is the first in a series of newsletters written to address diet needs for special conditions, along with sample diets and resources for further information. I get many requests for diet information for dogs with special needs, and I thought it beneficial to organize this information into multiple parts so they could be printed by topic and used for easy reference. They will also be posted on the B-Naturals website for easy future access.

The information contained in this newsletter should only be used as a guideline. Always make sure you have a correct diagnosis from your veterinarian or health care practitioner in hand before proceeding and always follow their directions and protocol.

Liver Diet

Reading the article attached to the website link below may enhance your understanding of this article, so it is suggested that you read this first.

This article explains many of the dynamics of liver disease, its symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and the ideas behind diet in these disorders. I get many emails from people that have been instructed to use low protein diets for liver problems, however this is only partially true. It isn’t the protein that is harmful to the liver, but rather the ammonia in animal proteins. When a liver is damaged, ammonia gets into the body’s system and can cause problems, so it is important to know which proteins produce the least amount of ammonia.
High quality protein is important for the health of the liver. Using poor quality proteins or too little protein can result in liver damage. Animal proteins contain the right complement of amino acids. Plant proteins, such as grains and plant sources, are lacking in some amino acids that are essential for organ health and repair.
“Although some of the therapeutic veterinary diets marketed for the management of chronic renal failure are suitable for the management of liver disease, they are not ideal. Diets with very low protein levels should not be used. Maintenance of a positive nitrogen balance is necessary for hepatic repair, as well as optimal control of hepatic encephalopathy HE), so there is a strong case for progressive increase in protein intake from this basic level, as long as the patient remains free from signs of HE.
When treating puppies with Porto systemic shunts, it is important to ensure that the diet meets nutrient requirements for growth.”
Proteins that produce the least amount of ammonia include eggs and dairy products (yogurt and cottage cheese). Fish and chicken produce lower amounts of ammonia. Red meat appears to produce the most ammonia.
While most home made recipes or commercial diets contain high carbohydrates to spare protein, the above article goes on to say: “Carbohydrate metabolism may become severely deranged in dogs with liver disease, resulting either in glucose intolerance or inability to maintain normal plasma glucose levels. Complex carbohydrates are therefore preferred over simple sugars in the diet, by smoothing the post-prandial glycaemic response. This reduces the short term insulin requirements in the glucose intolerant patient and prolongs the delivery of glucose to the liver.”
Complex carbohydrates also contribute soluble fiber, which helps absorb ammonia and reduce nitrogenous wastes. Some carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, contain much more soluble fiber than others and are therefore recommended in diets for liver disease.
Fat is also important for energy and calories for dogs with liver disease, but fat is processed through the liver and can cause distress if the liver is diseased.
So the conclusions made might be that high quality, low ammonia producing animal proteins are important to this diet. Carbohydrates are useful for the fiber content to help absorb excess ammonia and other toxins, but complex carbohydrates are best. Lastly, fat is important, but use moderate amounts in forms that are most easily digested.
To summarize, the recommendations for a good diet for liver disease include:
High quality, low ammonia producing animal proteins are very important.
Complex carbohydrates are best, especially those with a lot of soluble fiber. The fiber content helps absorb excess ammonia and other toxins.
Fat is important, but the fats used should be easily digestible and should be used in moderate amounts.
Good foods to use for a dog with liver disease include:
Protein sources:
Eggs, low fat cottage cheese, yogurt, chicken (with skin and visible fat removed), and fish.
Carbohydrate sources:
Oatmeal, barley, whole wheat bread, pulped vegetable skins and canned pumpkin.
Fat sources:
Meat fat, Omega 3 fatty acids such as fish body oil or salmon oil (NOT cod liver oil). Omega 3 fatty acids help with organ function.
A sample diet might look like this:
50% cottage cheese, egg and chicken (cooked, with fat drained) 30% oatmeal 20% canned plain pumpkin.
While some may interpret this diet as being 50% protein, please remember that the protein sources listed are high in moisture, fat and connective tissue. The actual amount of protein is less than 20%.
An average dog should consume about 2% to 3% of their body weight daily. So a 100 pound dog would get two to three pounds of food daily, a 50 pound dog would get one to one and a half pounds daily, and a 25 pound dog would get eight ounces to 12 ounces daily. A cup is about 8 ounces. However, you should initially weigh the food when you are first starting this diet.
For a fifty pound dog, a sample diet would look like this:
– 4 ounces low fat cottage cheese
– 4 ounces cooked chicken
– One egg
– 6 ounces (3/4 cup) of cooked oatmeal
– 4 ounces canned pumpkin
Using the ingredients listed above, this diet could be varied. Variety is important not only for nutrients, but for the interest of the dog as well.
Here are some additional examples:
– 4 ounces cooked Cod
– 4 ounces low fat yogurt
– One egg
– 6 ounces (3/4 cup) of cooked oatmeal
– 4 ounces steamed or cooked broccoli, cauliflower or sweet potato
Another variation would be:
– 4 ounces drained and rinsed canned or cooked Salmon
– 3 scrambled eggs
– 6 ounces cooked barley
– 2 slices of whole wheat bread
Please note the metabolism of dogs can vary. Watch your dog’s weight carefully. If the dog starts to look thin, serve more food. Conversely, if the dog gains weight, reduce the quantity. You should be able to easily feel the ribs, but not see them by observing the dog. It can also be helpful to serve small frequent meals daily than to serve one or two larger ones. Home cooked diets are naturally low in salt, so this can help prevent acsites (fluid retention) in some forms of liver disease. Do not add extra salt to the diet, and be sure to drain and rinse canned fish thoroughly.
The second part of this diet includes supplements. Since this diet is devoid in calcium, save the eggshells and dry them overnight. Grind them in a coffee bean grinder and add them back at 1/2 teaspoon per pound of food served. I would also add Berte’s Green Blend for trace minerals.
Dogs with liver disease also need help in producing vitamin K. You can add this vitamin, or give your dog Berte’s Ultra Probiotic Powder. Beneficial bacteria helps produce vitamin K.
Vitamin C is also lost with liver issues. The liver has problems storing fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin E. B vitamins can also help support the liver. Berte’s Immune Blend contains these vitamins without adding additional minerals. I would probably give this at 1/2 the recommended dose.
Omega 3 fatty acids are also very helpful. Salmon or fish oil (not Cod Liver Oil) are best. Give at the rate of 1,000 mg per 20-30 lbs of body weight daily.
Since the liver can have problems digesting fat, a good digestive enzyme is recommended. A good digestive enzyme that contain pancreatic and pancrealipase can help break down fats in the stomach. This can help take the load off the liver. Food Science All Zyme) contains these, plus betaine, which is also helpful for liver support.
Other supportive liver supplements include:
Milk Thistle:
This herb has been found to help regenerate the liver and remove toxins. This comes in both capsules and liquid tincture, depending on ease for dosing each particular dog.
(also known as denosyl) helps to improve hepatic function. Several research studies have been done on SAM-e showing excellent results. SAM-e would be given at approximately 200 mg per 50 lbs of body weight, in between meals.
This amino acid has been found deficient in human patients with advanced cirrhosis, and is being advised for dogs with liver disease as a supportive measure. L-Carnitine deficiency can cause protein starvation. Give approximately 500 mg per 50 pounds of body weight.
L- Arginine:
L-Arginine is another amino acid that has shown effectiveness in helping with hepatic circulation and increased oxidation. Dose would run about 250 mg per 50 pounds of body weight daily, if needed.

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