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 healthcare practitioner in hand before proceeding and always follow their directions and protocols.
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Additionally, most of the information contained in this newsletter is focused on dogs with chronic end-stage liver disease, a liver shunt issue, and/or their liver is so damaged it can no longer process ammonia.
Liver Diets for Dogs with Chronic Liver Disease
I get many emails from people who have been instructed to feed a low protein diet to dogs with liver problems. However, protein is not harmful to the liver. Protein is essential for proper liver function. It is the ammonia proteins produce that cause issues with dogs in chronic end-stage liver disease or dogs with liver shunt issues. When a liver is severely damaged, or there is a shunt issue, ammonia gets into the body and can cause problems. Therefore, for these specific liver problems, it is important to know which proteins produce the least amount of ammonia.
Dogs with minor liver problems can eat a regular home-cooked or raw diet; however, the amount of fat should be reduced. One of the main functions of the liver is to breakdown fats and a compromised liver can struggle with this task, so diets lower in fat are recommended.
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 complementary amounts of amino acids needed for good health. Plant proteins, such as grains and plant sources lack some of the amino acids that are essential for organ health and repair. Animal-based proteins help keep the liver healthy and give it the ability to regenerate.
Proteins that produce the least amount of ammonia include eggs and dairy products (yogurt, and cottage cheese). Fish and chicken also produce lower amounts of ammonia. Red meats appear to produce the most ammonia. However, as stated above, the amount of ammonia in proteins is only a concern when the dog has chronic liver disease or liver shunt issues.
Complex carbohydrates contribute soluble fiber, which helps absorb ammonia and reduce nitrogenous wastes. Some carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, contain more soluble fiber than other carbohydrates. Therefore, carbohydrates higher in soluble fiber are recommended in diets for liver disease.
Fat is also important for energy and calories. However, fat is processed through the liver, so for dogs with liver disease, this can cause distress. Therefore, it is important to feed only easily digestible fats and in reduced amounts.
To summarize, dogs suffering from chronic liver issues or liver shunt issues should be fed high quality, low ammonia producing animal proteins, complex carbohydrates that are high in soluble fiber and low amounts of quality fats.
Dogs dealing with moderate liver issues can be fed a normal home-cooked or raw diet, with care taken to reduce the fat content. You can easily reduce the amount of fat in the diet by offering low or non-fat yogurt and cottage cheese, removing the yolk from eggs, feeding low-fat meat and trimming any extra fat and skin from poultry.
Good foods to feed a dog with liver disease include:
- Low fat cottage cheese
- Low fat yogurt
- Chicken with skin and visible fat removed
- Whole wheat bread
- Pulped vegetable skins
- Canned pumpkin
- Meat fat
- Omega 3 fatty acids such as EPA Fish Oil or Salmon Oil (Not cod liver oil)
A sample diet might look like this:
– 50% cottage cheese, egg and chicken, cooked, with the fat drained.
– 30% oatmeal
– 20% canned plain pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
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. Therefore, the actual amount of protein is less than 20%.
An average dog should consume about 2% to 3% of their body weight daily. Therefore, a 100-pound dog would get two to three pounds of food daily and a 25-pound dog would get eight to 12 ounces daily. A cup is about 8 ounces, however, I recommend weighing the food initially when you first start the diet to insure you are feeding the proper amounts.
Here is a sample diet for a 50-pound dog:
– 6 ounces of low-fat cottage cheese
– 4 ounces of cooked chicken with the fat drained
– One egg
– 4 ounces (3/4 cup) of cooked oatmeal
– 4 ounces canned pumpkin
Variety is important to ensure the most nutrients are being offered and to keep the dog interested in their food. Using the ingredients listed above, this diet can be varied.
Below are some additional recipe samples for a 50-pound dog:
– 6 ounces cooked Cod
– 4 ounces low-fat yogurt
– One egg
– 4 ounces (3/4 cup) of cooked oatmeal
– 4 ounces steamed or cooked broccoli, cauliflower or sweet potatoes
– 4 ounces drained and rinsed canned or cooked Salmon
– 5 ounces low-fat cottage cheese
– 6 ounces cooked barley
– 2 slices of whole wheat bread
IMPORTANT NOTES TO REMEMBER:
Each dog’s metabolism is different. Once you begin the new diet, watch your dog’s weight carefully. If your dog starts to look thin, serve more food. Conversely, if your dog begins to gain weight, reduce the quantity of food fed. You should be able to easily feel the ribs but not see them when you observe your dog.
It is also helpful to serve small, frequent meals each day, as opposed to serving one or two larger meals, to allow the liver to adequately process fats.
Additionally, home-cooked diets are naturally low in salt. This helps prevent ascites (fluid retention), which arises in some forms of liver disease. Do NOT add extra salt to the diet and be sure to drain and rinse canned fish thoroughly.
For dogs with liver issues that DO NOT have ammonia leakage, a normal diet, with reduced fat content, is fine.
Useful Supplements for Dogs with Liver Disease:
Several supplements are beneficial for dogs suffering from liver disease.
The recommended diets above that are suggested for liver compromised dogs do not include the amount of calcium needed. Therefore, calcium supplementation is necessary. Save the eggshells from the eggs, and dry them overnight. Grind them in a coffee bean grinder and add them back into the diet at 1/2 teaspoon per pound of food served. Another option is to give calcium carbonate or calcium citrate at 900 mg per pound of food fed.
Food options can be limited when your dog is dealing with chronic liver disease or shunt issues. Therefore, I suggest adding Berte’s Green Blend to your dog’s diet to help ensure they are getting all the needed trace minerals.
The Berte’s Digestion Blend contains betaine for liver support and the enzymes pancreatin and pancrealipase, which helps break down fats in the stomach before they reach the liver. Additionally, dogs with liver disease need help producing vitamin K. Beneficial bacteria helps produce vitamin K. Berte’s Digestion Blend contains the beneficial bacteria needed to help produce vitamin K.
Berte’s Immune Blend is a multi-vitamin blend that contains water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamin C production is lost with liver issues and the liver has problems storing fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A and E. Additionally, B vitamins help support the liver. Berte’s Immune Blend vitamins contain all these needed vitamins without adding additional minerals. I suggest giving this supplement at one-half the recommended dose.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids:
Fats are essential for energy and Omega 3 fatty acids are renal protective. The best sources of Omega 3’s are EPA Fish Oil or Salmon Oil (NOT cod liver oil). These should be given at 1,000 mg per 20 – 30 pounds of body weight daily.
Other Supportive Liver Supplements Include:
This herb has been found to help regenerate the liver and remove toxins. Milk Thistle comes in both capsules and liquid tincture, so you can decide which is best for you to use depending on the proper dosage for the dog.
SAM-e, also known as denosyl, helps to improve hepatic function. Several research studies have been done on SAM-e showing excellent results. SAM-e should be given in between meals and not with meals. The dosage is approximately 200 mg per 50 pounds of body weight.
This amino acid has been found deficient in human patients with advanced cirrhosis of the liver, 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 is another amino acid that has shown effectiveness in helping with hepatic circulation and increased oxidation. The dosage runs approximately 250 mg per 50 pounds of body weight daily, if needed.
MORE IMPORTANT NOTES:
- These diets do NOT ‘cleanse’ the liver, nor is that possible.
- For dogs with ammonia leakage issues, a diet using reduced ammonia producing foods helps remove discomfort and nausea.
- Keeping the protein levels high enough is important, as proteins are the building blocks for the maintenance, health and support of the liver.
- I suggest feeding all dogs with a compromised liver, chronic end-stage liver disease and dogs with liver shunt issues small, frequent meals daily. This gives the liver a chance to adequately process fats.
- Be sure to have your veterinarian monitor your dog’s blood work regularly so proper liver function can be continually assessed. This helps with further diagnosis, treatment AND diet decisions!
April Showers bring May Flowers . . .Happy Spring!
Rain brings dampness and humidity, so as the temperatures warm up be sure to
check your dog’s ears for yeast. It can multiply with higher humidity and temperatures!
Springtime also means it is Heartworm season, so be sure your dog gets proper Heartworm prevention!
Fleas and flies also love springtime, so keep your dogs safe from those critters too!
On a final note, Get up, Get moving and Get Walking! Your puppies love long walks in the fresh air!
Get moving! We can all use some exercise after this long, long winter!