If your dog is struggling with liver disease, searching for the best dog foods for liver diseases is a natural next step. It comes as no surprise that there are several specially-made dog foods available to maintain liver health, as the liver is the powerhouse of your dog’s body!
If your dog has liver disease, they can’t just eat any regular dog food. Dog food for liver disease should come with a strict nutritional profile that aims to reduce the workload of the liver. As such, liver care dog food should contain lower protein levels, higher fat levels, and little copper content. Ready to find out more about what to feed dogs with liver disease? Read on with us to learn more today!
What Causes Liver Disease in Dogs?
There are many factors leading to liver diseases in dogs. Because the causes vary so much, the first line of treatment for your pooch will ultimately depend on the underlying cause. Your dog may require surgical intervention or chemotherapy in some cases. In others, long-term therapeutic diets and medication are a possibility. Your vet will help you to find the best course of action for your pooch.
Some diseases of the endocrine system can lead to liver problems later on. For example, diabetes mellitus, Cushing’s disease, and hyperthyroidism can impair the liver’s function. In such cases, treating the underlying disease is a vital component of managing your dog’s liver function.
Our furry friends are susceptible to several types of liver masses and cancers. For example, liver cysts may be present from birth. These cysts may grow quite large, causing symptoms of liver disease. As well as this, primary tumors of the liver can develop – or, secondary tumors may develop elsewhere and spread to the liver in time.
Your dog’s entire blood volume must pass through the liver, so the organ is especially vulnerable to infectious disease. The liver may fall victim to bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. One such viral disease is infectious canine hepatitis. Luckily, there are vaccines available to prevent this disease. Certain toxins and poisons like moldy food, blue-green algae, and toxic plants can damage the liver, too.
Congenital liver problems, like portosystemic shunts, can cause symptoms early on in life. In young dogs, congenital portosystemic shunts are one of the most common liver problems. With a shunt, a blood vessel bypasses the liver, causing toxins to build up as they do not get filtered out by the organ.
In older dogs, it’s more common to see acquired liver shunts. These develop when the dog’s blood pressure rises due to hypertension or cirrhosis. To get around the blocked region, new blood vessels grow to bypass it, thereby bypassing the liver.
Are Certain Breeds More Prone to Liver Disease?
Certain breeds are more predisposed to liver diseases than others. For example, chronic hepatitis is common in Bedlington Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Doberman Pinschers, Skye Terriers, Standard Poodles, Springer Spaniels, Chihuahuas, Maltese, and several others. While the cause can be found in some cases, not all cases of canine hepatitis are understood.
Other conditions that may lead to chronic hepatitis include viral infections, exposure to poisons, and drug toxicity. Another liver disease, glycogen storage disease, is more common in German Shepherds and Curly Coated Retrievers.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Liver Diseases in Dogs
Your dog’s liver is a vital organ. It detoxifies the blood, metabolizes energy, stores vitamins, and manufactures proteins necessary for blood clotting. Because it plays such an important role in many areas of your dog’s body, liver problems manifest through a huge variety of symptoms. And, in turn, liver disease has a cascading effect on the other bodily systems.
In dogs, liver diseases can come with these symptoms:
- Lack of appetite
- Nausea and drooling
- Excessive thirst
- A swollen belly
- Yellow tinging to the skin, ears, and gums
And, in more severe cases:
- Head-pressing against walls or furniture
- Unsteadiness and uncoordination
Things to Look For in Dog Foods for Dogs with Liver Disease
Nutritional management is very important when it comes to liver disease in dogs. Nutritional management focuses on controlling the symptoms, rather than targeting the underlying cause. As such, the nutritional profile for a dog with liver disease should: support liver repair, decrease further damage to the liver, and maintain normal metabolic function.
With liver disease, dogs can tolerate higher levels of fat. Your vet may recommend a diet including up to 50% fat, including many sources of Omega-3 fatty acids like fish oil and flaxseed oil. Your dog will need a diet dense in calories, and fats can help to provide this. As well as this, dog food that is high in fat often tastes better. This is important for dogs who experience nausea often. Your dog must be able to enjoy their food to heal!
It’s important for your dog with liver disease to get plenty of high-quality, highly-digestible carbohydrates in their diet. Carbohydrates are effective in aiding digestion and removing ammonia from the body. Your dog’s diet may include cooked oatmeal or white rice to meet these needs. Low-quality carbohydrates that are not digested are fermented by intestinal bacteria, increasing bacteria in the colon; these bacteria then produce ammonia, which contributes to toxicity in dogs affected by liver disease.
Low in Copper
Excessive copper in the diet can become toxic over time, overwhelming your dog’s liver. This leads to progressive damage and scarring. As such, your dog’s new diet must contain less copper to reduce these risks. Copper is found in fish, whole grains, meat, liver, and legumes, so your dog’s diet should avoid high amounts of these ingredients.
Lower Protein Level
Your dog will require food with a lower total protein content than regular dog food, but with higher digestibility and quality. This combination supports liver healing but avoids excessive levels of protein that would affect mental function. In short, the food should contain just enough protein but not too much extra to ease the liver’s workload. Your dog must eat in order to heal.
Additives and Supplements
There are several supplements that may help your furry friend with liver disease, including vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and adenosylmethionine. Many of these supplements have antioxidant properties that can protect the liver and reduce liver injury.
The inclusion of such ingredients is beneficial for your dog because the liver is the principal detoxifying organ. It maintains metabolic homeostasis for your dog – when it breaks down compounds, it produces free radicals. Then, antioxidants scavenge these free radicals.
This maintains the oxidative/antioxidative balance of the liver. When this balance is thrown off, your dog’s liver goes into oxidative stress. This leads to the liver injuring itself. Therefore, restoring antioxidants to your dog’s system is essential to re-establish this balance.
Highly Palatable and Energy Dense
Because dogs with liver disease feel sick easily, it’s important that their food is tasty for them. Your dog will need to be able to stomach smaller portions to combat their nausea, so getting plenty of energy into these smaller portions will aid in their recovery.
10 Best Dog Foods For Liver Diseases
When your dog has liver disease, nutritional management is crucial for their recovery. Your dog requires a diet low in protein, high in fat, and low in copper. The ingredients should be highly digestible to ease the workload on your dog’s body.
Overall, be sure to follow your vet’s instructions. Do not switch your dog to an alternative diet without consulting with them first as this can negatively affect your pup’s recovery!
1. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Adult Hepatic Dry Dog Food
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Adult Hepatic Dry Dog Food is a complete dietetic diet for dogs with liver disease. This diet provides high-quality protein in moderate levels, high levels of essential fatty acids, and highly-digestible carbohydrates with a restricted level of copper.
Some pet parents report that the kibble pieces are too large for their dogs. Others report that their pets dislike the flavor and will not eat it, even with tasty toppings to convince them. If this is an issue for your pup, speak to your vet about alternatives.
2. Hill’s Prescription Diet l/d Liver Care Original Flavor Wet Dog Food
Prescription Diet™ Canine l/d™ is a veterinary-exclusive diet made especially for dogs with reduced liver function. It works by reducing the liver’s workload, offering moderate levels of high-quality protein and L-carnitine. It also offers antioxidant nutrients like vitamin E and C to control cell oxidation. This diet is also pea-free and comes in a wet pate form. Many dogs enjoy the flavor of this food as well.
The main issues with this diet are its lack of availability. Especially on Chewy, several customers report that it is not in stock often enough for their dogs’ needs. It also occasionally arrives dry rather than wet and can be difficult to moisten.
3. JustFoodForDogs Veterinary Diet Hepatic Support Low Fat Fresh Frozen Dog Food
JustFoodForDogs Veterinary Diet Hepatic Support is a veterinary-exclusive diet. This food is crafted with fresh, human-grade ingredients. It contains Alaskan cod, sweet potatoes, chicken eggs, and white rice. This diet supports healthy liver function with high-quality, moderate levels of protein and low levels of copper. One of the benefits of this diet is that it is freezable for up to one year.
The flavor of this diet won’t do the trick for all dogs. Its extremely low-fat content means that it will have less flavor than other recipes. As such, your dog may find it too bland to enjoy. As well as this, if your dog has no other health concerns that would warrant needing a low-fat diet, other diets on our list may be more suitable.
4. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Adult Renal Support F
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Adult Renal Support F is a veterinary-exclusive dry food. This food is marked “F” for flavorful, noting its highly palatable formula. True to its name, many dogs, even picky pups, seem to enjoy the taste of this diet. It’s also low in protein and higher in fat, making it suitable for dogs with liver issues.
One of the main issues with this diet is the texture and size of the kibble. For some smaller breeds, like Chihuahuas, wolfing down this kibble may be a challenge – each piece is about 1cm in size. Other dogs may struggle with the hardness of the kibble. For some, the food is too hard and difficult to soften.
5. Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet KS Kidney Support Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet KS Kidney Support is a veterinary-exclusive diet formulated for dogs with kidney disease. While this diet is not made for liver disease, it may suffice as an alternative when other diets are unavailable. This formula contains just 14% crude protein and 18% crude fat and is supplemented with L-carnitine and Vitamin E, which may support healthy liver function.
The main complaint with this diet is kibble sizing. For smaller breeds, these larger pieces may be difficult to work around. The texture is also quite hard, which may be difficult for dogs with fewer teeth to chew on. However, the main problem with this diet is that it is not liver-specific. It should not be given long-term to manage liver disease in dogs.
6. Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets NF Kidney Function Dry Dog Food
Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets NF Kidney Function Dry Dog Food is a veterinary-exclusive dry food. This great-tasting food features healthy antioxidants, restricted levels of protein, and higher levels of crude fat. While this food is not made for liver disease, this nutritional profile may suffice as an alternative until you can get your hands on liver-specific diets.
Like several others on our list, the main problem with this diet is the kibble size. For small breeds, the larger pieces and harder texture can be difficult to work around. As well as this, this diet is not made for liver disease specifically. This diet is not suitable for the long-term treatment of liver disease.
7. Hill’s Science Diet Adult 7+ Chicken Meal, Barley & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food
Hill’s Science Diet Adult 7+ Chicken Meal, Barley & Brown Rice is a non-prescription low-protein diet. This dry food is formulated for aging dogs, providing highly-digestible nutrition. It provides Omega 3s, vitamin E, and L-carnitine. While this diet is not made for managing liver disease, its nutritional profile may make it a viable alternative in the short term. It also comes in three bag sizes for your needs, and a small bites version is available for smaller breeds.
Perhaps most importantly, there is no printed amount of copper per cup of this food. As such, we recommend conversing with your vet before feeding this diet to your pooch. Also, this diet is another that is not made for liver disease. Be sure to switch to a diet made especially for liver problems in the long term.
8. Diamond Naturals Light Real Meat Recipe Premium Dry Dog Food
Diamond Naturals Light Real Meat Recipe Premium Dry Dog is a low-protein diet. It is made with lamb meal and rice as well as superfoods like blueberries and oranges. It also contains plenty of L-carnitine, antioxidants, and prebiotics to aid healthy digestion and liver health as well. Overall, it contains 18% crude protein, making it lower in protein than many other commercial dog diets.
The two main issues are the lack of clarification on its copper content and the fact that this diet is not made for liver problems. Another downside is its lack of crude fat at only 6%. Because this diet is not made especially for liver disease, be sure to switch to a liver-specific diet when possible.
9. JustFoodForDogs Veterinary Diet PantryFresh Renal Support
JustFoodForDogs Veterinary Diet PantryFresh Renal Support is a veterinary-exclusive frozen diet. It features human-grade ingredients like ground lamb, sushi rice, blueberries, and brown rice. All of these ingredients come together to control its levels of protein, keeping them as low as 6%. It also has a long shelf life, lasting up to 2 years unopened.
This diet is not made for dogs with liver disease. As such, it’s important to consult with your vet when switching to a liver-specific diet for your dog. As well as this, several customers report shipping issues for this product. Some fail to receive the product, others receive it late.
10. SquarePet VFS Low Phosphorus Formula Dry Dog Food
SquarePet VFS Low Phosphorus Formula Dry Dog Food is a low-protein, low-sodium dry diet. It contains plenty of antioxidants, vitamins C and E, and turmeric to defend against oxidative stress. And, with salmon oil in the mix, your dog is sure to receive plenty of Omega-3s for their health.
Unfortunately, this diet contains more copper than is suitable for a dog with severe liver disease. Therapeutic diets for dogs with liver disease should contain 3 to 5 ppm of copper. This diet contains 16.2 mg/kg, which translates to about 16.2 ppm. Be sure to speak to your vet about a more suitable diet when possible.
Can You Prevent Liver Disease in Dogs?
Unfortunately, not all cases of liver disease are preventable. However, certain precautions can help to reduce the risk to your pooch. Your dog should receive vaccinations for infectious canine hepatitis and, if applicable, leptospirosis. Keep your pup away from toxins in your home and when out on walks. And, be sure to read up on the signs of liver disease.
It’s always best to see your vet sooner than later if you have any concerns for your dog’s health. Especially with liver disease, early intervention is crucial for treating liver problems successfully.
How Do You Feed Dogs With Liver Disease?
If your pooch has liver disease, they may benefit from smaller portions broken up across the day. Break up your dog’s meals into three or four smaller portions throughout the day, rather than one large breakfast and dinner. This helps to ease the stress on your dog’s organs from processing larger meals.
Because it is so important for your dog to eat well in order to heal, it is crucial to prevent nausea. Otherwise, your pooch may develop an aversion to the food they need to stay healthy. If your pup is struggling to eat, consider adding tasty toppings to pique their appetite. Some dairy products like cottage cheese and yogurt make good options for toppings!
Overall, your dog’s diet for liver disease should meet a strict nutritional profile. Be sure to provide them with a low-protein, high-fat diet. Always follow your vet’s instructions closely. You should always consider the best food to feed a dog with liver problems.