What should dogs with liver problems eat?


The liver is the metabolic engine of the body, much of the chemical reactions happen in this organ. It is designed to receive a large part of the body’s blood through the portal vein and metabolize from toxic to the nutrients of the diet.

It also has a large functional reserve, so it does not lose activity until it is seriously damaged and it also regenerates very easily. However, there are pathologies of diverse etiology that can damage it.

As it is the organ in charge of filtering the nutrients from the diet, this will be of vital importance in treatment and / or palliative care. Let’s see in detail what is the best diet for dogs with liver problems.

Diet in liver diseases

Given the important role that the liver has in the metabolism of many nutrients, when it is affected by any cause (inflammation, intoxication, etc.), food is generally oriented to make the organ work as little as possible . The role it plays in the different nutrients is:

  1. Proteins : It is the organ in charge of the synthesis of non-essential amino acids in addition to taking care of their catabolism to be discarded (passing to ammonia and later to urea).
  2. Fats : It is the organ in charge of oxidizing them to obtain energy from them.
  3. Carbohydrates : It is the largest body store of this nutrient stored in the form of glycogen. Another body reservoir would be the muscles but these do not have that much.

On the other hand, there are liver alterations that imply changes in the metabolism of some of its products, which also have a specific strategy. Finally, there are alterations that can come directly from alterations in the diet such as liver lipidosis.

We have an organ closely linked to food and this will be a key part of the treatment.

Keys to the liver patient’s diet

  • Organoleptic characteristics : In general, they are animals with marked anorexia, that is, they do not feed themselves. Therefore, the diet must be palatable and highly digestible to ensure that they can eat a small amount and can be used to maintain themselves. However, the placement of an esophageal tube may be indicated in these patients since they will eat earlier and their recovery and prognosis will be better.
  • Energy : For the aforementioned reason, the lack of willingness to eat voluntarily, the energy of the diet must be high so that they do not have deficiencies in it and do not lose weight.
  • Fat : Although fat is absorbed in the intestine by the action of bile, which is generated by the liver, these animals have a very competent and normal absorption of this nutrient, therefore a diet for this disease usually carries a considerable amount of lipids. However, since they are animals that eat little, it is very rare that they have a tendency to gain weight.
  • Protein : The greater or lesser contribution of this depends on the presentation of the disease in the animal. Protein restrictions may be indicated in animals with hepatic encephalopathy, which consists of an alteration of the catabolism of this nutrient that causes the ammonia in the blood to increase, giving the symptoms of the disease. On the other hand, it is intended that the animal does not lose its own tissue to obtain energy, so a highly digestible normoprotein diet may be adequate for many of these patients.
  • Vitamins : These help reduce oxidative stress in the organ and their contribution is tremendously important in this disease to ensure improvement. The amounts added to food are usually increased compared to a physiological food.

Commercial dietary options for a dog with liver problems

As we have commented, the considerations for these patients are many and therefore the demand with their diet must be high. Prescription liver foods can be a good option, especially if they have hepatic encephalopathy since they are subtly restricted in protein, but another interesting option could be those of digestive prescription, since they have more protein than the previous ones and their palatability and digestibility are usually be increased with respect to a physiological one.

Commercial options other than these are not recommended due to the lack of scientific evidence presented by physiological foods regarding their improvement in the prognosis of this disease.

In any case, they are pathologies that require several tests for diagnosis , therefore, it is very likely that the veterinarian in charge of the diagnostic process is the one who guides the diet. Since they are the professionals who look after the health of our animals, we must place our trust in them and keep them informed of the clinical progress that the patient is having.

Divyesh Patel