The liver is the largest organ in the body, performing many important tasks, like metabolizing food, detoxifying the system, producing bile, contributing to a strong immune system, and helping blood to clot. A dog with advanced liver disease can feel very sick, but a carefully proscribed diet can be beneficial.
Acute vs. Chronic Liver Disease
Acute liver disease is brought on suddenly from ingesting toxins (especially some drugs), hepatic lipidosis, trauma, heatstroke and infections. The onset of chronic liver disease is more gradual and can be caused by genetics, infections, toxins and idiopathic hepatitis. Advanced disease is often called liver failure, with 70 percent or more of a dog's liver function lost to tissue death.
Managing the Diet
Seek veterinary care in the case of advanced liver disease. Your vet may prescribe medication and intravenous fluids, but a major change in your dog's diet will be especially necessary for maintaining health. Hepatic disease often causes anorexia and fasting exacerbates liver damage because nutrients needed to protect the liver are depleted. Therefore, eating the right foods is vital to reducing liver damage and supporting liver regeneration.
Carbohydrates, which provide energy, should always be high-quality and highly digestible to reduce ammonia build-up created from undigested carbs; ammonia, a toxin, can make dogs feel sick. It's better to feed your dog frequent meals consisting of simple and complex carbohydrates, such as boiled white rice, potatoes and vegetables. Veggies provide fiber that binds with intestinal toxins, including ammonia and undigested food, promoting bowel movements to excrete toxins from the body.
Liver regeneration requires protein, but if your dog is experiencing a health crisis too much protein can worsen the disease to worsen. Once in recovery, dogs need protein, but only as much as can be tolerated. Often vets prescribe low-protein diets to lessen the ammonia created from protein. High-quality wet food proteins, such as those from milk or soy beans, are ideal. Grilled meat and bones should never be fed.
A high-fat diet can cause hepatic disease in dogs, according to Vetinfo.com. Don't feed sugary foods, red and green peppers or tomatoes. Distilled water is better than tap water. Finally, much has been written about the supplement milk thistle, an herb recommended for treating liver disease. According to the website Dog Cat Home Prepared Diet, milk thistle protects against internal toxins and also stimulates the production of new liver cells.
Debra Levy has been writing for more than 30 years. She has had fiction and nonfiction published in various literary journals. Levy holds an M.A. in English from Indiana University and an M.F.A. in creative writing/fiction from the Bennington Writing Seminars.