Looking to help your pet live a longer, healthier, happier life - despite liver disease? We’ll talk all about the role of diet for dog with liver disease in this guide on what to feed a dog with liver problems.
The Role of the Liver
In Western veterinary medicine, the liver produces bile which aids in metabolizing and digesting fats and detoxifies some drugs.
In holistic, traditional Chinese medicine the Liver is responsible for assisting in digestion, but it also stores the Blood and governs the flow of Qi- which is the energy in the body. The Liver is the organ to regulate your emotions as well.
Poor diet, such as processed kibble and canned food, strong emotions, and environmental stress can damage the liver.
Inflammatory Liver diseases reflected as an increase in the ALT and or ALKP in bloodwork are caused by underlying Liver Stagnation in traditional Chinese medicine. Liver stagnation is an obstruction of the free flow of Qi, leading to GI problems and poor energy.
A dog’s diet is very important in Liver disease. In holistic Chinese medicine, all ingredients should be real food to truly be nourished by your diet. In liver disease particularly, the quality of ingredients, the specific foods, and the way we feed dogs is very important. This is because only real food meals give the nourishment needed to give the liver the tools it needs to move energy in the body:
The Liver’s function in holistic traditional Chinese medicine:
- The Liver provides energy and releases Blood to the body. Qi and Blood work together to provide energy. If poor nutrition results in a poor appetite, Liver Spleen disharmony results. Signs of liver-spleen disharmony are primarily GI upset.
- If the Qi flow is inadequate or Qi flow is obstructed, the Spleen and Stomach become overwhelmed and GI problems develop.
To support Liver function the following diet principles should be followed:
- Feed human-grade, real food
- Feed cooked food; this is more gentle than raw
- Choose specific foods that are known to be gentle and support the stomach, spleen, and liver
Recognizing the signs of liver disease in Dogs:
In Western and Eastern medicine, signs of liver disease are associated with the GI. Here you can see the need for the liver and stomach to work together, when they don’t we have liver spleen disharmony.
Because the liver governs the flow of Qi, or energy in the body, liver disease is associated with weakness.
Severe liver disease can eventually result in jaundice, a yellow tint to the eyes, tongue, and gums as well as blood in the stool and urine.
Seizures and ascites, (a build-up of abdominal fluid) can also result from advanced liver disease.
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Vomit or diarrhea
- Lethargy, weakness
- Jaundice: yellow tint to eyes, tongue, and gums
Tests for Liver Disease:
Basic blood tests will indicate an abnormality in the liver, specifically:
- Increased ALT: this enzyme is found in individual liver cells
- Increased ALKP: this enzyme is in the outer membranes of liver cells and in the bile ducts, (from the gall bladder)
- Increased GGT- this enzyme is in the lining of the if the gall bladder’s bile ducts and is elevated if the gall bladder is also affected
- Increased total bilirubin: bilirubin a component of red blood cells and is processed through the liver.
How a Liver Disease Dog Diet can help:
Fortunately, eating the right food for dogs with liver disease can help your pet live a healthier, happier, longer life. Here’s how a liver disease diet for dogs may provide benefits…
The Connection Between Diet and Liver Health
The Liver is integrated with every organ in the body and requires adequate supplies of Blood, Qi, and Yin, (the cooling element in the body). When the Qi, Blood, or Yin are disturbed, imbalance and disease result in the Liver and other organs of the body.
How Following a Liver Disease Dog Diet Can Improve Your Pet’s Liver Function
Good nutrition and healthy digestion are the sources of Qi, Blood, and Yin so diet is incredibly important in supporting the Liver as well as all other organs. Unhealthy processed kibble and canned foods, which cause inflammation and emotional stress impair the liver function.
When it comes to liver disease, food really is the first medicine.
Foods to Feed and Foods to Avoid
3 main principles to follow in using food as medicine to support the liver:
- Feed human-grade, real food.
- Feed cooked food; this is more gentle than raw
- Choose foods with appropriate actions and thermal natures. In liver disease this means choosing gentle that support the stomach, spleen, and liver, (** see below)
Avoid the following to prevent/ protect against liver disease:
- Processed food: This means no dry or canned dog food, even prescription as it is processed, meaning it is pro-inflammatory.
- Large meals: feed small frequent meals
- “Hot” foods: such as lamb, mutton, oats, (**see below)
- Stagnating or Damp foods: dairy and high-fat foods
The Best Diet For Dog With Liver Disease: What to Feed a Dog With Liver Problems
As far as configuring your diet for dog with liver disease, we’re here to provide insights. You can feed a home-cooked diet, (with added vitamins and minerals for balance) and choose specific ingredients.
Or you can buy a cooked, real food diet that is already balanced for you. In our opinion, this is the best diet for a dog with liver disease.
There is also a “middle way” option to use a balanced and complete real food diet as your base and cook additional foods to add as toppers to your dog’s bowl. Then you don’t have to add supplements to your home cooking. This can be a great option for picky dogs.
Whether you’re looking to buy food for dogs with liver disease or you want to try and cook and follow a homemade diet for dog with liver disease, here’s our advice. Simple gently cooked food therapy meals for dogs using the following whole food ingredients to support Liver function:
- Ground beef: hydrating Blood Tonic
- Ground chicken: gentle Qi Tonic
- Ground turkey: anti-inflammatory, cooling
- Eggs: low-fat Yin Tonic
***no more than 10-20% of the diet should be carbohydrates
- Brown rice: anti-inflammatory, cooling, invigorates the Liver
- Millet: anti-inflammatory, cooling Blood Tonic
- Potatoes: gentle, strengthens stomach Qi
- Chinese eggplant: cooling, anti-inflammatory
- Carrots: gentle, invigorates the liver
- Broccoli: Liver Tonic
- Edamame: gentle, strengthens the stomach
- Kale: balances the stomach and the spleen
Our Advice on What to Feed a Dog With Liver Problems: Introducing the Wood Diet
As far as what to feed a dog with liver problems, look no further than our holistic dog food. Specifically, Chi Dog’s gentle WOOD DIET is the ideal liver disease diet for dogs. It’s formulated to support harmonious Qi flow. It is crafted to supplement Blood, Yin and support Liver flow.
Wood Diet whole food ingredients:
- BROWN RICE
- CHINESE EGGPLANT
Aside From Following a Liver Disease Diet For Dogs, What Else Can You Do to Help?
Beyond following a liver disease dog diet and choosing the right food for dogs with liver disease, what else can you do as a pet owner to improve your pup’s quality of life?
The Role of Regular Exercise in Liver Health
Unlike other imbalances and diseases in Exercise is particularly important for dogs who tend toward an imbalance in the Liver element. Liver Qi flow is obstructed if an animal does not get regular exercise.
If a dog is able to exercise, it is very important to continue daily walks of at approximately 30 minutes per day, depending on their energy or Qi.
If a dog is healthy, daily exercise is critical to healthy liver function and emotional regulation.
Importance of Regular Vet Check-ups and Appropriate Medications
Routine lab work and rechecks with your veterinarian are very important to measure progress in a dog with liver disease. Appetite and maintaining a healthy weight is your most immediate way to gauge your dog’s health beyond feeding the right food for dogs with liver disease.
Bringing Our Conversation on the Ideal Diet For Dog With Liver Disease to a Close
Hopefully, this conversation on the best diet for a dog with liver disease has provided clarity on what to feed a dog with liver problems. Diet is especially important in liver disease because the liver works closely with the GI tract to digest and nourish the body.
Processed food such as dry and canned dog food is pro-inflammatory and is particularly hard on the liver. As such, they have no place in a liver disease dog diet.
Cooked lean meat, unrefined carbohydrates, and cooked vegetables are gentle on the liver and stomach and are ideal to protect and support the Liver. Knowing all about the best food for dogs with liver disease, learn more about what Chi Dog can do for your pet today - and discover firsthand why it’s the premier liver disease dog diet.
About the author
Dr. Susan Bohrer has been a practicing veterinarian for 15 years teaching home cooking techniques to clients. Dr. Bohrer is Certified in Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine’s Herbal Therapy, Acupuncture and Food Therapy.
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