Dog Diet for Liver Disease

By Tammy Dray

Liver disease causes loss of appetite, vomiting and a number of other symptoms in dogs. Processing food becomes a burden on the liver, especially if the food is low quality and filled with additives and non-nutritious ingredients. Switching to a healthy diet that helps protect the liver is essential to improve your dog's condition and make sure he heals faster.

Liver Diets vs. Regular Diets

Dogs with liver disease have unique dietary requirements. For starters, they need a diet that contains less sodium and copper than a regular adult maintenance dog food. Dogs with liver disease need help controlling their blood pressure. In addition, hepatic or liver diets tend to be richer in fiber to help the body decrease ammonia accumulation in the body.

Commercial Liver Diets

A number of commercial pet food manufacturers -- including Royal Canin, Hill's and more -- produce prescription liver diets and treats that your veterinarian can recommend. These prescription diets are available in both wet and dry form. These diets provide all necessary nutrients to keep your dog healthy while cutting down on additives and minerals that might burden the liver. For example, Hill’s l/d liver diet is low in copper and high in amino acids, which help improve liver function while protecting it.

Homemade Liver Diet

Feeding your dog a homemade liver diet is possible, but you should talk to your vet first. Ask him for a recipe that is safe for your dog's liver and meets all his other nutritional needs. As a general rule, dogs with liver disease should eat a reduced-protein diet, as proteins produce ammonia, which in turn burdens the liver. Fish and organic meats such as chicken and beef are a good choice because they are free of hormones and pesticides that are bad for the liver. Adding fiber in the form of beet pulp, broccoli or other vegetables also can help improve the liver and make your dog feel better. Fiber helps to absorb excess of ammonia and contributes to the growth of good bacteria, which in turn cleanses the liver.

Foods to Avoid

Whether you're feeding a commercial diet or homemade food, there are ingredients and snacks you should avoid feeding a dog with liver disease. In particular, any foods high in salt, vitamin A and copper need to be limited or sometimes eliminated from the diet, as they are harsh on the liver. Copper can sometimes cause hepatitis in dogs with an already sick or weak liver; an excess of vitamin A can be toxic to the liver, especially in the case of sick animals. Foods high in copper and vitamin A include leafy greens, sweet potatoes and carrots, legumes, whole grains and nuts.