Back to Articles

Liver Disease Diet

What's OK, & What's Not

liver in a dog

There are four goals for a canine liver disease diet:

(1) Supply adequate energy and nutrients to fulfill basic requirements and prevent malnutrition.
(2) To limit further liver damage by preventing accumulation of copper and free radicals
(3) To support liver cell regeneration
(4) To prevent or minimize possible complications, such as abnormal brain function caused by passage of toxic substances from the liver to the blood (called hepatic encephalopathy) and the buildup of fluid in your dog's abdomen (called ascites).

Dogs with liver disease are usually suffering from a condition where less protein is being broken down (catabolic) resulting in increased energy needs and therefore the need for more protein.

Protein is Essential for a Canine Liver Disease Diet
Canine liver disease diet should contain normal amounts of high quality protein, at least 20% of daily calories. The exception to this is if your dog has hepatic encephalopathy, a condition in which the liver disease has advanced so far that the brain has become affected. In this case, a low-protein diet is recommended. High-quality proteins are better digested and have an amino acid content close to the levels your dog needs. 
Some animal proteins contain high levels of copper and should be avoided. Organ meat, especially liver, should be avoided.
Bad Proteins for CLD                     Good Proteins 
Duck Turkey 
Lamb Chicken
Salmon White fish
Pork Riccotta
Pheasant Eggs 
Goose Cottage Cheese 
Squid canned white tuna
Tofu Beef muscle meat
Nuts & Seeds

Fat  Carbohydrates & Fiber
With CLD, dogs are able to tolerate higher levels of fat in the diet. Your vet may recommend a diet that has up to 50 percent fat content.
Carbohydrates are important to aid the digestion, add fiber and remove ammonia from the system. Cooked oatmeal, white rice and pasta are types of carbohydrates that may be included.
Good Carbs for liver disease:             Bad Carbs for liver disease:
Sweet potato Garbanzo beans
Rice Pinto beans
Oatmeal Dried peas
Breads Lentils
Pasta Millet
White potato Barley 
Wheat Germ

Supplements A canine liver disease diet should include vitamin supplements that act as antioxidants. Liver diseases cause greater generation of free radicals and oxidant stress. Supplementation with antioxidants helps to reduce liver injury.
B Vitamins: are often recommended at double the normal maintenance dose since this is a clinically supported approach in humans.

C Vitamins: Vitamin C is a antioxidant and should be part of a dog's diet with liver disease. Most dog foods meet the daily requirement for vitamin C. Do not overdose vitamin c since it could increase the intake of copper. Additional supplementation should only be necessary if your dog's liver is having trouble with in case where fat is not be digested normally (fat mal-absorption).
Vitamin E: may prevent canine liver disease from getting worse by reducing free radical or oxidant injury. A water-soluble form of Vitamin E is preferred, since the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins may be decreased in some forms of liver disease.
Vitamin K: helps with blood clotting and is recommended in cases of chronic liver disease. The liver produces clotting factors, and it does not produce or store vitamin K as well when it is diseased.
Zinc: A canine liver disease diet should also be supplemented with zinc since it is an anti-oxidant. It also reduces the risk of abnormal brain function caused by passage of toxic substances from the liver to the blood (called hepatic encephalopathy). Zinc reduces the accumulation of copper in the liver.
Adenosylmethionine (SAMe): may be helpful in reducing liver injury. Normally produced by the liver, SAMe is necessary for many functions of liver cells. It is also an anti-oxidant. Providing your dog with an oral supplement helps to to improve antioxidant function and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Silymarin: a component of milk thistle is thought to have antioxidant and helps with free radicals for various types of liver disease. It also helps with toxicity. There are a few studies that support its use for dogs. Suggested doses range from 50 to 250 mg/day

  • Borotutu Bark: combats jaundice
  • Milk Thistle (contains SAMe & Silymarin)- repair liver tissue
  • Chanca Piedre: increases bile bile production
  • Celandine: stimulates enzyme production
  • Chicory Root: cleanser
  • Dandilion Root: cleanse & increase bile production 

Feeding Routine: Some dogs with CLD benefit from a change in feeding routine. Instead of one or two regular meals a day, several small meals throughout the day may promote good digestion.

More you may enjoy

June 19, 2018

press fesh
Garlic for Bug Control in Dogs
Garlic’s (Allium sativum) medicinal purposes have been valued for thousands of years. Five-thousand-year-old Sanskrit and Chinese medical texts describe the benefits of...

April 14, 2015

degenerative JD
Joint Disease in Dogs: prevention
As dogs age, many of them start to suffer from joint disease (like hip dysplasia). You may see your older dog...

August 18, 2017

car battery
A dog's stomach acid
Did you know?...that a dog's stomach acid can be as low as car battery acid (less than 1 pH) and then...