Dog Nutrition – Feeding a dog with liver failure

What is Liver Failure in Dogs?

Liver Disease refers to any condition which may affect the function of the liver. The Liver is involved in digestion & the use of nutrients, the removal of toxins from the blood and storage of vitamins and minerals. If the liver is not functioning correctly then toxins will build up in the blood stream making the animal very ill. Liver disease can be caused by a number of things, such as; viruses and bacteria, tumours, damage caused by drugs and chemicals (overworking to eliminate them).

Age can contribute to the likelihood of liver diseases – young animals may inherit liver disorders, and in older animals liver disease can be common. Some breeds are more pre-disposed to liver disorders, such as; Bedlington terriers and Cocker spaniels. Unfortunately almost 70% of the liver needs to be affected before symptoms will show, and the symptoms are not specific and can appear to be similar to other complaints so, blood tests, ultrasound scans and biopsies may be suggested by your vet to confirm the problem.

Symptoms of liver disease in dogs include;

  • Reduced appetite
  • Unusual behaviour
  • Depressed
  • Vomiting & Diarrhoea
  • Weight loss
  • Increased thirst
  • Jaundice
  •  Abdominal swelling

If your pet is displaying any of these signs then make an appointment to see your veterinary surgeon.

What diet should a Dog with Liver Failure be fed?

If the liver becomes inflamed this is known as hepatitis, if this is left untreated the liver cells will be replaced with scar tissue, but the liver can regenerate and repair itself providing the causes of the problem are eliminated or reduced. The correct nutrition can help to reduce the amount of toxins produced and therefore the workload; it will improve the efficiency and help the liver to recover. The diet provided must be highly palatable and energy dense as appetite is often impaired, there should be reduced protein to avoid excess waste being produced from its breakdown, the protein that is provided should be of high quality, it should be low in copper and the energy source should be obtained from a controlled provision of fat and digestible carbohydrates, and high in fibre.


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