Treating and preventing liver disease naturally

by Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM
Why a liver cleanse for your dog may extend the life expectancy

If you are tired of hearing about the processed kibble and canned food recalls, you are not alone. Dog lovers like you are starting to realize that feeding raw food is the most effective way to keep your dog healthy.  In my experience, with quality raw pet food, you can extend your dog’s and cat’s life by 2 -5 years on average. One of the reasons is that it helps the liver to be healthy and maintain optimal function.

Allow me to disagree with some of my colleagues who claim that raw food diet feeding is a fad.  In my 25 years of clinical practice, I have been able to confirm that feeding a raw diet is an answer to treating many processed food related ailments including liver disease.

The Liver has several main functions:
  • It is a cleansing organ that rids the body of toxins through chemical transformation or excretion in bile.

  • Bile also aids in digestion of fats. 

  • Liver produces glycogen, a starch analogue which serves as energy storage. 

  • Liver is responsible for production of proteins.

Assessing the level of liver health

The level of hepatic (liver) activity can be determined by evaluating liver enzymes through a blood test.

ALT (Alanine aminotransferase) is the most important enzyme in the assessment.  It is  also sometimes  called SGPT (serum glutamic-pyruvic transaminase). ALT is almost exclusively found within hepatocytes (liver cells) and its increase is highly specific for liver cell injury in dogs and cats.

AST (Aspartate Aminotransferase) activity primarily reflects liver and muscle disease, with less specificity for liver than ALT.  It can be elevated in liver infections, chronic non-infectious inflammation or degeneration of liver.

GGT (Gamma Glutamyl Transferase) is usually elevated in cases of cholestasis (bile stagnation) in the liver itself or bile ducts due to obstruction.

ALP (Alkaline Phosphatase) may also  be elevated in the case of liver disease, drug administration or any inflammatory processes in the body.  This enzyme doesn’t have a great practical use in liver function evaluation.

Elevations in ALT 

Some dog guardians, even those feeding raw, are faced with ALT elevations that are in the range of less then 2x of the normal value. This maybe because of liver disease especially in processed food fed dogs, however it may also be normal in dogs on raw food that usually have higher healthy enzymatic activity. I do not mention specific numbers here as the reference range varies from lab to lab and the units from country to country.  

Values higher than 2x normal usual suggest that liver disease and medical attention is likely needed.

Keep your dog’s liver in top notch shape

A liver cleanse is one of the most important elements creating healthy and long life. To be sure that your dog’s liver is functioning optimally, I recommend  the following liver cleansing protocol. Naturally the first step is to feed the highest quality, ideally non – medicated raw or cooked non-processed food if you are not ready to feed raw. Feeding most processed food or raw food made of regular medicated chicken, turkey and poor quality rendered meats can cause serious problems, nutritional deficiencies and also overburden the liver.

Avoid processed prescription “liver diet”.

In my opinion, low protein food is harmful considering the ingredients.  Feeding such diet is like trying to purify drinking water by pouring sewage in it!

Processed pet food giants have long seen the opportunity of selling exclusive veterinary diets for treatment of liver disease. All you need to do is to check the ingredients and you will see what is really going on:

"Brewers Rice, Pork Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Dried Egg Product, Soybean Meal, Powdered Cellulose, Flaxseed, Pork Protein Isolate, Chicken Liver Flavor, Dicalcium Phosphate, Lactic Acid, Soybean Oil, Potassium Chloride, Dried Beet Pulp, Calcium Carbonate, Glycerol Monostearate....."

Really? Pork fat for liver disease?

Practical steps to a time tested liver cleanse.

The Liver is an important organ in almost every aspect of your dog’s organ function and good health. I take my dog Skai through a good liver cleanse twice a year. You will see that regular cleansing has a very positive effect on your dogs health,  namely in overall energy level, mobility, digestion, endurance and stamina, skin and coat health, immune system function and cancer prevention.

  1. Even if your dog doesn’t have any liver enzyme elevation, a liver detox every 6 to 12 months is considered to be highly beneficial in dogs. Canines in general have a tendency to liver imbalances.

  2. Feed lower fat meats. Avoid kibble or canned food or raw rich greasy meats such as duck, fatty lamb, bison, buffalo and beef or meat rendered from meat packing plants.

  3. Avoid feeding large marrow bones which have extremely high fat content.

  4. Beware of cheap treats even though they are natural. If it is too cheap it likely is because the ingredients are cheap too.

  5. Avoid any food made in China because of the history of tainted foods and heavy use of additives and chemical preservatives.

  6. Start a 1 – 2 month course of Liver Support and Cleanse (Livton) - a liver cleansing herbal formula that has been very effective and for Skai and my own cleanse.

  7. Administer and continue giving GreenMin on ongoing basis to detox  and provide essential minerals and nutrients.

  8. After the liver cleanse is completed start essential supplements to provide the body what it needs to heal and thrive

  9. If your dog has liver enzyme elevation of any degree, measure ALT values at least every 3 – 6 months depending on severity of the problem and seek the help of experienced animal care provider.

  10. If the ALT values do not start dropping within 3 months. Start Zyflamend. I have seen this product reducing ALT in half in some very severe hepatitis cases. Continue this product until the liver enzymes are back to normal and for 2 more months thereafter. 

Should other supplements be discontinued or given during liver cleanse?
  • Generally, it is ok to continue the essential supplements such as GreenMin, SoulFood and Omega, GutSense in the course of the liver cleanse.
  • If your dog has never been on any supplements I suggest starting with Greenmin, Livton and Gutsense first and start SoulFood and other supplements 1 month later. 
Note about liver cleansing food

There are some foods  that are known to have a highly positive effect on liver.

Bile flow and liver flow can be promoted by adding leafy greens and also watercress, basil and turmeric.
You can harmonize the liver by adding apple cider vinegar (1/4 to 1 tsp) into food to promote cleansing.
Romaine lettuce, dandelion leaves, chamomile flowers all have a positive effect on the liver.




learn about the author


Dr. Dobias is a licensed doctor of veterinary medicine and lives in Vancouver, BC, Canada. He has more than 20 years of practical experience in conventional and holistic veterinary medicine and his big passions are natural healing, dogs and living a healthy lifestyle...

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