Skip to content
Previous article
Now Reading:
How to protect & care for your dog’s liver: Diet, cleanse & more

How to protect & care for your dog’s liver: Diet, cleanse & more

Liver Problems In Dogs: Liver Disease, Liver Cleanse for Dogs, and Diet

Allow me to disagree with some of my colleagues who claim that a raw food diet for dogs is a fad. In over three decades of clinical practice, I am certain that feeding a raw diet cures many ailments, and also helps dogs with liver disease.

Dog lovers are starting to realize that feeding raw food is one of the most effective ways to keep your dog's liver healthy, in addition to providing fermented herbal liver support supplement.

Assessing liver health

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 

  • The liver produces glycogen, a starch analogue, which serves as energy storage 

  • The liver is responsible for protein production

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's also sometimes called SGPT (serum glutamic-pyruvic transaminase). ALT is almost exclusively found within hepatocytes (liver cells). An increase in ALT is highly specific to liver cell injury in dogs and cats.

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

GGT (Gamma Glutamyl Transferase) is usually elevated in cases of cholestasis (bile stagnation) in the liver or by obstructed bile ducts.

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.

Elevated ALT 

Sometimes even healthy dogs may have elevated liver enzymes (ALT) without necessarily suffering from liver disease. This may be what I call ‘normal-abnormal’.  As a rule of thumb, the ALT should not be higher than double the normal reference range. Some dogs may naturally have higher enzymatic activity which is relatively common in healthy dogs on raw food.

To summarize, ALT levels or values from upper normal to twice the normal are so called grey zone, where liver disease may or may not be the cause.  In this case I recommend careful evaluation of your dog’s clinical condition by your veterinarian which may include physical exam, radiographs, ultrasound and further blood testing.

Values higher than two times the normal ALT range suggest high probability of liver disease and further medical attention is likely needed.

NOTE: I don't mention specific ALT range and units here as they vary from lab to lab and country to country.

Keep your dog’s liver in top notch shape

A liver cleanse for dogs is one of the most important elements for creating a healthy and long life for your pup. To be sure your dog’s liver is functioning optimally, I recommend the following liver cleansing protocol.

If you are not ready to feed raw, the first step is to feed the highest quality, non-medicated, unprocessed, raw or cooked food. Feeding most processed food or raw food made of medicated chicken, turkey and poor-quality, rendered meats can cause serious problems, nutritional deficiencies and can also overburden the liver.

Avoid processed prescription liver diets

Processed pet food giants have long seen the opportunity of selling exclusive veterinary diets for the 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?

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

Practical steps for a dog liver detox:

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

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

    1. Feed lower fat meats. Avoid rich and greasy meats such as duck, fatty lamb, bison, buffalo and beef or meat rendered from meat-packing plants. We also recommend avoiding kibble and canned food.

    2. Avoid feeding large marrow bones, which have extremely high-fat content.

    3. Beware of cheap treats, even if they are natural. If it's too cheap, it's likely because the ingredients are cheap too.

    4. Avoid any food made in China because of that country's history of tainted foods and heavy use of additives and chemical preservatives.

    5. Start a six week course of Liver Support and Cleanse (LiverTune) - an herbal canine liver supplement that I've found very effective.

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

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

    8. If your dog has elevated liver enzymes to any degree, measure ALT values at least every 3-6 months depending on the severity of the problem and seek the help of an experienced veterinarian. You can continue giving LiverTune until enzymes return to normal levels and if they increase again after discontinuing LiverTune, you can give it on an ongoing basis under veterinary supervision and while monitoring ALT values every 3-6 months. 

    9. If the ALT values do not start dropping within three months, start Turmeric. You can give your dog approximately 15 to 20 mg per pound of body weight in dogs or 1/8 to a 1/4 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight. Mix the powder or root form (crushed) into your dog's food. I recommend gradually introducing it to your dog's diet and ensure your dog drinks plenty of water to minimize the potential for constipation. Keep in mind I always recommend working with your dog's primary health provider.

Should supplements be given during a liver cleanse?
Note about liver cleansing foods

There are some foods known to have a highly positive effect on the 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 tsp to 1 tsp) into food to promote cleansing.
Romaine lettuce, dandelion leaves and chamomile flowers also have a positive effect on the liver.

Watch now! More information on detoxing and longevity

© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM

About the author

Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM is an Integrative veterinarian, nutritionist and creator of natural supplements for dogs and people. Helping you and your dog prevent disease, treat nutritional deficiencies, and enjoy happier, healthier, and longer lives together.

Most Popular

  • Flying with dogs
    In my article, I share the personal story of how I'm able to fly with my dog, Pax, thanks to overcoming challenges with sleepwalking and night terrors. This unique experience not only allowed me to travel with my service dog but also serves as a reminder that even difficult situations can have positive outcomes.
  • dog and pony
    Successful communication is essential for building healthier and more fulfilling relationships and happier lives. In this article, I'll share with you 8 communication hacks to help you avoid unnecessary drama, prioritize active listening and address conflicts effectively.
  • Dalmatian eating fruit
    Can dogs eat bananas, apples, strawberries and other fruit? What about grapes? Find out what fruits are safe, toxic, and healthy for dogs. Learn about the potential health benefits and risks of feeding fruit to your canine companion, and get tips on the ideal time to feed it.
  • Illustration of the anatomy of a heart
    As dog lovers, we all want our beloved pups to live long and healthy lives. Protecting your dog's heart from potential health issues is important, and in this blog Dr. Dobias shares some key points that you might not yet be aware of, read on to find out what you can do to keep your dog's heart safe. 

Dog Health

  • Husky lying on blanket with heart toy
    Dogs have our hearts and that is why we need to protect their heart. Dog’s as they age often face muscle problems and spinal misalignment and you might be surprised to know how that can hurt their heart. Learn how to protect your dog’s spine and by extension their heart.
  • The secret ingredient for a perfect No. 2
    Dogs and humans have evolved side-by-side but they are still quite different when it comes to their digestive tracts and dietary habits. We have studied their original environments such as the soils of the African savanna and consulted with top experts in the field of probiotics and microbiology to come up with a combination that reflects healthy bacterial flora of canines.
  • Man being pointed at
    Criticism can hurt a brand, but constructive feedback can help it grow. In this blog Dr. Dobias talks about the differences between these approaches, and how to handle the power of influence and opinion with care. 
  • Broccoli with vitamins and minerals
    Are you worried that your and your dog's diet is missing something? Maybe you're worried about toxin levels in food, the environment, or flea and tick products. Let's face it; we can't remove ourselves entirely from our toxin-filled world, but we can do things to reduce our exposure to harmful substances. 

Human health

  • Dr. Dobias with Pax
    How do you navigate the seas of life? How do you deal with disappointment? Whatever life throws at us, we can always rely on our dogs to bring joy into our days. In this blog I share my thoughts on the support our dogs provide during the difficult moments in life. 
  • Why 1 in 4 Americans suffer from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
    Learn more about the alarming prevalence of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) affecting 1 in 4 Americans. Discover its main risk factors, diagnosis methods, and treatment options to better manage or prevent this silent yet severe condition. 
  • Dr. Dobias and Pax
    It appears that most of the world is ready for change, but whenever I think about the solutions to any of the problems that plague our world, I can’t prevent myself from thinking that we humans are acting like little toddlers who have broken a toy and do not know how to fix it. Despite my generally optimistic attitude, I have had a hard time staying positive at times because I know how complex this all is. Read here for some tools that make me feel good about the world, which I would like to share with you.

News, stories and good life

  • Dr. Peter Dobias with his dog Pax on his lap
    Do you have trouble staying positive during difficult times? These days we are surrounded by a lot of negative messaging, and it's easy to let that get you down. Here are some of my tips for remaining positive, and don't forget to share your tips with me!
  • Man raising fist on a mountain
    Most of us have been exposed to panic-inducing information about the virus spread, however, I have noticed the general absence of one piece of information, how to make your immune system stronger and body more resilient. (It will definitely not happen by stockpiling toilet paper!) I have always loved immunology and the current situation has prompted me to put together two simple lists on how to increase your dog’s and your own immunity.
  • Man with dog wearing a collar
    Does your dog have ear problems, nasal or oral tumors, reverse sneezing or an  itchy head or hair loss on their head? Learn how you can address some of these problems and save thousands in vet care costs.
  • Terrier eating raw food
    Now there is no need to guess if there is something missing in your dogs diet.  The HairQ Test is a highly accurate test for mineral deficiencies, toxins and heavy metals in dogs to finely tune your dog’s diet and supplement schedule.

By clicking "Continue" or continuing to use our site, you acknowledge that you accept our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. We also use cookies to provide you with the best possible experience on our website. You can find out more about the cookies we use and learn how to manage them here. Feel free to check out our policies anytime for more information.

Continue

Cart

Close

Your cart is currently empty.

Start Shopping
Close