Top 10 Myths About Liver Disease
1) Home-cooked food is better than commercial prescription food for all dogs.
I’ve had great success by doing the following: Feeding prescription Royal Canin Hepatic kibble. While home-cooking is an option, it’s not a good one for dogs that are unstable medically (eg. Those with neurological symptoms). It’s just too difficult to control protein grams and other nutrients. Even for an asymptomatic dog with elevated bile acids, a home-cooked meal should be formulated for an individual dog and will require more monitoring in terms of bloodwork to make sure that requirements for protein and other nutrients are met.
2) Dogs must eat high protein food if their albumin is low, especially meat.
There is a fine balance between giving a dog enough protein to prevent muscle wasting and giving too much and causing symptoms (which may not be apparent the same day or even for a couple of weeks). My principle has been to “start low and increase slowly” in terms of protein grams until that balance is met. Any type of meat will cause more symptoms and toxin build up than vegetarian food; especially organ meats, red meat and turkey.
3) Dogs should not get dairy, soy products or corn.
Dairy and soy are much more easily metabolized by the liver than any type of fish or meat. Only about 1.5 % of dogs are allergic to corn. While corn should not be the first ingredient in any food, it does provide a variety of amino acids. Many of my dogs have been on PediaSure Vanilla (with or without added fiber) if they are anorexic, won’t eat on their own or their digestive systems can’t tolerate the RC Hepatic.
4) It’s OK if a dog with liver disease doesn’t eat for 12+ hours; fasting will cleanse their systems.
Fasting dogs with severe liver disease can cause a dangerous drop in albumin, and then result in ascites (fluid in the abdomen). The only dogs that may need to be fasted are those with pancreatitis, and it’s likely that if the have liver disease and pancreatitis they will be in a vet hospital on an IV.
5) Dogs should get their minerals from real food eg. nutritional yeast.
Nutritional yeast is extremely high in purines and not recommended for any dogs with liver disease. Purines result from food metabolism and high purine foods increase uric acid, which will cause toxins to build up. Urate bladder or kidney stones or even neurological symptoms may occur.
6) It’s OK to feed raw food to dogs with liver disease.
Dogs with liver disease are also prone to immune system problems, so giving anything raw can expose them to infections from salmonella that their systems will not be able to fight off. Even raw veggies and fruit are tougher to metabolize and not recommended. Any fruit given should be partially pulverized to aid in digestion.
7) Natural foods that heal the liver should be given eg. beans, peas, pumpkin ,raisins, garlic, pineapple.
Beans and peas are high in purines and should be avoided. Pumpkin is high in copper so is not recommended. Raisins can cause kidney damage. Garlic can cause hemolytic anemia (even in low doses in a dog with a liver disease). Pineapple contains bromelain which is often used in digestive enzymes, but may be a problem for dogs with liver disease as it is high in manganese. Furthermore, any dogs with calcium oxalate crystals in their urine, kidney stones or those that have been identified as having high copper levels should avoid food high in vitamin C.
8) Any supplement or dog product labeled “Natural” is safe to give .
There is very little oversight in terms of pet products! Natural does not mean safe! A product that you buy may contain numerous ingredients that are not listed as ingredients or have unsafe “inert” ingredients. I remember calling a company about a “Natural” flea/tick shampoo that had about 4 ingredients listed on the label. This shampoo actually had about an addition 20+ ingredients that were not on the label, including antibacterial and antifungal ingredients.
9) Fiber is good for all dogs with liver disease.
While fiber is important for most dogs because it increases their tolerance for protein and can help control intestinal bacteria that contribute to neurological symptoms, dogs with small intestinal problems are an exception to this rule.
10) If your dog isn’t eating, it’s OK to feed them anything they will eat.
I’ve heard this one a million times. Dogs with liver disease frequently have anorexia and will not eat on their own. It’s our responsibility as owners to give them the proper food, even if it has to be syringed or force fed. Frequently a dog will eat a new food on their own once or twice, but then will get nauseous and refuse to eat it again; either because it’s the wrong type of protein, or too much has been given per meal.