Liver disease in dogs is a more common occurrence than feline liver disease.The liver has always been a mysterious organ, which performs more functions in maintaining life than any other organ in the body. Its large size with the capacity to continue work even when it is affected by disease makes it difficult to diagnose a liver disease. In addition, given the right support, liver cells can regenerate and bounce back to normal functioning.
One of the major functions of the liver is to metabolize fats, carbohydrates and proteins. If the liver does not function properly, the nutrients cannot be metabolized effectively and harmful by-products cannot be broken down. This can greatly affect the detoxification process.
- The bacteria in large intestines produce toxic ammonia while breaking down proteins for absorption in the blood stream.
- When the liver is unable to provide essential nutrients to the body, cells break down body tissue to cover up the loss. Ammonia is also produced during this process.
- Liver disease leads to an inability to detoxify toxins and they enter the blood and circulate throughout the body.
- In severe conditions, contaminated blood reaches the brain and causes hepatic encephalopathy leading to fits, seizures, excess salivation and head pressing.
Symptoms of liver disease in dogs usually surface long after the disease has progressed as they are vague and mimic the symptoms of other common disorders. Once it is diagnosed, a liver disease requires a multi-pronged treatment approach. Diet plays an important role in providing support to medicines or supplements that the veterinarian may prescribe.
Blood vessels associated with the intestines supply most of the blood that the liver receives. The type of diet that you feed your dog is directly responsible for the type and amount of nutrients and toxins that the liver cells have to work on. The diet should ensure that all the below mentioned factors are taken into consideration.
- The requirement of the dog’s body
- Need for nutrients that aid in the repair of damaged cells
- Need to limit toxicity
- Necessity to reduce the absorption of toxins from the bowel
There is a need to control and balance the protein that is ingested. Too much protein leads to a high level of ammonia production in the body during the metabolism process. If the protein level is too low, your dog’s body is likely to break down the body’s own tissues to replenish the shortfall. Proteins are also needed for repairing the damaged hepatocytes (liver cells). High quality proteins are the best for a dog that has a liver disease as they are easily digested and absorbed. The bacteria in the intestines get fewer proteins to breakdown meaning reduction in ammonia production.
A similar situation exists when it comes to carbohydrates and fats. A diseased liver is unable to process carbohydrates and at the same time the liver needs nutrients like glucose. Feeding the dog with complex carbohydrates like starch and fiber helps in inhibiting production. It also helps in the easy elimination of ammonia and other toxins.
Vitamin, mineral and zinc supplements help in detoxification process, support synthesis and protect the liver from copper accumulation. It is advisable to avoid commercial foods that contain preservatives and synthetic additives; however a veterinarian is the right person to suggest the right diet for a dog that has liver disease.