By Carole Milligan A.C.A.N. graduate and Certified Carnivore Nutrition Health Coach
I was recently asked a multi-pronged question about the function of the liver, the causes of canine liver disease, if a raw protein diet is appropriate for dogs ill with liver disease, and the function of bile acids.
In dogs, the liver has many jobs, from assisting digestion to filtering and removing toxins from the body. In my research, I have found that there are many causes for liver disease, and toxins in the animal’s environment often lead to liver disease. Toxins include pesticides, herbicides, a plethora of household products, and even medications that dogs may receive. If the dog has been fed commercially processed food and treats, he/she has probably been getting daily doses of toxins found in the synthetic additives included during processing. The good news is that, if canine liver disease is found early enough, the prognosis can be a good one because the liver is capable of regenerating itself.
It is common for many vets to prescribe a low protein diet in cases of liver disease. However, a high quality protein is important for liver health, while poor quality proteins or too little protein can damage the liver even more. By high quality protein, I mean animal proteins that have the right combination of amino acids.
In my reading about this subject, I have read that it isn’t protein that damages the liver, it appears to be the ammonia in animal proteins that is damaging. Red meats seem to produce the most ammonia, fish and chicken produce lower amounts, and eggs produce the least. It makes sense to moderate the quantity the amount of red meat in the diet of a dog with liver disease.
Bile acids aid in fat absorption and modulate the levels of cholesterol. They are produced from cholesterol in the liver and are stored in the gall bladder. If the health of the liver is in question, it follows that the function of the gall bladder will be compromised. Fat is important for canine health and vitality; however, fat is processed through the liver and gall bladder. Too much fat can further stress the liver if it is diseased, therefore it is suggested to feed only moderate amounts of fat that can be easily digested, such as that found in animal protein sources.
If my dogs had liver disease, I would remove as many toxins in their environment as possible, be sure to give them clean filtered water, and feed them raw food from the best protein sources I could find-certified organic eggs in the shell, certified organic, antibiotic free poultry and sardines, and only very occasionally organic, grass fed and finished, hormone free/antibiotic free beef, buffalo, venison, etc. I would avoid commercially processed pet foods are devoid of nutrition and potentially full of questionable additives.
The information on this blog is intended as educational only. It is not intended to replace your veterinarian. Please do your own research and use your own good judgment.
Carole Milligan is a graduate of ACAN, certified as a Carnivore Nutrition Consultant, that writes occasional articles on pet wellness, and has edited books on pet wellness.
© All original content copyright (Carole Milligan) (2013)