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Liver diet for dogs and cats: how to feed an animal with a diseased liver?

A sick liver in a dog's diet

There is no need to convince anyone that nutrition plays an important role in the proper functioning of every living organism.

It may seem a cliché to describe the proper, balanced ration of food adjusted to the age, physiological condition or lifestyle of the animal, determining the appropriate need for all necessary nutritional ingredients and thus ensuring the health condition in the broadest sense.

Huge concerns producing food for our pupils employ a multitude of specialists whose role is to compose an appropriate diet and then take care of the entire technological process so that the final product is of the best quality and appropriate composition.

And all this to the delight of owners of dogs and cats who by giving "dry balls " to a bowl or opening a can have a sense of a well-fulfilled duty towards their pupils.

Remember that it is extremely difficult to compose a meal yourself so that it is complete in every respect and thus provides all nutrients.

Nutrition companies meet the needs of not only the owners of healthy animals, but also offer products for specific groups of dogs and cats suffering from systemic diseases.

The role of food in the treatment of diseases of a given organ or organ must not be overlooked.

Adequate food not only supports the failing organ, but also significantly speeds up the recovery time, and thus shortens the period of being ill.

So, using scientific knowledge, it is worth considering how to help a sick animal not only by using appropriate targeted treatment, but also by supporting it with proper nutrition, about which I will try to write more on the example of liver diseases.

  • What is the liver for?
  • Liver failure: symptoms
  • Diet of a dog and a cat with a diseased liver
    • So where to start?
  • Nutrition details
    • Fats
    • Carbohydrates
    • Protein
  • Preparations and supplements supporting the liver
  • Vitamins
  • Use of ready-made feeds

What is the liver for?

Liver (Latin. hepar) is the body's largest gland varies in size, depending on the breed of dog / cat breed and weight from 125 g to 1350 g in dogs and 65 g - 80 g in cats.

There are four main lobes separated by deep inter-lobes.

It is an intensely vascularized organ which translates into the amount of blood reaching it from the heart (as much as 25% of the heart's stroke volume!).

The vast majority of blood reaches the liver through the portal vein that supplies blood from the stomach, intestines, spleen and pancreas.

The remaining 25% of blood, also called nutritional blood, comes from the branch of the abdominal aorta, i.e. the hepatic artery.

The liver is located in the epigastrium or fore-abdomen, i.e. in the area of ​​the anterior abdominal cavity, and is made up of cells called hepatocytes.

It plays a key and irreplaceable role in the body, maintaining the state of homeostasis, which determines the broadly understood health. The importance of the liver is evidenced by the fact that you cannot live without a liver so it is an indispensable, irreplaceable organ, without which one dies.

It participates in most of the metabolic changes and it is difficult to imagine the digestive process without its participation.

It shows detoxification abilities because the vast majority of all transformations of drugs, xenobiotics, i.e. foreign and poisonous substances in the body, are performed within it.

It also stores:

  • vitamins,
  • fats,
  • glucose in the form of glycogen,
  • elements.

It's because of the liver urea is formed from ammonia then excreted by the kidneys, they also take place here alternately cholesterol and other vital substances as well as drug metabolism and excretion.

Undoubtedly, it also affects the level of nutrition of the whole organism secreting bile involved in the digestion of fats and the transformation of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and iron. The liver is the main and only place where cholesterol is synthesized in the body.

If we wanted to compare the liver and its numerous functions in the body, we would have to imagine a huge, efficiently managed and well-functioning industrial complex or a huge factory with thousands of parallel and coordinated, complicated technological processes.

This extremely complex structure is our liver, which plays an irreplaceable role and that is why it is worth taking care of its proper functioning.

Liver failure: symptoms

One of the symptoms of a bad liver may be a lack of appetite

As we already know perfectly well, the liver participates in a number of digestive processes and remains closely related to the digestive tract, which will translate into manifest clinical symptoms in the event of its dysfunction.

What is extremely important, diseases of this organ may not immediately cause clinical symptoms and manifest late, which results on the one hand from huge functional reserve and on the other, unprecedentedly common the ability to regenerate damaged hepatocytes.

Of course, after crossing a certain limit within which the body compensates for the damage, symptoms will appear, although they may be non-specific, variable or poorly expressed at the beginning.

So most often we will meet:

  • decreased appetite or complete anorexia,
  • vomiting,
  • diarrhea,
  • constipation.

As the disease continues, the animals lose weight, which is due to the lack of appetite as well as increased catabolism and the consumption of body proteins.

We can have liver disease stomach ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding which will be the consequence tarry stools.

We can also observe recurrent fever, which is especially true for cats.

A disorder in the synthesis of clotting factors taking place in the liver will result increased bleeding tendency and petechiae visible on the skin and mucous membranes.

Probably every person with liver disease is associated with jaundice (Latin. icterus) associated with obstruction of the bile ducts and cholestasis.

The appearance of such nonspecific symptoms as increased thirst if polyuria it can create many diagnostic difficulties, but at the same time indicate problems with the liver itself.

We must also not forget about neurological symptoms pointing to hepatic encephalopathy:

  • personality change,
  • nervousness,
  • blindness,
  • stupor,
  • astigmatism,
  • muscle tremors,
  • seizures.

So we can see how a wide range of, often nonspecific symptoms can be associated with liver diseases and how, therefore, it is difficult on this basis, without additional tests, to determine the cause of the disease and undertake effective treatment.

Nevertheless, appropriate dietary management, especially early implemented, may reduce the effects of metabolic disorders associated with a failing liver, support its regeneration and, by limiting clinical symptoms, improve the comfort of being ill and recovering from health.

Diet of a dog and a cat with a diseased liver

How to Balance a Diet for Cat and Dog with Liver Disease?

After this short theoretical introduction to liver function and symptoms of liver diseases, let's consider: how to practically help an animal.

As already mentioned, accompanying liver disease protein and energy malnutrition resulting from disturbances in food intake.

Sick animals do not have appetite and, additionally, by vomiting, they acquire ordinary anorexia, which further worsens the liver disorders.

Impaired digestive processes, significantly lower absorption of nutrients and, on the other hand, increased demand for energy accompanying the disease, with at the same time limited protein synthesis will result in progressive weight loss and loss of protein mass. If the disease is chronic, emaciation may develop into cachexia, which always significantly worsens the prognosis.

Stress resulting from the discomfort of being ill itself requires the supply of more easily digestible energy.

So where to start?

Well, it would be worth determining the nutritional needs of each patient individually, weighing the patient to know the "starting situation " and carry out an assessment of the figure in accordance with the assessment system BCS (Body Condition Score).

Detailed information on how to do this can be found on the website of the European Association of Pet Food Producers.

We should take into account when estimating energy demand 20% surplus.

Before we proceed to any actions, it is necessary to determine the preferences and eating habits of our patient on the basis of a dietary interview, i.e. the type and consistency of food to which our animal is used to and which will be eagerly eaten.

We should also assume that our client will eat 4-6 smaller meals a day which turns out to be much more beneficial than one or two meals to satiate the digestive tract.

Nutrition details

Diet of a dog and a cat with liver disease

It may seem banal to say that in order for the animal not to lose weight, it must consume an adequate amount of food and energy.

The food should be highly palatable to encourage the animal to eat it.


One of the ingredients that determines the palatability and attractiveness of the food is fat.

Food for animals suffering from the liver should contain a moderate amount of fat:

  • cats: 20-40% dry matter,
  • dogs: 10-25% dry matter.

So let's not limit the amount of fat in the diet of our pets too much, except for concomitant diseases that interfere with its absorption.

Too much fat can cause intestinal disorders and diarrhea due to digestive difficulties.

An excellent source of fat are medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA / MCT with English. Medium Chain Fatty- Acid / Medium Chain Triglicerides).

They are easily assimilated by the body, and at the same time limit the secretion of bile and lipases, so they burden the liver as little as possible.

The problem may be their not too high taste attractiveness, but in combination with the necessary unsaturated fatty acids it can be solved.

In order for food containing fat to not simply spoil, it is worth eating several meals a day (4-6) in progress up to 30 minutes then take the bowl away. The principle of "at will " nutrition should not be applied.

Sick individuals do not consume more food, on the contrary, they can eat less food and, in addition, it may deteriorate by lying in the bowl for too long.

We should also remember that fats, being the source of some vitamins (A, D, E, K), are essential for the proper functioning of the entire body and therefore it is extremely important to provide them in the diet.

The fat content in animals with liver disease should be approx 2-3 g / kg m.c.


The second extremely important component of the diet for animals with a diseased liver are carbohydrates, which provide energy to every organism. They should overlap up to 45% overall energy demand.

The liver is where the process takes place gluconeogenesis and collecting glycogen.

In some liver diseases we can observe Glucose spikes and the phenomenon hypoglycemia, i.e. low blood sugar (especially in dogs).

In such cases, it is best to give the animal several small meals a day (every few hours), thus avoiding too large fluctuations in blood glucose.

It is also important to choose the right carbohydrate source.

It's best to apply anyway purified sources of rice or corn starch enriched food fiber, which can be found in beet pulp or chicory.

Soluble fiber helps the intestinal bacteria to use nitrogen, thereby lowering the intestinal pH, which is extremely beneficial for the animal.

Liver disease may be accompanied by an excessive multiplication of the bacterial flora in the intestines, which we can counteract by administering decoction of linseed.

This ancient, simple home remedy has a protective effect on the intestinal mucosa, while being cheap and very well tolerated by animals.

The metabolism of sugars in felids looks different, as they have limited digestibility of carbohydrates and do not tolerate exogenous glucose.

Hence, its amount should be smaller and not exceed 35% diet energy.

It seems a good idea to serve gruel, be it rice or corn, especially in cases hepatic encephalopathy.

Soluble fiber will cause a mild increase in sugar levels, prolonging the delivery of glucose to the cells.

We can enrich each meal with a teaspoon of linseed.

Insoluble fiber fractions, in turn, prevent constipation and by absorbing toxins, they facilitate their excretion from the body.

It is commonly believed that the best food for cats with liver disease is this with high content of soluble and moderately insoluble fiber.

So let's use rather high-performance carbohydrates present in rice or pasta, which additionally do not pose a risk of hepatic encephalopathy.


It is also impossible to forget about the protein, the restriction of which in the diet, especially when the body is losing weight and catabolism predominate, may have dangerous consequences.

We should try to provide high-quality protein that is easy to digest.

Such criteria are met by the complex proteins contained in milk and its products and plants.

Meat proteins are not recommended due to the risk of developing hepatic encephalopathy.

Especially beware of "red meat " (beef, pork) containing large amounts aromatic amino acids and thus aggravating the symptoms of encephalopathy.

In turn, vegetable proteins or poultry and dairy products through a large amount branched chain amino acids they dramatically reduce the risk of neurological symptoms and are recommended.

It is also worth increasing the amount of foods containing amino acids involved in the ornithine pathway and so taurine if arginine.

The first one protects against cholestasis that is, stagnation of bile, the other prevents it fatty liver.

Both too high a protein content and its excessive limitation is not beneficial for an animal suffering from liver disease, so it is recommended to determine the optimal dose by gradually increasing the protein content so that no symptoms of encephalopathy appear.

In the conditions of a home diet, this may prove difficult for the owner himself.

Such restriction of certain dietary components may be associated with a deficiency of certain elements (potassium, magnesium, phosphorus) hence we should supplement their quantity with fluid therapy.

In liver diseases, it is worth limiting the administration to the animal sodium which prevents development ascites, which may occur in advanced forms of failure.

So we can see exactly how extremely difficult it is to balance an appropriate diet for a sick animal so as not to lead to deficiencies and additionally not to worsen the functioning of a failing liver.

We should also remember that each case should be considered individually and there is no one optimal diet for all liver diseases.

Preparations and supplements supporting the liver

Supplements for dogs and cats supporting liver regeneration

In addition to the key components of the diet mentioned above, it is also worth using other ingredients that have a protective or healing effect in the nutrition of animals with a diseased liver.

On the pet market, we can find a whole lot of dietary supplements containing plant extracts with a documented protective effect on the liver.

The most popular are phospholipids most often derived from rapeseed or soybeans supporting processes corrective, regenerative in the liver, and by inhibiting the processes of fibrosis leading to cirrhosis, they increase the activity of collagenosis.

Action choleretic, detoxifying, antioxidant in turn, they show extracts from milk thistle (silymarin present in Silimarol) or artichoke.

Silymarin being a complex of flavonoglycans, it has an effect anti-hepatotoxic, stabilizes cell functions, promotes the regeneration of the liver parenchyma if stimulates RNA synthesis. Iconic human Silimarol is a well-known preparation.

The use of plant-based leaf extracts is also worth considering bolbo, Helichrysum rosemary showing properties cholagogic, choleretic or in general strengthening.

Manufacturers of veterinary drugs and dietary supplements offer us a whole range of preparations supporting the functions of the liver, for example:

  • Hepatiale forte,
  • Silivet,
  • Hepatophores,
  • Biohepanex,
  • HepaDol,
  • Erato 750,
  • Ornitil Plus and many more.


It is worth supplementing them for a few very simple reasons. In liver disease, we may have both malabsorption and excessive loss due to vomiting or excessive voiding (urine output) resulting from polyuria.

The conducted scientific study in humans has shown deficiencies in liver diseases:

  • B vitamins,
  • riboflavin,
  • nicotinamide,
  • pantothenic acid,
  • pyridoxine,
  • vitamin B12 .

We encounter a similar situation in animals, hence the need for their supplementation, especially when fed with a home diet or when we feed with table scraps.

Ready, balanced feeds contain a sufficient amount of vitamins, hence there is no need to feed them additionally.

Let us also remember about vitamin E protects the liver against damage in the event of copper poisoning or in storage diseases, and counteracts oxidative stress processes and the action of free oxygen radicals and vitamin C.

In liver diseases, probiotic therapy, i.e. dietary supplements numerous on our market containing bacterial strains characteristic of the gastrointestinal microflora of dogs or cats (Enterococcus faecium SF 68 NCIMB 10415, e.g. veterinary drugs Dolvit Probiotic if Pro-Kolin +).

All these recommendations apply to animals that nevertheless feed themselves.

Sometimes there is a need for compulsory feeding, which is associated with the insertion of a stomach tube through which the food is fed.

Such an animal usually requires more intensive veterinary care and although it may seem inhumane to some, these are necessary actions that save the life of a sick animal.

Specialized liquid foods (slurries) are administered through such a tube.

A table showing the most important ingredients recommended for dogs and cats with liver disease.

Nutrient Dietary recommendations Recommended dose: dog Recommended dose: cat
Taurine (%)Taurine protects against cholestasis, therefore its supplementation should be recommended when feeding with home-prepared diets (250-500 mg / day). It is recommended that diets for dogs and cats with liver disease contain at least 0.1% of the weight.m.0.10.3
Arginine (%)Deficiency of specific amino acids, such as arginine, may play a significant role in the formation of fatty liver due to its involvement in protein metabolism.1.5-2.01.5-2.0
Vitamin C (mg / kg)Foods for dogs with liver disease should contain at least 70 mg of vitamin C / kg p.m., and for feline 70 to 200 mg / kg p.m. These recommendations should be closely related to the dietary vitamin E content, where the relative molar ratio should be 1: 1.7070-200
Vitamin E (IU / kg)Vitamin E protects the liver from oxidative damage associated with copper poisoning. This improves the redox status in the liver.400500

Compiled on the basis of Hand 2010

Use of ready-made feeds

Ready food for a cat with a diseased liver

There is a huge amount of ready-made feeds available on the pet market, from various companies, dedicated to specific diseases in these liver diseases.

Is it worth choosing them if you are the owner of a sick animal??

Definitely yes because of the undoubted benefits that we get when using them.

First of all, we have a balanced feed, ready with optimal composition, ready to serve, and therefore convenient for the pet's guardian.

Balancing individual nutrients, supplementing vitamins or substances with documented beneficial effects at home is an extremely difficult process that requires considerable dietary knowledge.

It takes time, money and must be done systematically to keep your food fresh.

Ready-made foods have the unquestionable advantage of just pouring them into a bowl.

They are in a dry and wet form, depending on the preferences of the dog or cat, and at the same time are characterized by the appropriate taste and encourage the animal to eat it.

They guarantee the best nutrition in the case of a diseased liver and facilitate the treatment process.


Summarizing the recommendations for nutrition in the case of liver diseases should be treated as general because they differ depending on the specific liver disease.

They are slightly different in the case of failure resulting from acute inflammation and different in the case of hepatic encephalopathy.

Nevertheless, by properly feeding a sick animal, we undoubtedly obtain tangible benefits.

We shorten the recovery time, accelerate the regeneration of the liver parenchyma, and additionally counteract the process of cachexia.

In these cases, food really "heals" and should be used in parallel with the process of administering chemotherapeutic agents.

Of course, I would warn you against choosing your own food, or rather, I would recommend consulting a veterinarian with relevant knowledge in the field of dietetics.

It is impossible to live without a liver, so it is worth taking care of it as long as it is healthy, and when it falls ill, support it by choosing natural substances created by nature itself, with health effects known for years.

After reading this article, you already know why a proper diet is so important in liver diseases.

If you want to know more about it, post your questions under the article - I will answer as soon as possible.

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