Liver Disease in Dogs


Just as in humans, the liver is a crucial organ in the canine body which sustains a long and healthy life. The liver’s vital functions include; removing toxins from the blood, the manufacture of proteins needed for clotting of blood and the breakdown and digestion of nutrients entering the body. When the liver’s function is compromised this is referred to as liver disease. It is fairly common among people and dogs. Holidays4Dogs investigates the subject of liver disease in dogs including signs, symptoms and prognosis.

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Apart from the skin, the liver is the next largest organ in the dog’s body and it performs numerous essential functions for a healthy life.

However, because the liver’s function involves filtering toxins from the body, these can accumulate in the form of free radicals. In turn, it causes cell damage and compromises the function of the liver.

Sometimes, genetic factors can predispose some dog breeds to liver disease more than others. These include poodles, chihuahuas and golden retrievers. However, any dog can be affected and it is a relatively common disease in dogs.

The good news is, the liver is capable of regeneration after damage. However, prolonged damage will ultimately lead to liver disease, which is generally irreversible.

Signs of liver disease;-

  • Disorders of the digestive system such as bloating, diarrhoea or constipation.

  • Brittle nails.

  • Eye disorders such as discharge, pink coloured eyes or corneal or retinal problems.

  • Lack of appetite.

  • Dark coloured urine.

  • Irritability, sometimes manifesting in aggression.

  • Problems with ligaments and tendons.

Toxins that can cause liver damage are unfortunately all around us, and our dogs. Mould, pollution, medications, pesticides and chemical cleaners can often be contributing factors.

How can you minimise the chance of your dog developing liver disease?

As far as possible, remove toxins from your dog’s environment; chemicals such as household detergents , for instance should be kept well away from pets.

Consider feeding your dog a less processed diet. Add supplements which support the liver and help to break down toxins.liver disease in dogs

Glutathione – this is an important antioxidant which can help detoxify the liver and boost the immune system.

Milk thistle – this protects the liver cells from toxins and also helps to regenerate the liver. It can be used as an acute treatment for dogs that have already been diagnosed with liver disease. It is not recommended as a daily food supplement.

Fresh fruit and vegetables – these can help to cleanse the liver and some of these super foods include; spinach, broccoli, celery, asparagus, lemon and apple cider vinegar. It is best to lightly steam, or puree greens, as they are better digested this way.

Organ meats, including liver! – liver contains valuable nutrients such as vitamins A and B, iron and CoQ10. Do not feed your dog too much liver as this may cause tummy upsets. Start off with around a tablespoon fed every few days. Long term, organ meats should account for about 10 per cent of the overall diet.


By keeping the liver cleansed, it can support it to perform crucial functions such as dealing with allergies and diseases, as well as other issues the body may face such as weight gain and anxiety.

Helping the liver to function properly keeps pets (and people!) healthy.

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