Your dog's liver is a multitasking organ. It has roles in blood clotting, toxin filtering and waste elimination. It also stores fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and produces bile, essential for proper fat metabolism. The liver produces several enzymes while performing these tasks. Liver enzymes present in your dog's blood at higher than normal levels are a sign of liver disease. Damaged liver cells leak enzymes. The greater the cellular damage, the higher your dog's enzyme blood count will be. Diets for dogs with elevated liver enzymes vary depending on the type of liver disease. (Reference 1)
Choosing a diet
Choose a diet based on your vet's diagnosis of the specific liver disease affecting your dog. Make sure that the diet you feed meets both your dog's caloric and nutritional needs. Your dog's liver has an amazing ability to repair itself by generating new cells to replace damaged ones, so feed a diet that enhances the cell replacement process. Choose low-sodium foods to minimise ascites, abdominal fluid build-up due to high blood pressure in the liver's blood vessels. (References 1 and 2)
Protein, fat, and carbohydrate content
Feed your dog several small meals daily with at least 20 per cent high-quality, easily digestible protein. Your pet needs the protein to build healthy new liver tissue. Many commercial dog foods contain low-quality proteins that produce ammonia when digested. Your dog's liver might not be up to the task of filtering ammonia.
The only time you shouldn't give your dog a high protein diet is if she has been diagnosed with hepatic encephalopathy, meaning the liver disease has progressed enough to affect your pet's brain.
Feed plant-based (soy) and dairy-based proteins, which are better than meat for a dog with liver disease, according to Dr. Shawn Messonier, DVM. Give your dog good quality, highly digestible simple carbohydrates like potatoes or white rice. Carbohydrates that don't fully digest will produce ammonia. Feed vegetables for fibre to enhance toxin elimination in your dog's bowel movements. Dietary fat between 30 per cent and 50 per cent is acceptable. (References 1 and 3, and Resource 1)
Give your dog milk thistle standardised to a sylmarin content of from 70 per cent to 80 per cent. Milk thistle both protects the liver by displacing toxins trying to bind to its cells, and enables faster cell regeneration. Standard dosage is 200mg two or three times daily. Get milk thistle as capsules or a liquid at a health food store and mix it in your pet's food. Avoid alcohol-based milk thistle tincture. (Reference 3)
One hour before or two hours after two of his daily feedings, give your dog SAM-e. The usual dose is 10mg per 4.54kg. of weight. (Resource 1)