Canine liver disease is not a single, easy-to-define illness but rather a complex of diverse liver ailments with equally diverse causes, ranging from bacterial or viral infection to trauma. Collectively, these canine liver illnesses are the fifth leading cause of non-accidental death in American dogs, according to the Canine Liver Disease Foundation. Diet can play a key role in the treatment of canine liver disease.
PetPlace.com, an online database of pet-care information written by veterinarians, lists a number of conditions that can lead eventually to hepatic shutdown, or failure of the liver. These include canine infectious hepatitis, a viral infection; leptospirosis, which is bacterial in origin; liver cancer; bile duct obstruction; pancreatitis, an infection of the pancreas that often spreads to the liver; cholangiohepatitis; cirrhosis; copper toxicity; liver flukes; and autoimmune hemolytic anaemia.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Symptoms that indicate your dog may be suffering from some form of liver disease include abdominal fluid build-up; loss of appetite; jaundice, characterised by a yellowish cast to the animals eyes and gums; vomiting; and bleeding problems, according to WebVet.com. Although it can play a significant role in the treatment of liver disease in your dog, diet alone cannot cure your pet. Consult your veterinarian if you suspect the animal has liver disease. WebVet indicates that a definitive diagnosis is usually obtained through tests that measure blood levels of bile acids, enzymes and proteins.
If your dog is diagnosed with liver disease, diet recommendations will depend on the specific type of condition that your animal is suffering. However, diets for canine liver disease generally aim for high levels of nutrition while keeping your pet's consumption of proteins and fats at lower levels than normal. Reductions in fat and protein ease the workload on your dog's liver, which is already operating below optimal levels because of disease.
The following recipes for homemade dog foods designed for animals with liver disease were presented to the 1997 Waltham International Symposium on Pet Nutrition and Health in the 21st Century by representatives of Cornell University's Small Animal Center. The first recipe is very low in protein. Mix together 3 cups of nonfat dry milk, 1 cup of raw wheat germ, 3 cups of cornstarch, 1 cup of safflower oil, 1 cup of animal fat, 1 cup of blackstrap molasses, 1/5 cup of bone meal and 1 tsp iodised salt.
More moderate levels of protein are provided in the second recipe. Combine 1 hard-boiled egg, chopped; 2 cups of cooked rice; 3 slices of white bread, torn into small pieces; and 1 pound of regular minced meat, braised with fat retained. The third recipe, which is highest in protein content at 26 per cent, calls for 1 hard-boiled egg, chopped; 1 cup of creamed cottage cheese; 1 cup of cooked farina; 3 tbsp sugar; 1 tbsp safflower oil; 1 tsp dicalcium phosphate; and 1 tsp potassium chloride, a salt substitute.