At first glance, the idea of liver for dogs seems like an obvious benefit to your pet's diet. While feeding your dog liver isn't a bad idea, feeding liver (or any other single food) is a plan that requires moderation on your part.
The Benefits of Liver for Your Dog
Liver is a nutrient-rich organ meat that most dogs readily eat. Liver can provide your dog with protein, fat and vitamin A, all of which help him stay healthy if offered in moderation. Liver is also a good source of copper, iron, niacin, phosphorus and zinc. It provides many B vitamins, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and essential amino acids your dog needs from his diet to keep him healthy.
Your dog can derive benefits from beef, lamb, pork, chicken or bison liver from the supermarket or butcher shop. Feeding your dog liver from wild game may or may not be a good idea because you cannot guarantee the quality of the organ. Some deer, for example, are affected with liver flukes that make their livers unsafe for canine consumption.
Liver can be an important component of a raw food diet for your dog, too. Be sure to use other organ meats, such as the heart, the kidneys or the brain, to give your dog a wider variety of nutrients that he needs for good health. Remember to only use small amounts of liver to avoid harming your dog's health for reasons we'll discuss shortly.
Possible Drawbacks of Liver for Dogs
While liver offers many health benefits, it can also be harmful if your dog eats too much of it. Dogs that eat too much liver may be prone to a condition called hypervitaminosis A, or an overdose of vitamin A. Symptoms of a vitamin A overdose can include bone deformity, bone spurs on the dog's legs or spine that cause him to limp, digestive upsets, muscle weakness, stiffness or weight loss. Your veterinarian will provide supportive care to your dog if he's overdosed on vitamin A, and you may have to eliminate liver from your dog's diet to prevent future overdoses.
How to Feed Liver to Your Dog
You can feed liver to your dog once or twice a week by giving him small amounts of fresh cooked liver as a supplement to his regular diet.
One of the easiest ways to add liver to your dog's diet may be to give him occasional liver treats. Liver treats can either be purchased at the store or made at home. Check pet cookbooks or conduct an online search for "dog liver treat recipe" for more information.
If you have a small breed dog, you can give him one or two treats twice a week, while medium breed dogs can have 3 or 4 treats twice a week. Large breed dogs can have 5 or 6 treats twice a week.
You can use liver treats to reward outstanding behavior (also use verbal praise, so your dog doesn't become conditioned to behaving only for his edible treat) or as a training aid to teach critical behaviors such as house training.