Tips for Managing Liver Diseases in Dogs

Liver diseases in dogs can be fatal as the liver is an important organ that maintains good health in pets. Although the liver is resilient and can function well even when two thirds of the organ has been damaged, any additional damage can cause a number of symptoms.

Importance of the Liver

The liver is located in the abdomen and is responsible for the production of bile, the removal of toxins from the blood, metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates and the storage of blood, vitamins, iron and glycogen. It’s one of the few organs in the body that can regenerate itself even if more than 70 percent of it has been damaged or removed.  

Symptoms of Liver Disease

  • Loss of appetite and weight
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Jaundice
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Distension of the abdomen


A dog with liver disease should be given proper nutrition even though he has no appetite. The diet should comprise of easily digestible proteins and high quality carbohydrates. It should also consist of a lot of raw food, vegetables and fruits. The diet should be free of chemicals and preservatives.

Avoid feeding your pet commercial pet food, and if you must, you should ensure that the food is high quality commercial food that’s free of fillers such as wheat, corn or meat byproducts. Your pet’s diet should also be free from copper as copper can be very damaging to a diseased liver. Chocolate is also contraindicated as small amounts can prove toxic.


Medication is used to treat secondary symptoms rather than the liver disease as the diseased liver finds it difficult to break down the medication. Corticosteroids in small doses help to reduce inflammation and whet the dog’s appetite. Apart from steroids, antibiotics help treat secondary infections while medicines such as sucralfate and cimetidine help control symptoms such as vomiting and nausea. Electrolyte supplements also help prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.


Water soluble supplements that contain the antioxidant Vitamin E help remove free radicals and protect the liver from undue harm. Vitamin K supplements help reduce blood disorders and are highly beneficial. Supplements that contain S-adenosylmethionine also promote liver health. Milk thistle is also given to dogs with liver disease as silymarin in milk thistle stimulates the production of new liver cells and helps the liver to regenerate itself. Milk thistle also protects the liver against toxins.


Your pet should have plenty of filtered or bottled water as he will experience increased thirst as a result of the liver disease. Only use water and food bowls that are made of glass or stainless steel to reduce the possibility of contamination.


Your pet should be regularly exercised to keep him healthy and promote recovery from the liver disease.

Regular vet checkups are a must as they can help determine the success of the treatment options used.