Enlarged Liver in Dogs - Best Diet, Remedies & Treatments

Enlarged Liver in Dogs - What is the Best Diet For Dogs With Enlarged Liver? 


Dog Liver Health Summary for Those in a Hurry:

  • Causes & Symptoms: Liver enlargement in dogs stems from breed predispositions, diet, infections, or trauma. Notable symptoms include appetite loss, weight loss, and jaundice.

  • Hepatic Encephalopathy: Severe liver failure might lead to excess ammonia causing conditions like hepatic encephalopathy. Signs are tremors, seizures, and behavioral changes.

  • Dietary & Natural Solutions: Consider dietary changes for liver support, avoiding high copper foods, and introducing grains. Supplements like SAM-e naturally detoxify the liver, and Milk Thistle is known to improve liver function. Always consult a vet for dosages.

  • Prevention & Costs: Regular vet visits, balanced diets, avoiding toxins, and proper medication management help prevent liver issues. Treating liver ailments can be costly, but options like pet insurance or financial aid from organizations like ASPCA can help.

  • FAQ Highlights: An enlarged liver might be painful and is linked to diseases like Cushing's. Medications like prednisone can influence liver health. With the right care, liver issues can be addressed, and dogs, like humans, have one liver.


Full Article

What You Need to Know About Your Dog's Liver Health

Your dogs liver is pretty amazing. It can perform over 500 different functions to keep your little buddy in good health. Some of the important functions of your dogs liver are:


  • Bile production: A dog's liver produces bile into the gastrointestinal tract to help break down fats during digestion. Bile is always being created by the liver and any unused bile is stored in the gallbladder.
  • Clotting: The liver creates proteins like albumin that are responsible for blood clotting
  • Glycogen: excess glucose (sugar) in a dog's system is converted into glycogen and stored in the liver to be used later for energy.
  • Ammonia: Bacteria in the intestinal tract turn proteins into ammonia as they break the proteins down. Ammonia can build up to toxic levels if not for the liver, which converts the ammonia to urea that can be passed through the kidneys.


What Does Enlarged Liver in Dogs Mean?


The word hepatomegaly is used to describe an enlargement of the liver in dogs. Usually if your dog has been diagnosed with an enlarged liver it’s due to a condition or disease that interferes with how his liver is functioning.


If your dog has been diagnosed with a condition or disease that is enlarging his or her liver you may need to start giving her a special diet for dogs with enlarged liver so he or she has the best chance at a healthy and happy life.


What Causes Enlarged Liver in Dogs?


There are a few reasons your dog can develop an enlarged liver. Chronic diseases like diabetes can cause an enlarged liver. Acute liver failure can come on sudden and quick and is usually caused by poisoning.

In the case of poisoning your dog needs immediate veterinary care. For chronic issues like diabetes or other K-9 diseases you may be able to control the symptoms and help heal the liver with a special diet and supplements.

Some diseases or conditions that can lead to an enlarged liver in your best friend are:


  • Hepatitis

  • Chronic liver disease

  • Heart disease / Heart failure

  • Liver neoplasia (uncontrolled growth)

  • Heartworm disease

  • Fatty liver

  • Liver cyst


There are other health issues that can contribute to your dog having an enlarged liver. To keep your dog in the best health means paying close attention to his overall health and getting him to the vet when you notice anything out of the ordinary.


Enlarged liver in dogs due to steroids

If your dog has been given steroid medications over a long period of time he may develop complications from the steroid therapy called steroid hepatopathy


What are the Symptoms of Liver Disease in Dogs?


The symptoms that go along with a liver problem in dogs are easy to confuse with several other diseases or conditions.

This makes it important to keep a watchful eye on your dog to monitor for any changes in behavior that are not like how she normally is.

Some of the symptoms of enlarged liver in dogs you can look for that may mean a problem in your dog’s liver function are:


  • Weight loss

  • Appetite loss

  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea

  • Extra thirsty

  • Problems walking 

  • Increased peeing

  • Confusion

  • Jaundice (yellowing of eyes, tongue or gums)

  • Weakness

  • Blood in urine

  • Seizures


What are the Stages of Liver Failure in Dogs?

Early Stage:

In early stage liver failure you may not notice too many symptoms. At this stage the liver is still mostly functioning and the disease or condition that is causing the problem may not be advanced.

Because of this you may notice that your dog is more tired than usual or doesn’t eat as much food as he normally would.


Middle Stage:

In this stage the liver is having more trouble performing normal daily function. Because of this you may notice more symptoms like jaundice or a “pot belly” look in his abdomen.


End Stage:

In the end stage of liver failure is when you are most likely to see the most serious symptoms. Changes in mood, dizziness, pacing and seizures. The reason for these extreme symptoms is that when the liver stops working as it should the body fills with toxins that would normally have been filtered and removed by the liver.

This increase in toxins can cause all sorts of neurological issues like the ones mentioned.


"The signs of liver disease can be very similar to those of other conditions."


How to Treat Enlarged Liver in Dogs With Diet


To help your dogs prognosis you can start to feed your dog an elevated liver enzymes diet that will help the liver heal and flush out any toxins.

If your dog has enlarged liver issues, the first thing you can do to start is to give several smaller meals a day instead of one or two larger meals.

But be aware that if your dog has developed liver problems due to diabetes then you’ll want to give your dog a diet that is suited for diabetes rather than liver function.

That being said, if your dog isn’t diabetic but is showing signs of liver problems you can try the several smaller meals per day method.


Goodies for Best Buddies with Liver Troubles:

  1. Proteins that Pack a Punch - Think chicken, turkey, fish, and even eggs.
  2. Carbs that Care - Brown rice, sweet potato, and oatmeal are your go-tos.
  3. Nature's Healing Helpers - We're talking about antioxidants here! Berries, broccoli, carrots, and spinach.
  4. Omega-3s - Yes, the good fats! Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel are fabulous choices.
  5. Gentle on the Tummy - Cottage cheese, yogurt, and pumpkin are super digestible and kind to their system.

Uh-oh! Foods to Skip:

  1. Red Meats - Sadly, beef, lamb, pork, and organ meats might not be the best now.
  2. Too Much Fat - Dairy, fried stuff, and overly processed foods are a no-no.
  3. Salt Alert! - Stay away from table scraps and human munchies loaded with sodium.
  4. Copper Culprits - Liver, shellfish, and nuts are high in copper, so keep 'em off the plate.
  5. Phosphorus Party Poopers - Dairy again, organ meats, and canned foods can be tricky.


A Peek at a Pup-friendly Meal Plan:

🌞 Breakfast: Scramble up some eggs, mix with brown rice, and add a dollop of pumpkin.

🕛 Lunch: A simple boil - chicken or fish with some gentle steamed veggies.

🌜 Dinner: Make it special with turkey meatballs, sweet potato, and green beans. 

Remember, this is just a sample! Your vet might have some other tasty ideas tailored just for your dog.

Quick Bites of Advice:

  • Little meals more often is the way to go.
  • Human food? Think twice. That table scrap might not be the best idea.
  • Fresh water is a must-have, always.
  • Keep an eye on their weight and adjust the menu if you need to.
  • Concerned about anything? Your vet's always there to guide you.

Hope this helps! Make sure you always keep your vet in the loop before shaking things up in your pup's diet. 🐾🥣🍖


Hepatic Encephalopathy


If your dog is in liver failure he may have a condition called HE, or hepatic encephalopathy. That’s a big word for too much ammonia in his system.

Symptoms of hepatic encephalopathy are:


  • Tremors

  • Seizures

  • head pressing

  • Staggering

  • Circling

  • Pacing

  • Blindness 

  • Behavioral changes


If this is the case then you’ll want to make some dietary changes. 

Always consult your veterinarian before making any changes in diet though as this information is for educational purposes...not diagnosis!

So in the event that you do have a dog with elevated liver enzymes and you want to try a new diet you may try adding some grains like oatmeal or boiled white rice to his diet.


You’ll also want to avoid giving him animal organ meats like beef liver as these are high in copper. Also avoid any supplements that have added copper in them. Chicken and turkey livers have less copper and are generally ok to try.

Copper can build up in the system and cause more issues in the liver so this is important.

If your dog has slightly elevated liver enzymes then a change in diet may not be necessary at all. If that’s the case then you can provide him some extra liver support with supplements.



Natural Remedies for Enlarged Liver in Dogs


There are supplements for your dog that are designed to help promote the liver in its healing too.

One of these supplements is called SAM-e for dogs, which is short for S-Adenosylmethionine.


SAM-e is something that dogs and humans make naturally in our bodies. It’s made from an amino-acid found called methionine that’s found in many different types of foods that humans and dogs eat.

In the body (of a dog or human) this methionine is converted into an antioxidant called glutathione.

This all sounds confusing though...so what does SAM-e do for your dog?

When SAM-e breaks down into the antioxidant glutathione it simply has a detoxifying effect on the liver. Since a liver in a diseased state will build up toxins which make it even worse off this detoxifying effect is perfect for promoting liver health.

We know that SAM-e is good for liver health because a healthy liver will make it on its own. So it stands to reason that an unhealthy liver can benefit from a supplement in the event that a diseased liver can’t produce it on its own.

SAM-e is also used for a range of other issues in both humans and dogs for conditions like canine cognitive disorder (doggy dementia), osteoarthritis and joint pain.


Is SAM-eSafe for Dogs?


Among vets, SAM-e is considered very safe with most of the adverse effects that are reported being related to an upset stomach. As with any supplement, you should ask your veterinarian if giving your dog any supplement is ok to do depending on your dog’s condition.


Milk Thistle for Dogs Liver Support:

Another natural way to promote liver health in dogs and humans is a supplement called Milk Thistle.

The active ingredient in this plant has been used as a medicine in humans for thousands of years. It is reported to treat conditions like:


  • Cirrhosis

  • Hepatitis

  • Gallbladder problems

  • Cushing’s Disease

  • Diabetes

  • Pancreatitis


Studies have shown Milk Thistle was effective in treating liver function in Beagles.


Milk Thistle has been shown to be safe for humans and dogs. Even though it’s available to buy without a prescription from your veterinarian it’s wise to consult with the vet to find out the correct dosage for your particular dog.


Milk Thistle Dog Dosage:

The proper dosage of milk thistle to give your dog varies based on who you ask. The dosage also depends on the type of milk thistle you buy. For best results you would want to follow the directions on the bottle of milk thistle you buy or ask a veterinarian to make sure you are giving your dog the right amount of the remedy.


Preventing Liver Enlargement in Dogs

Vet Visits are Your Friend! 🩺 Popping by the vet regularly isn't just for treats and belly rubs. During these visits, the vet will give your doggo a once-over and might even run some blood tests to keep tabs on the liver. Catching any sneaky signs of liver disease early means we can tackle it head-on.

Eat Right, Feel Bright! 🍖🥦 Feeding our pups the good stuff is key. Skip the high-fat, sugar-packed, and overly processed temptations. Instead, bring on the lean protein, wholesome carbs, and fresh fruits and veggies for a tail-wagging diet.

Steer Clear of the Nasty Stuff 🚫 Our furry friends can bump into some not-so-friendly toxins out there – think certain meds, pesky herbicides, and some pesticides. These nasties can be rough on the liver. Let's keep our pals safe and away from these potential baddies.

Medication Matters 💊 Got a pup on meds? Make sure you're on point with the dose and timing. Too much can be a liver downer. If you're scratching your head about any meds, ring up your vet.


A Few More Golden Nuggets to Keep Your Pup Perky: 🌟

  • Keep 'em fit and fab by maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Regular romps and play sessions? Yes, please!
  • That human food might seem tempting, but it's a no-go for doggos.
  • Those pretty plants and mushrooms? Some are no good for our furry friends.
  • Consider vaccinating against leptospirosis; it's a sneaky bacteria that can play havoc with the liver.

Let's keep our four-legged family feeling fantastic for all their dog years to come by following these tips! 🐾🎉


Understanding the Costs 

Taking care of our four-legged family member can sometimes carry a hefty price tag, especially when we're talking about something as serious as an enlarged liver. The cost can swing quite a bit, depending on several factors like the severity, the cause, and the chosen treatment. And if you're looking at hospital stays or surgery, those dollar signs can multiply quickly.

Here's a quick peek into potential costs:

  • Vet Visits: $200-$500 a pop
  • Diagnostic Tests: $50-$500 each time
  • Medications: $10-$100 monthly
  • Diet: $50-$100 every month
  • Overnight Vet Stays: $500-$1000 daily
  • Going Under the Knife (Surgery): $2,000-$4,000

Now, before that makes you dizzy, here's the silver lining: pet insurance.

With the right plan, a huge chunk of these costs could be covered.

From tests to meds and even surgeries, pet insurance has got your back. Remember, the monthly premium can vary based on your pup's age, breed, and the coverage details.


A Few More Pennies for Your Thoughts: 💡

  1. Chat with your vet about stretching out payments. Many clinics have plans to make things easier on your pocket.
  2. Think about pet insurance to cushion the blow of unexpected vet bills.
  3. Ask about generic meds. Often, they do the trick just as well as the pricey brands.
  4. Stock up on your dog's food all at once. You might save more this way.
  5. Hunt for deals and steals online or through apps that offer pet product discounts.


If you're feeling the pinch, there are some amazing organizations out there like the ASPCA and the HSUS that can lend a helping paw to those in need.

Remember, catching and treating an enlarged liver early on gives our pups the best shot at bouncing back. If something seems off, like weight loss, a yellowish tint (jaundice), or constant upchucking, dash over to your vet pronto.


🚨 Don't Get Caught by Surprise! 🚨
Is Your Dog's Health Worth a Latte a Day? Discover Why Pet Insurance Might be the Best Investment for Your Furry Friend! [Click here to learn more!]


FAQ's & Quick Reference

Q: Is an enlarged liver in dogs painful?

A: Depending on the stage of liver disease your dog has it may become painful for him/her. If your dog is experiencing any of the symptoms we talked about above get him to a vet to test for elevated liver enzymes so that treatment can be started as soon as possible.

Q: What happens when a dog has an enlarged liver?

A: When your dog has an enlarged liver he may experience all sorts of symptoms. Loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, confusion, signs of weakness and more.

Q: Does cushing's disease cause enlarged liver?

A: Cushing's disease in dogs and an enlarged liver are often times inter-connected.

Q: Does an enlarged liver in dogs mean cancer?

A: An enlarged liver in your dog could mean many different things are going on. This does not mean that your dog has or does not have cancer. It is best to contact your veterinarian to test for diseases like cancer

Q: Can Prednisone cause enlarged liver in dogs?

A: Studies have shown that steroids like prednisone can contribute to liver enlargement in dogs.

Q: Can enlarged liver in dogs be cured?

A: Yes. With proper diet and medical care it is possible to cure your dog's enlarged liver.

Q: How many livers do dogs have?

A: Dogs have one liver, just like humans.

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