Enlarged Liver in Dogs - What is the Best Diet For Dogs With Enlarged Liver?
Useful Information in This 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:
Chronic liver disease
Heart disease / Heart failure
Liver neoplasia (uncontrolled growth)
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:
Vomiting and/or diarrhea
Jaundice (yellowing of eyes, tongue or gums)
Blood in urine
What are the Stages of Liver Failure in Dogs?
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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?
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.
Citations / Sources