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Treatment for Canine Liver Disease

Treatment for canine liver disease depends on the cause of the disease and may include medications, dietary management and supplements. Read this page to learn more about the different treatment options for liver disease in dogs.

Conventional treatment of canine liver disease is, in many cases, restricted to managing the symptoms caused by the disease. For example, using intravenous drips to prevent dehydration caused by chronic vomiting, and using medications (such as cimetidine) to suppress vomiting or to prevent ulcers in the stomach or small intestine.

In addition to conventional medications, this page explores the importance of dietary management and the use of supplements to help to support and maintain canine liver functions. Some natural products of supplements will also be recommended.

Treatment for Canine Liver Disease - Medications

Common medications that are conventionally used to treat canine liver disease include:
  • Corticosteroids: Chronic liver inflammation (often called chronic-active hepatitis) is treated using corticosteroids to decrease inflammation and scarring.
  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics (such as Neomycin) are given to dogs with hepatiac encelphalopathy. Antiobiotics kill ammonia-producing bacteria, thereby lessening the amount of ammonia exposure to the body. Antiobiotics are also used in cases of infection.
  • Diuretics: Diuretics such as furosemide (Lasix) are used to treat ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdomen).
  • Oral Zinc Products: For copper-associated hepatitis, oral zinc products (such as zinc acetate) are used to decrease absorption of copper, and to reduce the amount of copper in the liver.

Treatment for Canine Liver Disease - Diet

If your dog is suffering from liver disease, some dietary adjustment needs to be made. A diet appropriate for dogs with liver disease should be able to:
  • supply enough energy and nutrients to the body so as to prevent malnutrition;
  • minimize further damage of the liver by preventing copper accumulation, as well as accumulation of other toxins such as ammonia, and free radicals;
  • support liver cell regeneration;
  • prevent or minimize liver failure symptoms, such as hepatic encephalopathy and ascites.
The diet should have a high energy density, since dogs with liver disease usually have no appetite. The food should therefore be highly palatable. If possible, feed the dog several small meals a day rather than just one or two. Your dog's diet should include:
  • Fat: Fat is a concentrated source of energy and usually food that contains fat is highly palatable. It has been found that dogs with liver disease can tolerate larger quantities of fat in the diet (30-50% of calories) than previously assumed. Only dogs with severe cholestatic liver disease and fat malabsorption should have their fat intake restricted, in which case essential fatty acids must be provided.
  • High-Quality Protein: Protein is needed by the liver during repair. However, the protein in the diet must be of high biological value so as to minimize ammonia production, a by-product of protein digestion. Dairy products (e.g. yogurt, cottage cheese), eggs, and white fish are easier on the digestive system and cause less ammonia production than meat products.
  • High-Quality Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are a good source of energy for the dog but they must be highly digestible. Undigestible foods are fermented by intestinal bacteria which will result in more toxins to be processed and removed by the liver. Grains such as oatmeal and boiled white rice are recommended because they are high in soluble fiber, which helps to bind and remove ammonia and other intestinal toxins (by-products of protein digestion and bacterial fermentation of undigested foods) from the system. Vegetables act as a source of complex carbohydrates and they also provide fiber that helps to promote bowel movements to remove toxins from the body.

Treatment for Canine Liver Disease - Supplements

Dietary supplements are recommended as part of the treatment for canine liver disease. If your dog has liver disease, consult with your vet on the use of the following supplements:
  • Milk Thistle: Milk thistle is an herb that is good for the liver. It can increase bile flow; stimulate protein synthesis thereby rebuilding cells damaged by liver disease. It also acts as an antioxidant which slows down the inflammatory process and prevents further cell damage.
  • S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe): Given in conjunction with a B-vitamin supplement, SAMe has been clinically proven in veterinary trials to safely and effectively restore and maintain liver function at the cellular level in pets. It may actually protect against liver damage caused by certain toxins or drugs such as acetaminophen, prednisone, etc. (SAMe should be given apart from meals. Give the supplement to your dog either one hour before or two hours after eating.)
  • B Vitamins: B vitamins (especially B12) are essential for proper digestion and absorption of food.
  • Coenzyme Q10: CoQ10 is an antioxidant that is beneficial for dogs with liver disease. It boosts immunity, lowers blood sugar, and can slow tumor growth. It also produces energy for cell growth and functioning.
  • Vitamin E: Vitamin E also acts as an antioxidant and can be given to your dog as a supplement for liver health.

Recommended Supplements

Hepagen-C Canine by Thorne Research for Dogs

This formula contains milk thistle as well as antioxidants and important nutrients for liver detoxification.

Vetri-Science Coenzyme Q10

This is a safe and natural CoQ10 supplement for dogs and cats.
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