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Understanding hepatic diets and the benefits for dogs with liver disease

The liver is the largest internal organ in dog’s body and has a critical role in the metabolism. Dietary therapy is important in the treatment of a dog with liver disease to aid in re generation. High quality and highly digestible carbohydrates are recommended to supply energy for the dog. Inferior types of carbohydrates that are undigested are fermented by intestinal bacteria which increase the bacteria in the colon; these bacteria then break down dietary proteins and produce extra ammonia, which is absorbed into the body and contributes to toxicity in dogs with liver disease.

Frequent feedings of high quality simple carbohydrates are recommended. Fibre also helps bind intestinal toxins and promotes bowel movements to remove these toxins from the body.

Proteins provided by the diet must be of high biological value to reduce the production of ammonia (a by-product of protein digestion). Most commercial foods contain proteins that are not of high biological value. Normal amounts of protein should be fed as protein is needed by the liver during repair.

Hepatic diets will include the following:

  • Highly digestable protein reduces the workload on the liver,
  • Low copper with increased zinc content minimises copper accumulation in the hepatocytes
  • A limited sodium intake decreases portal hypertension and reduces extravascular water flow
  • Antioxidants - The synergistic abtioxident complex neautralises free radicals and helps support health of hepatocytes
  • High energy provided from fat avoids excessive protein dogabolism, a risk factor for the onset or progression of hepatic encephalopathy.
  • Soluble fibre decreases ammonia reabsorption (and ammonia generation) in the bowel and reduced copper helps to avoid accumulation in the liver.

There are many prescription diets available that take these nutritional requirements into account and formulate diets that provide the correct nutrition required by your dog:

  • Hills I/D Canine (nutritional management dogs with liver disorders that cause reduced liver function)
    • Helps managing dogs with liver disease.
    • Highly digestible protein, carbohydrate and fats.
    • Helps limit the production of metabolic toxins from nutrients.
    • Helps reduce the workload of the liver
  • Hills U/D Canine (aid in the management of dogs with the problems associated with urolithiasis)
    • Helps reduce the formation of oxalate,urate and cystine stones.
    • Contains a low level of high-quality protein to reduce the formation of break-down products that cause discomfort in patients with kidney failure.
    • With reduced salt to help control fluid retention in early heart disease.

MedicAnimal recommends that you consult your vet before making any dietary changes, especially if your animal is under treatment for a medical condition.