Taking Care of the Liver

The liver is one of the most important organs in the body. It is a crucial part of the digestive system, as well as playing a role in the immune system. Most blood from the intestinal tract is routed through the liver for detoxification. The liver can operate effectively with only 20% of its cells working, so it has a large reserve capacity. Without the liver, the body is doomed within days. But the good news is that, with proper support, the liver can completely regenerate itself after injury or disease. These traits make the liver truly remarkable; and mean that even serious liver disease is survivable and has a much better prognosis than similar damage to other organs.

The liver is also one of the few organs with key differences between dogs and cats. The dog’s liver is very similar to that of humans and other mammals. However, a cat’s liver contains fewer metabolic enzymes and has a diminished ability to handle toxins. The development of liver disease is also due to different causes between dogs and cats. In dogs, liver failure is commonly due to congenital problems, traumatic injury, infections, or other disease. Cats, on the other hand, can develop liver disease not only from infection or trauma, but also from seemingly minor stresses, such as not eating enough for whatever reason.

Keeping the Liver Healthy.
Preventing liver disease is a whole lot easier than curing it. A high-quality diet, including at least some wet food for both dogs and cats, is the first and most basic step. Additionally, there are herbal and nutritional supplements that can support and strengthen the liver so that it can handle damage and disease more efficiently. Supportive supplements with specific benefits for the liver include:

Probiotics to balance the digestive system
Only Natural Pet Probiotic Blend
Animal Essentials Plant Enzymes
Pet Naturals Digest Support for Cats and Dogs

Antioxidants to prevent and reduce inflammation
Only Natural Pet Whole Food Antioxidant Blend
Vetri-Science Antiox

Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oil, also have strong anti-inflammatory properties.
Only Natural Pet Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil

Co-Enzyme Q10 to enhance cellular metabolism and prevent the formation of damaging oxygen free radicals. It is best absorbed in an oil formulation, such as:
Vetri-Science CoQsol

General support for liver health and nose-to-tail wellness. If you want keep things simple and give just one terrific supplement to your pet, these products contain milk thistle, taurine, antioxidants, digestive enzymes, and Omega-3 fatty acids, along with important vitamins and minerals:

Only Natural Pet Super Daily Canine Senior
Only Natural Pet Super Daily Feline Senior

Supplementing your pet’s diet with a portion of cooked organic calves’ or chicken liver once or twice a week will provide all the ingredients needed to keep the liver in good repair. It’s important to buy it fresh and organic because the liver is the body’s main detoxifying organ, and there may be stored toxins in non-organic that could harm your pet.

If Your Pet is Sick.
In dogs with liver disease, a precise diagnosis is important. This usually involves blood tests, and possibly also ultrasound or even biopsy of the liver. Different causes need different treatment. For example, in a puppy with a liver shunt (an abnormal blood vessel that bypasses the important detoxification processes of the liver), a high protein diet—which is normally fine for the liver—could be deadly. Cats have a less diverse potential problem list, mostly involving either inflammation or hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease). Signs are similar, and treatment in cats nearly always comes down to: “feed the liver,” although specific treatment with antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs may be needed, depending on the cause of the problem. Unfortunately, feeding an animal with liver disease both crucial and difficult, since these pets tend to not want to eat at all. Force-feeding or even surgical placement of a feeding tube may be necessary components of treatment. Just mix the supplements with a little blenderized canned food, and force-feed the mixture by syringe or via tube. Here are a few tips to make this process easier:

  • Mix up the whole day’s worth of food in the morning, with all the supplements in it.
  • Set aside a portion for the first feeding, and put the remainder in the refrigerator.
  • For subsequent feedings, take out the appropriate portion, mix a little hot water in to warm and soften it, and you’re ready to go.

The herb milk thistle is an important healer for the liver in times of stress or disease. It protects the liver from toxins and helps it regenerate.
The active ingredient of milk thistle, “silymarin,” reaches high levels in the bile and liver tissue. It can be used in the treatment of hepatic lipidosis, chronic hepatitis (generalized liver inflammation), cholangitis (inflammation of the bile ducts), and pericholangitis (inflammation of the tissue around the bile ducts). It may be useful in preventing or treating some liver problems, as well as gallstones, by thinning the bile.
It is very safe. You can give up to 250 mg of milk thistle daily for every 10 pounds of your pet’s body weight. It is most effective when given in smaller portions throughout the day than in one big dose. Two of our favorite milk thistle products are:

Super Milk Thistle X
Only Natural Pet Liv-Herb Herbal Formula

Omega-3 fatty acids can be given at higher doses for a sick animal. Give 2 or 3 times the normally recommended amount; up to 3,000 mg per day for a large dog.

Carnitine, an amino acid, is extremely important for cats with hepatic lipidosis, but is helpful for all dogs and cats, especially those who eat a lot of high-carbohydrate dry food. Give 250-500 mg/day for a cat. Carnitine is also important for heart muscle function in both dogs and cats. Our highest potency products are:

Vetri-Science Cardio-Strength

Vitaline L-Carnitine

A pet with liver disease needs professional care from your veterinarian, but you can greatly help the healing process with the right supplements, and of course plenty of TLC!

4 thoughts on “Taking Care of the Liver

  1. I’ve just started our cat on Milk Thistle seeing her liver disease was being treated with Prednisolone and Clavamox but once these are used up the Vet will not renew them so I did some research on Milk Thistle and it sounds like what she needs right now.

    Problem is on her first dose she foamed at the mouth and threw some of it up which I assume was because of the taste. Its liquid seeing she is a bear to give pills to.

    Any suggestions on getting this in her without her having this reaction?

  2. Milk thistle does taste nasty, and a liquid extract may contain a lot of alcohol, which would be inappropriate to give to a cat with liver disease. I recommend capsules, which can be opened and the powder mixed with meat baby food or other tasty treat. You could also try Pill Pockets, which most cats readily eat. If all else fails, another supplement called SAMe has similar effects and comes in smaller pills.

  3. My cat has liver disease and I put her on Marin [] and I crush it up in a lunch bag and put in bowl and mix in can cat food. She is doing fine with it . She did the same as your cat on Milk Thistle. Good Luck.

  4. I’m glad your cat is doing well! The active ingredient in milk thistle is called “silymarin” and many supplements contain just this extract. It has the same beneficial effects as the whole herb.

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