Trying to find canned/dry food for dog with liver disease

We have a 15 year old border collie who has been diagnosed with liver disease. We dont know what caused it and we cant do a biopsy to get a proper diagnosis as we were told by the vets a few years back never to let her have anesthetic again as they almost lost her last time she had an op.

Weve decided to go down the generic route of a liver friendly diet and samylin and see how it goes. The vet has given us royal canin but its far too expensive and we have been giving her home cooked meals but something about the recipe keeps giving her bouts of mild diarrhea (shes always been a little sensitive) so we end up switching back to royal canin. Ive been reading loads of articles that say that these types of food arent really any better than some of the “non diet” types but im having trouble understanding which ones.

Could anyone please give me advice on any UK foods that we could look at or what type of ingredients we are looking for? (vet isnt much help and just advises we stick with royal canin). Ive looked at the directory on this site but im not really sure what im looking for

Hello Diggedy and welcome to the forum!

David has written another of his excellent articles about prescription diets on the allaboutdogfood website.

In this article there is an informative and helpful section headed “Prescription diet alternatives” and within this section there is a table with the nutritional characteristics of diets for liver disease.

And the link is here:

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Hi Meg thanks for the reply. I had read that article, its actually what got me here but the problem im having is the Hills i/d or the royal canin hepatic arent listed in the directory so I cant find similar foods. Although their properties are listed, the food in the directory dont mention if they are low copper etc so its difficult figuring out which are suitable, unless im missing something?

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Hello and welcome to the forum. I am sorry that your dog is poorly. In the past, I have used Royal Canin Hepatic diet on the vet’s advice (my dog had a liver tumour). I chose the wet food for palatability.

We have an existing thread on liver disease here which might be helpful.

I know that David intends to write some guidance on the dietary management of liver disease when he has time. I have discussed this with him on behalf of a friend who has a Labrador with liver disease. The dog has responded well to Denamarin. Unfortunately the other Lab has recently developed liver disease too. Here is David’s advice:

With liver disease, it’s most important to reduce the workload of the liver by feeding a highly digestible food. The protein element, in particular, should be as digestible as possible which means good quality meat protein and steering clear of anything containing large amounts of added vegetable-derived proteins. Most nutritionists currently recommend ‘moderate’ protein and fat levels.

The liver is also responsible for removing toxins from the body so minimising the amount of toxins in the food is a great idea. This, again, means high quality foods are best and cutting out all of the usual nasties like chemical additives, by-products, derivatives, wheat and so on that might cause a build up of toxins in the system. A good supply of fibre also helps to pass harmful toxins from the system.

Lastly, liver disease can be associated with copper storage problems so it is best to avoid foods with high levels of copper. This is often easier said than done as most manufacturers don’t publish or even test for the copper levels of their foods but as a general rule, foods based on lamb, duck, salmon and pork or containing liver tend to have higher copper contents.

Food should also be low salt.

You can search for foods with these features on the Dog Food Directory and we can help you with that if you wish.

On the whole, wet food is frequently higher in fat than dry. I therefore think that maybe dry food, soaked with water would give you more choice.

There is a group of foods that are cold pressed and these have moderate fat levels, soak very nicely to the consistency of your choice and are very digestible. I use this kind of product and found it very helpful when one of my dogs became terminally ill due to an abdominal tumour earlier this year. I used to soak it in water and give her a small amount every few hours so she had lots of little meals which she enjoyed and also helped with digestion. She coped very well with this regime, right to the end of life, only being sick about twice due to me giving her a bit too much. If you are minded to try this, possibly the ones containing brown rice would be best because this meets the fibre requirement that David spoke of. Please let me know if you want to discuss this further. You may also want to discuss any changes with your vet - he or she would find it helpful if you provide a list of the ingredients of your food choice.
Please would you provide feedback on your thread if possible? Thank you.


Diggedy, if you are trying to find a food already in the directory which has the nutritional characteristics of a diet for liver disease, then - using the table for guidance - the search would be for low protein (of high quality), high fibre, low copper and low sodium.

And yes indeed this is not as easy as it may appear, compounded by oft unclear labelling of pet foods regarding amounts of copper for example.

Helpfully, there are useful filters available in the allaboutdogfood Dog Food Directory to narrow down food choices and hopefully may provide a canned/dry food to help her.

The characteristic of low protein (of high quality) may be found using the “Food properties” filter set to “Organic” or “Natural” (or both of these). Plus using the “Nutrient levels” filter, it is when the slider for the “Protein levels” is moved accordingly, the corresponding results would be of foods with lower protein levels.

To find the characteristic of high fibre, then using the “Nutrient levels” filter, moving the slider for “Fibre” accordingly results in foods of high fibre.

It is not an easy task to filter out, completely, all foods with salt (sodium); yet any foods that have “added salt” can be omitted by setting the “Avoid ingredients” filter to avoid “All red ingredients”. Thus the foods that are avoided will include those with artificial additives, and also those with added salt, as both add extra strain on the liver.

Unfortunately, there is no current filtering of foods with copper. However, the aim is to reduce copper stores in the body and so prevent an accumulation of copper in the liver. Absorption of copper is enhanced by high dietary protein and is reduced by zinc, fibre, and ascorbate (vitamin C). The Samylin is providing vitamin C, fibre is being increased following the table guidance. So this leaves zinc and it may be prudent to research into whether adding a zinc supplement might be appropriate.

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If you may prefer to continue with a home diet I’d recommend a book called “RAW and NATURAL Nutrition for Dogs” by Lew Olson.

Chapter 26 is called “Diets for Liver Needs” with plenty of guidance and explanations plus sample recipes specifically to help a dog’s liver.

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Diggedy - I have just done a search for you using the following filters:

Type of food - dry completes, wet completes, raw and fresh completes.
Food properties - natural and clearly labelled. When I tried organic it reduced the results to just a very few products so this is why I haven’t included it.
Avoid ingredients - all red, lamb, duck and pork. Salmon is not listed separately so I did not exclude fish. You therefore need to check the ingredients of your chosen food.
Nutrient levels - slider for fat moved to 0% to 12%.

These filters returned three pages of products of which some are salmon based so you could exclude those. Most are extruded kibble but there are a number of cold pressed products and one air dried - Pure Turkey Terrific. As mentioned, for dietary fibre it would be useful to look for products that contain brown rice.

I cannot save the search and it would take too long for me to list the products but if you follow the above guidelines you should be able to find something suitable.

Please can you let us know what you decide to do? The forum needs feedback and your experience could help someone else.

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