If you’re a dog owner, you may wonder if liver is a safe and nutritious addition to your furry friend’s diet. Despite its reputation as a meat industry by-product, liver is actually considered a superfood for dogs, thanks to its high nutrient content.
However, it’s important to note that moderation is key when it comes to feeding liver to your pup. In fact, overindulging in this organ meat can actually be harmful to his health.
In this article, we’ll explore the various health benefits that liver can offer your dog while also discussing the potential risks associated with feeding too much of it. Let’s dive in and learn how to incorporate this nutrient-rich food into your dog’s diet safely and effectively.
7 Benefits of Feeding Liver to Your Dog
Is liver good for dogs? Yes, liver is good for dogs. It is one of the best organ meats they can have in their diets. It is a nutritional powerhouse that contains high levels of vitamins and minerals like:
Liver is a great source of protein, the nutrient which dogs mainly acquire their energy from. Protein provides essential amino acids needed for the healthy creation of tissues, muscles, tendons, and cartilage.
2. Vitamin A
It works as an antioxidant that scours the body for free radicals and eliminates them, enhancing the immune system of dogs.
Vitamin A is also vital in keeping a healthy heart, eyes, kidneys, and reproductive organs.
3. B Vitamins
Liver contains high doses of certain B vitamins, namely cobalamin, riboflavin, and folate.
- Cobalamin promotes a well-functioning immune system and brain in canines. It is also an important nutrient for maintaining the normal production of red blood cells and smooth digestion.
- Riboflavin is essential for the proper absorption of certain nutrients such as vitamin B6 and iron. It aids in metabolizing fats, proteins, and carbs as well.
- Folic acid supports healthy cell growth, good DNA production, and red blood cell formation. Pregnant dogs need this vitamin for their offspring to develop normally in their womb.
Iron is largely responsible for the proper transportation of oxygen to red blood cells. Muscle development, hormone production, and fluid balance also rely on this mineral.
Copper plays a crucial role in iron and calcium absorption in dogs’ bodies. It is also important for the healthy formation and growth of bones, connective tissues, red blood cells, and skin.
Zinc decreases the vulnerability of dogs to diseases by supporting their immunity functions and regulating their inflammatory responses.
This mineral prevents cognitive issues, thyroid problems, and poor eyesight. It is needed for clear skin, faster wound healing, and proper DNA synthesis.
7. Essential Fatty Acids
Liver provides a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids, which are necessary for healthy skin and a shiny coat.
These healthy fats act as anti-inflammatories that assist in alleviating joint problems such as arthritis. They are found to slow down cognitive aging and enhance the brain function of dogs.
The Prevailing Myth About Liver
Despite the abundance of nutrients liver offers, many pawrents are hesitant to incorporate it into their dog’s meals. The organ meat’s unappealing texture and smell contribute to this stigma.
The persistent misconception that it stores harmful toxins is also a big factor. Many dog owners believe that feeding liver to their canine companions will cause poisoning because of this.
The fact is, it does not store toxins but simply filters them. Most importantly, it serves as storage for several nutrients, such as vitamin A, copper, folic acid, and iron.
2 Real Reasons to Avoid Overfeeding Liver to Dogs
If you still wonder, “Is liver safe for dogs?” the answer is yes. Liver is safe for dogs to eat, provided that they consume it in minimal portions.
Although it is enriched with nutrients, gorging on this organ meat for dogs may cause health repercussions due to excessive intake of vitamins and minerals.
The common side effects to watch out for if your dog overeats liver are:
1. Copper Poisoning
Certain types of dogs have a hereditary ailment that makes them highly sensitive to copper. These include breeds like:
- American Cocker Spaniels
- Bedlington Terriers
- Doberman Pinschers
- Labrador Retrievers
- Skye Terriers
- West Highland White Terriers
Large doses of this copper can cause irreversible damage to the liver, which can be fatal.
Typical symptoms of copper toxicity are inappetence, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss. The clinical signs of this condition are similar to some canine diseases.
Thus, a proper vet checkup is needed for an accurate diagnosis. If the bloodwork test results show abnormally high liver enzymes, it is an indicator that your dog has copper poisoning.
2. Hypervitaminosis A
Hypervitaminosis A is a type of poisoning induced by too much intake of vitamin A. Mild cases of this condition cause vomiting, drowsiness, and irritability.
Severe hypervitaminosis A severely damages the liver, triggers skin peeling and decalcifies bones and teeth.
Fortunately, it would take a lot of liver to cause this condition. Dog owners will have to overfeed their dogs consistently for months or years for vitamin A toxicity to happen.
Animal Liver vs. Animal Muscle Meat
Organ meats such as liver have fallen out of fashion, and muscle meats are more popular today. However, it does not change the fact that the former is denser in nutrients than the latter.
Liver may not be as protein-rich as muscle meat, but its other nutrient contents make up for it. It contains higher concentrations of vitamin A, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
Moreover, liver has lower levels of fat and calories compared to muscle meat. Hence, this organ meat provides your canine companion with large doses of nutrients and less risk of gaining extra pounds.
How Much Cooked Liver Can I Give My Dog?
Feeding liver to your dog in small amounts goes a long way. Generally, it should only make up approximately 5% of his diet to avoid nutrient overdose.
Always remember to check how much vitamin A is already present in your dog’s current meals before incorporating liver. Doing so will help you set the proper amount of liver for your dog to eat.
If you are using liver as a treat, small breeds can have no more than 1 to 2 liver treats a week. Medium breeds can eat up to 3 to 4 liver treats weekly, while large breeds can have a maximum of 5 to 6 liver treats in a week.
Introduce liver to your furry pal in small quantities. Since this organ meat is too rich, eating too much of it for the first time may lead to stomach upset and loose stools.
What Kind of Liver Can Dogs Eat?
Livers coming from any type of animal livestock can be given to your dog such as:
Check with local farmers, abattoirs, and specialty butchers to know what types of livers are available in your area. Keep in mind that you may have a hard time finding livers harvested from exotic animals such as venison.
Purchase liver that comes from organic or grass-fed animals. Unlike commercially produced livestock, they are not exposed to chemicals such as antibiotics and growth hormones. You do not want these harmful compounds entering your dog’s body.
Chicken Liver vs. Beef Liver
Chicken liver and beef liver are the most common types of liver you will see in supermarkets. Both are loaded with nutrients, but they have different nutritional profiles.
Chicken liver provides more vitamins C and D, beta-carotene, niacin, retinol, and selenium than beef liver. In comparison, beef liver has higher concentrations of vitamin A, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.
Look into the vitamins and minerals your dog’s body lacks to know which type of liver he can benefit from the most. Do not forget to check what nutrients he does not need to avoid nutrient overdose.
How to Prepare and Feed Liver to Your Dog
Here are a few helpful pointers to remember if you want to incorporate liver into your dog’s diet:
Liver is fine for dogs to enjoy now and then. Follow these precautions when preparing and feeding liver to your dog:
1. Serve Liver Raw
We frequently come across the question: “Can dogs eat raw liver ?” Yes, dogs can eat raw liver as long as proper sanitary protocols are carried out during preparation.
Cooking dissolves several nutrients from the organ meat, including vitamin A, copper, folic acid, and iron. To retain its nutritional content, we recommend offering it to your pooch raw.
If you are averse to this method of feeding, lightly sear the liver in oil for about 3 minutes per side. This slightly cooks the meat, but not enough to prompt losing large quantities of vitamins and minerals.
2. Chop the Organ Meat into Small Pieces
Never feed liver to your dog whole because it can get stuck in his throat. Always slice it into small pieces to prevent accidental choking.
Another alternative is to grind the liver in a food processor and combine it with other ingredients in your dog’s meal.
3. Only Occasionally Add Liver to His Meals
As we have established, liver contains high levels of nutrients. Allowing dogs to eat it regularly can lead to nutrient overdose and potentially poisoning. So we advise restricting his consumption to once a week.
Homemade Liver Treats for Dogs
- ½ teaspoon fresh basil
- ½ teaspoon fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons softened cream cheese
- ½ pound chicken liver
- Slice the chicken liver into bite-size pieces.
- Use a food processor or blender to pulse the chicken liver until coarsely pureed.
- Add the cream cheese, basil, and thyme. Blend until they are well incorporated.
- Transfer the mixture to a baking sheet and cover it with plastic wrap. Allow it to chill for 2 to 3 hours until set.
- Take it out of the fridge and form small 1-inch balls out of the mixture.
- Once done, let your dog snack on these liver pate balls.
- If placed in the fridge, these liver dog treats can last for a week at most. Storing them in the freezer can make them last for 1 to 2 months.
FAQs About Liver for Dogs
1. Do Dogs Eat Cooked Liver?
Yes, some dogs eat cooked liver because they may find consuming raw liver unappealing.
If this is your furry pal’s preference, keep in mind to feed him lightly cooked liver. Avoid cooking it thoroughly to preserve most of its nutrients.
2. Can Dogs Eat Chicken Liver?
Yes, dogs can eat chicken liver. It is the type of liver that you can easily buy from grocery stores.
As we have mentioned, chicken liver is a great source of beta-carotene, niacin, and selenium.
3. Can Dogs Eat Beef Liver?
Yes, dogs can eat beef liver as it contains plenty of vitamin A, copper, iron, and zinc.
As with any type of liver, feed it to your canine companion in moderation to prevent nutrient toxicity from arising.
4. Can I Feed My Dog Liver Every Day?
No, you cannot feed your dog liver every day as it puts him in danger of nutrient overdose. Ideally, liver should be given to canines once a week.
However, if you want to make it a part of your dog’s daily diet, we suggest slicing his weekly portion of liver into smaller pieces. Then divide and add them to his daily meals.
Liver is a nutrient-dense organ meat that you can use to supplement your dog’s diet. However, it is crucial to set limits on how much liver he can consume to prevent running into health issues like copper poisoning or vitamin A toxicity.
We have only lightly touched upon organ meat in this article. If you are curious to learn more about their health benefits, our article Organ Meats for Dogs: An Important Part of Your Dog’s Diet will give you an overview of it.