Kidney and Liver
The functions of these organs are so vast that they alone, are testaments to the ingenuity of the body. The liver clears the body of poisonous substances, converts excess glucose into glycogen for future, stores iron and processes hemoglobin for the use of this iron, produces bile which carries some waste away, helps to regulate blood clotting, produces certain blood plasma proteins, produces some immune factors to get rid of bacteria thereby resisting infection - and much more! Malfunction of the liver can translate to serious conditions that may be life threatening. A liver friendly diet that supports this organ is an excellent adjunct to veterinary care. We've provided a liver-friendly diet below.
Kidneys act as a filtering system by getting rid of waste products. Vitamin D is activated in the kidneys. They balance the body's fluid content by reabsorbing immense amounts of water into the blood, produce hormone that helps to make red blood cells and help to control blood pressure.
The food that your dog eats is broken down and part of this breakdown, along with the normal breakdown of body tissues becomes waste. This waste is sent to the blood which moves to the kidneys for removal. When kidney function is compromised, the wastes build up, damaging the body and often causes nausea.
Problems and Controls
Kidney trouble may come from stones, or the compromise of kidney function for many reasons including the ageing process. Not that long ago, it was believed that less protein in the diet would help kidneys function better, but more recent studies prove that, in fact, protein restriction is not required in the early stages of kidney failure. Protein restriction in late-stage failure may be necessary.
Lowering the amount of phosphorus in the diet is the main goal when the kidneys need some help.
Vitamin D plays a critical role in cases of kidney disease. Read about it here.
Do's and Don'ts
In the case of kidney trouble, fish oils such as Wild Salmon Oil have been proven to be kidney friendly while vegetable oils are something to stay away from. Vitamin C supplements tends to acidify urine, but also, vitamin C is fluished out of the body via urine. Combined with excess calcium in urine, it's the perfect set-up for calcium oxalate stones. You never want to supplement vitamin C in the diet of a calcium oxalate stone forming dog.
The B-Complex vitamin group supports almost every cell and body tissue and these vitamins are flushed out of the body via urine. Compromised kidneys can cause a dog to urinate more frequently and/or greater volume which can create a B vitamin deficiency. Supplementation with a vitamin B compound is prudent.
For Further Reading
Optimal Nutrition: includes in-depth discussions about kidney disease, urate stones, struvite stones, calcium oxalate stones and sample diets to address each condition.
Feeding Older Dogs e-Booklet:Truths and myths regarding physiological and dietary changes in older dogs.
Detection of a Lactobacillus Substance that Inhibits E. Coli by Dr. LJ Leventhal: Acidophilus helps to suppress E. coli in the urinary tract
The Possible Problems
Elevated liver enzymes, as might be seen through blood test results, are best evaluated by your veterinarian. Sometimes, a toxic load being dealt with by the liver can cause elevations in enzymes. Liver shunts, copper storage disease and a host of other problems can affect liver function. Supporting liver function through dietary modification, often shows positive results. The reading material noted here, should be helpful in providing information that you can put to good use right away. We've also included a liver friendly diet to get you started.
Liver Function and Helpful Supplements
The liver is one of the largest organs in the body and given its critical functions, it should win an award for multi tasking. The liver stores vitamins and minerals, excretes waste product into bile, metabolizes drugs and hormones, converts ammonia to urea, converts sugars to fats that are stored, and more! Obviously, with this many important functions, compromised liver function can be serious. Due to the position of the liver in the digestive tract, it is, unfortunately, vulnerable to many insults i.e. toxic, circulatory, microbial and metabolic. Sometimes, liver function is compromised because the liver itself is in trouble but often, the liver is harmed as a secondary reaction and responds by inflammation, death of liver cells, lowered function and sometimes, regeneration.
In years gone by, it was thought that the diet of a dog with liver disease should include reduced protein. Today, we know differently. The excpetion is if the dog has hepatic encephalopathy (HE) in which case diet takes on a very different role - espeically in the case of protein. Read about it here.
While it’s important to reduce the workload on the liver, this organ requires protein for regeneration. They key is to use protein with high biological value (for example, eggs and cheese), while avoiding red meats because of their high content of heme and other non-protein nitrogenous compounds. Normal levels of vitamins K and C can be deficient in dogs with liver disease. Vitamin K can be found in leafy green vegetables, Vitamin C, playing a key role in collagen formation and the synthesis of certain hormones, can be supplemented. B vitamins may also be in short supply and again, these can be supplemented. Multi vitamin and mineral complexes should be used only under supervision of a veterinarian. Excess copper is a problem at any time but especially so when liver disease is present.
The Goal of Dietary Changes
Although the liver has many important functions, one of the most stressful is the elimination of protein byproducts. This might lead us to believe that feeding less protein would be helpful but, in fact, the liver requires protein for regeneration. The key is to offer proteins of high biological value that leave less "waste" for the liver to have to dispose of. In addition, certain supplements can be helpful.
Milk Thistle protects liver tissue and helps to regenerate damaged liver tissue. Omega 3 fatty acids, found in fish body oils like Wild Salmon Oil, help cell function. Vitamin K, for proper blood coagulation, can be found in green foods such as Alfalfa.
The B-Complex vitamin group is required for healthy cells throughout the body. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that has a sparing effect on Vitamin C.
Acidophilus helps to improve immune system function, especially in the gastrointestinal tract. Ellagic acid and tannins (see Antioxidant Booster) have liver protective properties.
The following diet is based on the original one by Dr. Jean Dodds and I'm pleased that Dr. Dodds has approved it for long term use. Please note that the amounts of food have changed from the original diet and supplementation differs greatly. This diet meets the newest NRC recommended allowances for vitamins and minerals.
We can't expect to see positive results unless the diet is followed as written below. One of the best things about this diet is that you can purchase supplements that are well suited to your dog rather than a blend of things that may upset the gastrointestinal tract. For instance, if zinc citrate is not well tolerated, zinc gluconate can be used. If one manufacturer's B-Complex isn't suitable, there are many others available.
To clarify this diet, note that it has always been positioned to provide dogs with seizure disorders a source of branch chain amino acids and extremely low amounts of glutamate-aspartate. Since these dogs take medication(s) that can be hard on the liver, the diet is liver-friendly. However, it is not “just” a liver-friendly diet. It aims to serve a greater role, thus it restricts some foods. This diet has also been successfully fed to dogs that do not have seizures. However, this diet provides much more protein that a dog with a liver shunt should consume, so it's not suitable in those situations.
Recipe Per Week:
42 oz cod, baked
35 oz potato
42 oz sweet potato
21 oz zucchini
42 oz green beans
1 capsule vitamin E 200 IU
25 mg vitamin B compound
250 mg Ester-C (optional)
1 ½ eggshells
7 tsp. canola oil (not to be used for dogs that have seizures)
37.5 mg (2 1/2 of these caplets) zinc
1 ¼ tsp di-calcium phosphate
3 capsules, Multimineral Complex
This diet should support the weight of a 25-30-pound dog. It provides 678 kilocalories that break down as 32% from protein, 57% from carbohydrates and 11% from fat.
Protein: 49 grams Carbohydrates: 85 grams Fat: 7.5 grams
Copyright Jan. 2007, Monica Segal
For Further Reading
Optimal Nutrition: This book includes discussion, explanations and diet samples for dogs with compromised liver function.
Compromised Hepatic Detoxification by Dr. N Scanlan - Vitamin E, selenium, gluathione and taurine all provide benefits for the liver.
The Hepatoprotective Action of Ellagotannins by Dr. ND Buniatian et al - A component of ellagotannins (Altan) helps to protect the liver.
Current Concepts in the Treatment of Canine Chronic Hepatitis by Dr. A Honeckman Liver disease is caused by several conditions. Selecting the right treatment depends on determining the right cause.
Diagnosing Liver Disease in Dogs: What Do the Tests Really Mean? by Jill Maddison