Liver problems can develop for a lot of different reasons and it’s often a surprise when we find out that our companion is suffering with a liver problem.

It wasn’t long after Lulu had pretty invasive surgery to have a cancerous tumor removed in her bowel that her blood work showed elevated liver enzymes.

Her surgeon was confident that he was able to remove all of the tumor which gave us great relief, but our next hurdle would be to stabilize her liver problem.

What The Liver Does

After skin, the liver is the largest organ with a huge job too! It manufactures blood proteins, fats, proteins responsible for blood clotting, energy storage for the manufacturing of blood sugar as needed by the body, it stores fat soluble vitamins and iron, it detoxifies the body of drugs, chemicals and other useless substances; it’s responsible for the inactivation of hormones that the body no longer needs as well as the secretion of bile.

Plus, in order to prevent harmful bacteria from moving to other parts of the body, the liver filters the blood coming from the digestive tract.

It’s the liver that actually prepares all the toxins and waste in the body for elimination through the kidneys.

Common Testing For Liver Problems in Dogs

There are quite a few tests vets want to do when determining that your dog has a liver problem. Blood tests are probably the most common diagnostic test which is used to check the dog’s blood including red and white blood cell levels and enzyme levels within the liver.

Alanine aminotransferase and alkaline phosphatase are liver enzymes that often appear elevated if your dog is suffering from liver disease. This was the case with Lulu. Veterinarians will usually want to do a bile acid test and a urinalysis as well.

Besides the above testing, most vets will want to get x-rays and an ultrasound as well. The x-rays will help your vet to actually identify any odd characteristics of the liver such as size whether unusually small or enlarged.

The ultrasound will allow your vet to actually examine the internal structure of the liver and help to figure out what liver condition he is actually dealing with.

In certain cases, a vet may recommend surgery in order to actually explore the liver hands on and gather a sample for a biopsy.

DIET Plays a Large Role In Your Dog’s Treatment For Liver Disease

If your dog has elevated enzymes or has been diagnosed with liver disease then diet is an area that you will NEED TO FOCUS on. There are certain supplements that are needed as well.

This is the first article in a series of “Liver Disease in Dogs”. In this series, I will be sharing Lulu’s diet(s) along with the supplements that she took as well. Her diet and recipes were specifically created by a canine nutritionist tailored specifically for liver disease.

If your dog has liver problems, please don’t ignore them.ย  Your dog’s health can go from bad to worse very quickly.ย  Use my search bar or category menu to see all my articles and recipes dedicated to dogs diagnosed with liver failure.

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Showing 31 comments
  • Elaina

    Hi, my dog Missy, is a Yorkie and she’s 11. She has always been healthy and we see the vet regularly for ANYTHING. She is like my child I am 32, and she has literally been with me since she was 6months old. And known me since the day she was born. I need her. I am going through a horrible breakup, and she has ALWAYS been my reason for going on. I love her so much. She had a lump appear in her neck before xmas. So we had it surgically removed and I was terrified for her to even be put under. We got the results and she was fine! I was so grateful to be over that hurdle. Well I had her annual shots scheduled this past weekend but she hasn’t been acting the same, and not too interested in food. I discovered another lump in her neck area and took her for this instead of shots. The vet took blood, said her Liver enzymes were elavated. Well he gave meds and we went home. The next day she showed signs of hope and wanting to play with her toys… well then since Monday she has acted like she is starving but WONT eat much. Today she won’t eat at all. Took her back he took xrays and more blood. He said her liver is enlarged. He saw the fear and heartbreak in my eyes. SO I am to give her liquid medicine and see what happens between now (weds) and friday. She is so lifeless and she doesn’t want anything to do with water or food. She had been drinking water regularly till after the vet. She got extremely worked up and I am not sure if she is just acting like this because of her shots, and all the excitement or if she is just getting worse. I can’t bare to lose her .. I need more time with her. I don’t want her to suffer for sure… but I am curious is there anything I can do? Food suggestions? ANything … I am desperate. I will lose everything I own to keep her longer. I know it is not her time. She was a girl who shocked people hearing she was 11. she doesn’t act or look old at all. PLEASE HELP. Any and all suggestions welcome. I know I probably sound crazy, but I really need my doggie to stay by my side a little longer..

    • janie

      Hi Elaina:

      I’m so sorry to hear about Missy.

      The real tragedy is that your vet would even vaccinate her. There should never be ANNUAL shots. I sent you a private email if you would like to respond there please.


  • Joanne

    My 13year old dog has been diagnosed with liver cancer his abdomen is swollen with fluid he had an ultrasound he is a short legged staffie his abdomen is the size of a medicine ball hard as well he doesn’t drink much eats his meals OK fluid has been drained by the vet she said it contained blood protein and water it was a little thick in consistency she said to put him down but he still seems to want to carry on he has a cough vet said that’s because the fluid is pushing his organs under his diagram what can I do to make him better he’s a wonderful loving best friend to my sons they don’t want to give up hope

    • janie

      Hi Joanne:

      Has the cancer spread to the liver? Or just in the abdomen? What are you feeding him with regards to food, treats, supplements? What medications does he take?

      When was he vaccinated and how often in his life? Do you use chemical flea and tick products?

      Would you be willing to home cook for him and include supplements?


  • Susann

    My dog, Nick developed liver disease, no cause was seen on his ultrasound. our doc started him n SAMe and it’s helping. His appetite was nothing and we have had to syringe feed him, but the 2-3 weeks on the SAMe he’s improved. Less sleepy, starting to eat and actually played briefly just yesterday. He wouldn’t eat anything beef based I thought because of the syringe feedings of it. I got some chicken flavored digestive care and he actually ate it without coaxing or a syringe. We have noticed one of our cat’s bullies him away from his bowl. I can’t help wondering did Nick not being able to eat because of this cat start us on this road? I have no idea how long it might have been going on because the cat eats Nick’s food despite having it’s own bowl full all the time. Do you think that’s possible or will we never know what brought this on. Thanks.

    • janie

      Hi Susann:

      I’m sorry to hear about your boy’s liver disease. I doubt that the cat’s bullying had much to do with your dog developing liver disease, if at all. I’m not sure what his diet was before you started him on what I hope is a whole, healthy diet for his current liver issues? But, if it was kibble and you also used chemical flea and tick products on him and vaccinated him routinely; I would say that is where your answer lies. Unfortunately, this is way too common in how many pet owners feed their dog and provide general maintenance which can cause A LOT of health problems for the dog, especially as he ages.

      But, we are seeing more and more dogs developing chronic diseases at younger ages now which is even more frightening. My advice, seek out a holistic vet; avoid chemical flea and tick products on this dog and future dogs and use titer testing for vaccinations which a good holistic vet can help with. Don’t get bullied into vaccinating your dog for diseases that are not required by law.

      Hope this helps.


  • Kathy Cameron

    My eight-year-old dog started throwing up and running a 105 fever. and has lost weight .
    Took her to the vet the next day and they did test and said that the test for the liver went off the scales . Said that it would be best to put her down . With the vet saying that did that mean there was no help for her . If I keep her with me would she be in pain ?
    I can’t get over this . I feel like I felled my sweet little girl . I really need answers.

    • janie

      Hi Kathy:

      I’m very sorry to hear about your girl.

      If you’re concerned about the accuracy of what the vet said, you can always get a second opinion which wouldn’t be a bad idea and that might help with your decision making, either way. I would take her to a good holistic vet for a second opinion.

      End stage liver disease can cause bleeding, fluid buildup in the abdomen, seizures, vomiting and diarrhea, extreme lethargy and lack of appetite. So, your girl’s quality of life won’t be good. Dog’s mask their pain for us, very well.

      Don’t take it out on yourself Kathy. I know how this feels. Again, I’m very sorry.


  • Corinne

    Hi Janie
    My 13 year old Beagle mix was just (today) diagnosed with liver failure – same symptoms as described here (listless, loss of appetite, drinks lots of water, shakes, etc.) My question (apols if missed it in your recipes): should/could I do anything with her water? Like mix some sugar/salt to help restore the electrolytes? Thanks ever so much

    • janie

      Hi Corrine:

      I’m so sorry to hear about your old girl’s diagnosis. Can I ask what you plan on feeding and if you are including any supplements for her?


  • info sakit kuning

    thank you very much for the information. greetings ^^

  • Denise

    Hi Janie

    Do you know anything about HEPATOCUTANEOUS SYNDROME

    Can u tell me if its treatable

    Thank you,

    • janie

      Hi Denise:

      I don’t know much about it except that it’s pretty rare and is often associated with Diabetes. I know it affects the skin.

      Can you share a little more detail Denise? How old is your dog? Did you get a second opinion? What are the symptoms? Was he or she diagnosed with liver disease before and did it escalated to this? What do you feed including supplements? Anything you can share. ๐Ÿ™‚


  • DJ McCarter

    I have a senior dog, diagnosed 10 days ago with liver disease, after ultrasound. He’s been on 5 different medications and gas not improved much at all…weak, lethargic, anemic, elevated white count, losing control of bladder and bowel…eats so very little…I’ve given him Denamarin 35 mg, (very lg dog, pyr-golden mix), near 9….Thyroxene, Amoxicillen 2 caps 2x daily, vitamin drops, Rimadyl….he’s taken 2 of those over the past 10 days….I spent 500 dollars no it’s not looking good, he’s just so weak but I don’t know shat to do. I love him but I refuse to let him suffer…at times I feel,as though we’re bring drug out, not for my dog, but for the money…..please, any suggestions will be appreciated, so very much….

  • Michelle

    It’s Pepcid AC not Pepside sorry for the miss spelling

  • Michelle

    Hello my dog KC was diagnosed with liver cancer Dr said his liver looked like cauliflower. The Dr wanted to put him down but I saw life in his eyes still. The Dr told me to feed him white rice and white shredded chicken breast meant diet only and prescribed pain pills. The Dr said KC would live aprox one week it’s been over 2wks. KC is finally holding his food down I was told by the Dr to give 2 pepsides a day for vomiting, it seems to be working. I’m not sure what to do next I want to take KC walking and swimming but I’m afraid to put him in discomfort so we sit all day cuddling. I cry myself to sleep every night wondering if I’m going to wake up and it be the day to put him down. It’s hard not knowing what to do to give him quality of life and not knowing how long he will be with me. I don’t know if I have time to purchase books. I’m just at a loss and yes I can’t seem to get out of the depression, I’m trying. I guess I’m looking for someone to tell me how long do I really have? I know thats an impossible question to answer but I just don’t know what to do next.

    • janie knetzer

      Hi Michelle:

      Reading your comment brings tears to my eyes. I’ve been where you are and I truly feel your pain. Many years ago, my yellow lab “Lulu” at the age of 16 woke up one morning and kept falling. I knew before this that she had liver disease. I rushed her to a holistic vet who immediately placed her on IV fluids and she said she perked up. She also told me that she would have to keep her over night and that I couldn’t stay. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. I went back to see her and told her “I’ll be back in the morning to pick you up girl”. I got the call in the morning that my girl had passed away. It hit me like a ton of bricks.

      Before this all happened Michelle, I had sought the advice of another vet. He explained that once liver disease progresses to end stage, there is nothing you can do. He felt that I should just let her eat whatever she wanted and enjoy my last days with her. I didn’t take his advice and allow her to eat spaghetti which was what she was willing to eat. I was still trying to heal her.

      My advice to you is to give him his favorite meals, whether it’s spaghetti or steak, let your boy enjoy his time. Take him for that walk if he can, or put him in a wagon or a stroller. I don’t know how big he is. Go to your favorite park with him and reflect on your favorite times together. He knows how you’re feeling Michelle. Don’t make these last days, days of grieving. You’ll have time for that later. He’s still here. Make the most of every last minute with him, even though you will see him again. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I’m sorry that I can’t offer you better advice; but this is truly what I would do. I would feed him the meal of a king and make his final days those that you can look back on and feel good about. I understand your depression, I really do, but for him, pick yourself up and “live life with him” while he is still here.

      I promise you that I’ll be thinking of you.


      • Michelle

        Hi Janie
        thank you for your reply, I’m truly sorry to bring tears to your eyes. I’m also sorry for your loss.
        KC is honestly my soul mate and I’m having a hard time at the thought of having to put him down. When I first realized he was ill he was throwing up food and blood then the next morning he wouldn’t get up so we went to the Vet.
        When will I know when he’s suffering? Everyone keeps telling me I’ll know and they keep telling me to get another pup. I can’t imagine getting another dog I can’t go through this pain ever again.
        How do you feel about the pepside for dogs tummy upset. Is that safe? Is there something else that is more dog friendly, or just keep doing what Dr said?
        Thank you for your compassionate reply your the only person that has responded to my cry for help I appreciate your empathy. Xxoo

        • janie knetzer

          Hi Michelle:

          I understand completely. You’ll know when his quality of life is very poor, and to the point that you’re resisting more for your sake, than his.

          I DO NOT recommend Pepcid AC. If you can go to The Vitamin Shop and pick up George’s. You can see the bottle here in my article on aloe: Aloe for Dogs This is very dog friendly.

          I would use this instead of Pepcid. I would give him 1 tablespoon per 10 pounds of body weight twice daily vs once. If it helps and you feel that he needs more, then go for it.

          And, you’re very welcome. I appreciate your kind words Michelle. Keep me posted okay.


          • Michelle

            Hello Janie, that’s what I thought the directions clearly state causes liver damage gosh… last thing he needs is something that will hurt him more, of course the Dr didn’t expect KC to last more then a few days. I’ve managed to keep him going longer. I will look for that dog friendly tummy product.
            I suppose I’m in denial and don’t look forward to putting my best friend down- is it so bad to wish he would go peacefully in his sleep. I admit that would make it easier on me. Unfortunately I have to be ready to do the other….
            I appreciate your comfortable words and advice and thank you for the awesome email links to dog wellness. I have 2 other dogs that are new to the family (rescues) ๐Ÿ˜‰ so I’d love to keep up on their health so I’d appreciate the emails to keep coming.
            You have been more help then you’ll ever know and I’m so grateful for finding your blog. I have so many more questions but will will ask in moderation. I will keep you posted and updated. Xxoo
            Thank you
            Michelle S

          • janie knetzer

            Hi Michelle:

            You’re so welcome, and “thank you” for rescuing. We’re all making a difference, one dog at a time. ๐Ÿ™‚

            Don’t ever worry about asking your questions; I’ll do my best to answer asap. Take care of yourself, keep your chin up and stay strong for your old boy.


  • Tiffany

    Hi, I’m writing because my 2yo Rat Terrier mix has just been diagnosed with high liver enzymes. The vet did everything I could afford. However, an ultrasound is needed and I don’t have the money for it. I feel like I’m just watching her slowly fade away and I feel so helpless. She’s on 5 different medications but she can’t even hold down a teaspoon of water much less her meds. I don’t know what to do. She’s like my daughter and my kids are super attached to her. Do you have any advice for me at all?

    • janie knetzer

      Hi Tiffany:

      What brand of food are you feeding her and was she recently vaccinated and/or did you use any chemical flea/tick medicine on her?


  • Deirdre

    Our dog, Precious, has all the symptoms of liver disease. She is only two yrs old. We took her to the vet, at first they thought she had pancreatitis, but her test came back negative for it. They said the liver enzymes were a little high. They never mentioned liver disease. Is this disease fatal? I don’t know what to do. She won’t eat, but she drinks water like it’s. Going out of style. Then she throws that up. She is taking pain pills and something else the doctor gave her. We don’t want to lose her. Please give your advise. Thankyou.

    • janie knetzer

      Hi Deirdre:

      I’m sorry about your girl. Yes, unfortunately liver disease can be fatal.

      The fact that she is young leads me to believe that she can recover if you go to the right vet and treat her whole and get to the root of the problem vs just medicating her. I urge you to see a good holistic vet in your area. You need to follow a strict protocol when a dog has liver disease or high enzymes and this includes diet which plays a major part.

      There are factors that can make liver enzymes rise including autoimmune disorders such as thyroid disease, gluten intolerance (from wheat, oat and barley based foods) type 1 diabetes, pemphigus (skin disease), addisons, etc. Anything that harms the body, also harms the immune system and this in turn harms the internal organs. Products like chemical flea and tick products and vaccinations are also big problems.




    • admin

      Hi Donna:
      I’m sorry to hear about Mickey. I recommend “The Honest Kitchen” Keen formula. All you do is add warm water to it. It has a low copper content which is what dogs with liver disease need. Restrict red meat and feed chicken or turkey. I also recommend that you add Wellness Ninety five percent to his diet – AS LONG AS HE DOESN’T HAVE Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) type of liver disease (this effects the brain). The only time you have to watch the protein content is when the dog has this type of liver disease. I highly suggest both of these foods. However, DO NOT feed the Wellness Ninety five percent without the “Keen” because it’s not balanced.

      Watch the treats as well. You can also add green tripe to The Honest Kitchen Keen formula – BEWARE green tripe is very stinky, but dogs love, love, love it!

      I also HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you avoid chemical flea and tick treatments and no vaccinations at this point. Please read more about how vaccinations are effecting our dogs. Here’s the formula of flea/tick control we use for our own dogs.

      I hope this helps Donna! It would be great to hear back from you.
      Janie ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

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