Do you test your dog for heartworm every spring? You might even test twice a year if you live in a warmer climate. Taking time for this regular testing is a great way to prevent disease and discomfort.
But you need to look at a regular liver cleanse the same way … it will prevent liver disease in dogs but will also prevent and help with other diseases.
What The Liver Does
Your dog’s liver is his second largest organ, next to his skin. And in this case, size matters, because the liver is central to your dog’s health and wellness. Some of its major jobs include:
- Converts food to energy
- Detoxifies toxic substances
- Excretes toxins into the intestines to be expelled
- Stores vitamins A, D, E, K and some B vitamins
- Activates vitamin D
- Stores minerals including iron, copper, manganese and zinc
- Helps control hormones (including thyroid hormones)
- Removes bacteria and allergens that escape the intestines
Toxins need to be continuously removed from the body or they will start to interfere with normal body functions and lead to disease. Toxins can cause inflammation and allergy symptoms, so the liver works constantly to remove the toxins produced through the body’s metabolic processes and the environmental toxins it’s exposed to.
The Toxins In Your Dog
Dogs are exposed to an alarming amount of toxins! Here’s just a short list of the toxins they either eat or are exposed to, every day:
- Drugs and medications
- PBDE (a flame retardant found in many pet foods)
- Aflatoxin (found in many pet foods, this mold is the most carcinogenic natural substance we know of)
- Heavy metals (vaccines contain mercury, aluminum and other toxic heavy metals)
- Genetically modified foods
- Fluoride (in pet foods and drinking water)
- Yeast (this fungus can grow out of control when the gut bacteria grow out of balance)
- Rancid fats (most pet foods contain oxidized fats)
- Neurotoxins (from heartworm meds and dewormers)
- Lawn chemicals
- Herbicides (from treated lawns)
- Household cleaners
- EMFs (electromagnetic frequencies, from internet, cell phones, cordless phones and electrical towers)
It’s a toxic world! And the liver just wasn’t designed to deal with this type of chronic toxic load. So it’s a good idea to give the liver some help … before it falls behind and the toxins start to accumulate in your dog. If that happens, you’ll start to notice symptoms in other parts of the body before your dog starts showing signs of liver disease.
Signs Of Liver Overload
When the liver starts to get sluggish and fall behind, or when your dog’s toxic load is so high that it can’t filter all the toxins out, you may see the following symptoms in your dog:
- Skin issues (hot spots, yeast and poor skin and coat)
- Poor kidney function
- Chronic inflammation
- Thyroid disease
- Digestive upset
- Poor appetite or an inability to lose weight
Because the liver is involved in so many of the body’s functions, a poorly functioning liver can cause symptoms in other organs. So giving the liver a good cleanse every now and again will help not just the liver, but all of the other organs in the body. Let’s look at how we can reduce the load on the liver, then we’ll talk about the best way to help it cleanse.
Reducing The Toxic Load
The first step to keeping the liver functioning well is to reduce the amount of toxins your dog is exposed to. Here are the top ways to keep your dog safe:
- Reduce the number of unnecessary vaccines (or even forgo them altogether)
- Use new DNA testing in place of heartworm meds
- Feed fresh, whole foods instead of processed, toxin-laden foods
- Treat your dog for leaky gut so pathogens don’t get into his body
- Give him filtered water, free of fluoride
- Keep him away from treated lawns
- Clean your home without chemicals
But even if you’re already doing all of these things and you do your best to avoid toxins, your dog’s liver still has to deal with our toxic world. A liver cleanse just makes good sense if you want to avoid health issues.
There are several ways to help your dog cleanse … but some can cause harsh side effects that will make your dog feel pretty crappy. So let’s look at the most effective remedies for cleansing the liver.
Top 6 Remedies To Cleanse The Liver
There are two ways to cleanse the liver … with herbs or with homeopathic remedies. While most people think only of herbs like milk thistle for liver health, homeopathy has been used to support the liver for decades. So let’s start with the top homeopathic remedies:
This homeopathic remedy is one of the most widely used remedies for liver disorders and detoxification. In fact, a study in mice showed that Chelidonium could prevent tumors in the liver and even change the activity of important enzymes. It’s the heavy lifter for liver health!
Chelidonium is a homeopathic remedy that you can get at most health stores. Buy it in the liquid form in a 6x potency and give it to your dog twice a day for 3 weeks. The same dose works for all sizes of dogs.
Carduus is an excellent liver cleanser and it’s actually made from milk thistle. It can also be used to help treat cirrhosis of the liver.
Like Chelidonium, Carduus is is a homeopathic remedy that you can get at most health stores. Buy it in the liquid form in a 6x potency and give it to your dog twice a day for 3 weeks. The same dose works for all sizes of dogs.
Taraxacum is another great liver remedy, especially for sluggish livers or dogs with digestive issues. Again, you can use the 6x dose or work with a great homeopathic vet.
You could also combine all 3 of these remedies into one bottle, or buy a prepared combination containing these remedies and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
You’re probably already aware of milk thistle (or silymarin) for liver health. Milk thistle protects the liver cells against toxins and the oxidation they cause. It can also help regenerate liver cells.
But milk thistle is best used for acute exposure (for example after vaccination or drugs or after your dog is exposed to chemicals) or if your dog has existing liver disease. Animal herbalists Greg Tilford and Mary Wulff explain: “Despite much of the publicity that has been generated about this ‘wonder herb,’ milk thistle should not be used as a daily food supplement. Milk thistle is a medicine that is best reserved for situations in which the liver is already under abnormal stress.”
You can find milk thistle in most health food stores in capsules, tincture (liquid) or powder. If you’re using a product made for dogs, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the jar; but if you buy a product made for humans, here’s how much to give:
Tincture: 1 to 2 drops per 10 pounds of body weight, 2 to 4 times a day (split the dose up if you’re giving it more than once a day)
Powder: 100mg per 10 pounds of body weight, 2 to 4 times a day (split the dose up if you’re giving it more than once a day)
Don’t give milk thistle to pregnant and lactating dogs and if your dog is taking medication, you might want to consult your holistic vet to make sure there aren’t any drug interactions.
SAMe and NAC
S-adenosyl-L-methionine (or SAMe), is produced naturally in the body by amino acids and is a precursor to glutathione. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that’s known for its ability to detoxify the liver (it’s also a great immune booster).
Glutathione binds to toxins in the liver before they can cause any damage. In fact, it’s used in conventional medicine to detoxify the liver in treating accidental overdoses of Tylenol (acetaminophen) in hospitals. The patient would receive an amino acid called N-acetylcysteine (or NAC), which is a glutathione precursor, just like SAMe.
Both NAC and SAMe improve detoxification, reduce inflammation and serve as an antioxidant. Here’s how much to give for both NAC and SAMe:
Small dog– 25mg/day
Medium dog – 50mg/day
Large dog – 100mg/day
Giant dog – 100-300mg/day
The body naturally produces free radicals as a byproduct of metabolism, and from environmental factors like pollution. These are unstable atoms that can damage cellular health and cause cells to die. Free radicals build up in the body like rust and they are the cause of all disease … including liver disease.
Antioxidants are molecules that can prevent this cell damage. One of the most effective antioxidants is called Superoxide Dismutase (or SOD). SOD uses a process called dismutation to deactivate a free radical called superoxide, turning the free radical into hydrogen peroxide, which then breaks down into harmless oxygen and water. SOD is said to be 3,500 times more potent than vitamin C.
The best bioavailable sources of SOD are phytoplankton and astaxanthin … both are naturally occurring and phytoplankton gives the liver an extra break because it can fuel the cells directly without the need for the liver to break it down first.
Because it’s involved in so many important body functions, your dog’s health is only as good as his liver. Make sure you cleanse his liver twice a year, spring and fall, and keep his entire body operating at its best!