Why Your Dog Should Eat More Liver

can dogs eat liver

If your dog doesn’t eat liver … he’s missing out. Not only on something he might really love eating … but on a powerful source of nutrients to fuel his body.

Why Is Liver Good For Dogs?

Liver’s a vital part of a great raw diet for your dog … and chances are, you’re not feeding enough of it. It’s a true superfood for dogs! Liver’s a great source of protein that’s lower in fat than muscle meat. But it’s far more than that. Liver’s so rich in nutrients that people call liver nature’s multivitamin. Here are just a few of the nutrients liver offers your dog.

  • Vitamin A – a powerful antioxidant. It supports digestion and reproductive organs. 
  • Vitamin D ­– a vitally important nutrient for immune function. It helps protect against cancers, autoimmune and infectious diseases. It supports muscle and bone strength too. 
  • Folic acid, B vitamins ­ ­– support mental and nerve health. They help avoid fatigue and prevent anemia.  
  • Iron – forms hemoglobin, brain function, regulates body temperature. Iron transports oxygen to the blood cells. This increases your dog’s endurance and strength. Lack of iron depletes antibodies and T-cells in the immune system.    
  • Other minerals (like copper and zinc) – support bone and joint health, skin, coat, immunity.

Liver Vs Muscle Meat

If you compare 100g of lean ground beef to 100g of beef liver … you’ll see what a powerhouse it can be for your dog …

  • 6 times as much iron
  • 23 times more calcium
  • Twice as much niacin
  • 16 times more vitamin D
  • 100 times more copper
  • 5 times more choline
  • 20 times more zinc
  • 260 times more magnesium
  • 6 times more phosphorus
  • 1200 times more vitamin A
  • 1300 times more manganese
  • 1/3 the amount of total fat
  • 1/3 the amount of saturated fat

And .. if you buy liver from pasture-raised animals, you’ll increase the benefits. The essential nutrients will be even higher than they are in factory-farmed animals. But any kind of liver provides your dog with excellent nutrition. 

Is Liver Safe For Dogs?

Liver is very safe for dogs … and it’s not true that feeding liver can fill your dog with toxins. The liver’s main job is filtering toxins out of the body … but it doesn’t store those toxins. In fact … muscle meats are typically higher in unwanted toxins than liver.

So liver won’t poison your dog. And even if it’s not organic or grass-fed … it’s still a hugely healthy food for your dog. Organic or grass-fed meats are always healthiest. You’ll avoid toxins like herbicides or antibiotics in meat. But any liver is good for your dog. 

There’s another advantage to feeding liver … and that’s to support the liver itself. 

Eating Liver Helps Your Dog’s Liver

Your dog’s liver performs thousands of vital functions in the body. So it’s important to help it work smoothly. You can boost liver health by feeding your dog liver. This principle has been known for centuries by natural medicine practitioners … including Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. Feeding a specific organ benefits that organ.

Eatding kidneys can strengthen the kidney. Feeding pancreas supports the pancreas. Heart meat helps heart health. And eating liver will fortify your dog’s liver.

What Kind Of Liver Can Dogs Eat?

Feed whatever liver you can get your hands on. Check with specialty butchers, raw dog food suppliers, local farmers or abattoirs for liver from any animal you can think of. Here are some good options …

  • Beef
  • Goat
  • Lamb
  • Pork
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Duck
  • Venison

Feeding a lot of different animal livers is good because they all have different nutrients. So your dog will get a wider range of benefits from his liver. But even your local grocery store should carry beef and chicken livers.

Is Beef Or Chicken Liver Better For Dogs?

You may find beef or calves’ liver in the freezer. And chicken livers are easy to find. They’re usually in the fresh meat section, in plastic containers. Always ask if you don’t see them.

If you can get both, you can rotate. In general, beef is higher in important minerals like Iron, calcium and zinc than chicken livers. But chicken livers have more vitamins A and D and some B vitamins.

Chicken livers have about 30% more total fat than beef liver. And … like chicken meat generally, chicken livers are higher in polyunsaturated fats than beef liver. But don’t worry too much about the fat, because liver is lower in fat than muscle meats. It’s also quite a small part of your dog’s diet.

Feed Liver Raw

To really give your dog the rich benefits of liver, he should eat it raw. Cooking kills a lot of nutrients. In 2007, a USDA paper showed that cooking liver caused the loss of …

  • 40% of iron, magnesium and vitamin A
  • 55% of niacin and B6 
  • 35% of folate
  • 30% of phosphorus
  • 25% of copper and vitamin C

There wasn’t much effect on calcium, beta carotene and choline. But it’s obviously much better to feed liver raw if you can. But not every dog likes to eat raw liver.

What If Your Dog Doesn’t Like Raw Liver?

Try these options to get your dog to eat liver.

  • Grind it and mix with other meats. Disguising it can help!
  • Feed a “whole prey” grind – available at many raw food suppliers. These contain ground-up whole animals … muscle meat, bone, and organs. (And because they came from the whole animal, they’re in the right proportions.)
  • Lightly sear the outside of the liver in a hot pan with a little fat. Just enough to change the texture but not cook it through. 
  • Make dehydrated treats. Dehydrating temperatures are low (145F).  They don’t really “cook” the liver … so it loses fewer nutrients.

PRO TIP

Chicken or turkey livers make great little bite-sized liver treats for your dog. Dehydrate them whole or cut them in half. That means much less slicing than other livers! And any liver is much easier to slice if you do it while it’s still partly frozen.

How Much Liver To Feed

How much liver to give depends on whether you’re feeding any other organ meats. In raw feeding, the idea is to feed the same ratio of body parts that’s in the whole prey. In wild animals, organs (including skin) are up to about 25% of body weight. 

So … if you were feeding lots of other organ meats … you could give varied organs up to about 25% of your dog’s diet. If you’re only feeding one organ (liver) … feed it as 5-10% of your dog’s diet, by weight. 

But be careful! If your dog hasn’t had liver before … don’t add this amount all at once! 

RELATED: Read more about organ meats in the raw diet …

Go Slow

If your dog’s not used to eating liver, start slowly. Because liver’s so rich in nutrients, it can cause tummy upset or loose stool. So ease him into liver-feeding gradually!

Start with about ½ Tbsp a few times a week for a medium sized dog. Keep an eye on his reaction. If you hear tummy gurgling or see loose stools, feed a bit less liver until his digestive system adapts. 

2 Reasons Not To Over-feed Liver

There are a couple of reasons not to go overboard with liver!

1. Copper Toxicity

If you have a Bedlington Terrier, don’t overdo the liver. There are a few dogs who have problems with copper metabolism. Liver is high in copper. Bedlington Terriers are genetically less able to excrete copper. Other breeds susceptible to copper toxicity include Dobermans, West Highland White Terriers, Skye Terries, Dalmations and Labrador Retrievers. 

This is a problem that will accumulate over time. You likely won’t see a sudden change. So, watch for signs of liver disease from copper toxicity, like …

  • Weight loss
  • Reduced appetite
  • Excessive peeing
  • Diarrhea
  • Intermittent vomiting

Talk to your vet if you notice these problems. Bloodwork may also show higher liver enzymes … such as alanine transaminase (ALT). 

RELATED: How to interpret your dog’s liver enzymes …

But it’s still safe to give your dog liver. AAFCO’s recommended amounts for copper for adult dogs are 20 mg per 1000 calories per day.  That’s a minimum and they don’t provide a top limit. These are the amounts of copper in 100g of various livers … so you can see you’d be quite safe with chicken, turkey or pork

PRO TIP

Zinc is also plentiful in liver … and zinc reduces copper absorption!

2. Vitamin A Excess

Some dog owners worry about vitamin A excess. Excess vitamin A can cause liver damage and decalcify bones and teeth. But you’re unlikely to cause it from feeding liver. AAFCO’s recommended maximum vitamin A is 62,500 IU per 1000 calories. 

  • 100g of beef liver is 135 calories, with 16,989 IU of vitamin A
  • 100g of chicken liver has 119 calories, with 11,078 IU of vitamin A

So you can see, you’re unlikely to go over the maximum. And vitamin A excess is cumulative. So you’d have to overfeed liver every day, for months or years! 

What If You Find Liver Disgusting?

Liver is a bit slimy and smelly … so it might gross you out to feed it. But you can feed a supplement instead.

Liver Supplement For Dogs

Feeding a glandular supplement is a great way to give your dog the benefits of organ meats without the ick factor. Glandulars are 100% natural supplements made from whole dessicated organ meats. And they can be a great way to give your dog the nutrients he’s missing. 

You can buy supplements with individual organs, or various blends.

RELATED: Read more about giving your dog glandulars …

So, one way or another … you need to give your dog liver. It’s a delicious (to him, at least) food that’s packed with wonderful health advantages! 

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