Dogs and meat may be inseparable. But dogs and liver seems like a match made in heaven.
In fact, liver is one of the top animal organs that dogs love the most. If you’ve watched the dog’s wild cousins like jackals and wolves hunt down a prey, you’ll realize that they tear their prey down then go ahead to consume the liver and gut first.
Not only do dogs love liver, but humans are also hard wired to feed them this organ. Indeed, liver is packed with animal protein, the very nutrient that dogs require the most in their diet. But can dogs eat liver?
The answer is a resounding yes. Dogs can eat liver and there shouldn’t be any immediate health concerns to worry about. Feeding liver to your dog is a natural way of supplying him with protein and other essential minerals like iron. However, you should only offer liver to your canine friend in moderation. Much as liver is a nutrient-dense organ, it isn’t necessarily risk-free, especially if you offer it to your pooch in excess.
This article shall attempt to unpack some of the fundamental things to know before feeding liver to your dog.
Some of the areas the post shall address include the health benefits of liver for dogs, potential side effects, and how best to serve liver to your canine friend.
What Do Dogs Eat?
Before we delve deeper into the health benefits and potential side effects of liver for dogs, it’s important to understand what dogs eat first. Contrary to popular belief, dogs are not carnivores but omnivores.
Before domestication, dogs thrived on a diet of meat, as well as fruits, berries, and nuts. The same remains true for the domestic dog’s wild cousins like wolves, jackals, and wild dogs.
In fact, the domestic dog is likely to be more omnivorous that his wild cousins. That’s because these animals have since adapted to their human owners’ diets, which generally consists of meat and plant-based foods.
Based on this information, it’s clear that dogs don’t just require meat in their diets. And being a meat product, liver should only find its way into your dog’s diet occasionally.
Instead of feeding too much liver to your canine friend, you can consider supplementing his diet with other organs too, including the heart, brain, and kidney. That’s the only way to ensure your pooch gets a balance of the other essential nutrients. You can even opt for plant-based foods provided that the food doesn’t pose any health risks to the dog.
Health Benefits of Liver for Dogs
As we’ve already pointed out, liver is one of the most nutrient-rich foods out there. Liver is actually considered a superfood and is probably the first organ meat ever to have earned that recognition.
But like all organ meats, liver doesn’t enjoy as much popularity as muscle meat. Well, that’s quite unfortunate, considering that liver can contain up to 100 times more minerals compared to any other meat. Which means that only a small amount of liver is enough to supply your dog’s nutritional needs.
The most outstanding benefit of liver for dogs comes from its protein content. Protein performs numerous crucial roles in your dog’s body, including bone and muscle development.
Protein is also involved in the healing of wounds. So, if your dog has recently suffered a physical injury or is recovering from a surgical operation, supplementing his diet with liver can go a long way in speeding up his recovery process.
Last but not least, protein plays a role in weight management. Protein-rich foods like liver are known for their ability to increase the metabolic rate, ensuring that your dog burns more fat.
Still on weight management, it’s important to note that protein inhibits the activity of various appetite hormones. Therefore, it can suppress your dog’s appetite and curb hunger pangs, which is also useful in keeping the dog in lean shape.
Liver also contains fewer calories compared to other meats. A 3.5-ounce of liver (about 100-grams) contains 175 calories, whereas other animal parts can contain as much as 200 calories.
What’s more – liver comes with significantly low fat content too. Only about 25% of the calories in liver come from fat, compared to up to 60% in other animal organs. Coupled with its appetite-suppressing and metabolism-enhancing properties, liver is therefore a highly-effective weight control food.
In addition to protein, liver is also rich in vitamin A. Vitamin A can improve your dog’s vision by lowering the risks of age-related macular degeneration. The vitamin is also an antioxidant in its own right and can, therefore, help to keep your dog safe from chronic diseases. Plus, it’s associated with improved functions of the heart and kidney.
Perhaps you’ve always wondered, can diabetic dogs eat beef liver?
Since liver generally improves the functions of the pancreas, it’s therefore safe for diabetic dogs. You only need to remember the golden rule of moderation.
And what about dogs with kidney disease?
Again you need to remember the golden rule of moderation. Note that liver is high in phosphorus, a mineral that’s generally believed to worsen kidney disease. Therefore, always consult your vet before offering liver to a dog with kidney disease.
Vitamin A is especially beneficial for puppies and a deficiency could result in a wide range of issues, including;
- Vision problems,
- Premature aging,
- Poor skin quality,
- Weak muscles, and
- Retarded growth
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So, can puppies eat liver?
Yes, puppies can eat liver in moderation. A small portion of liver supplies your puppy with enough of vitamin A and lots of other essential minerals.
For mature dogs, vitamin A deficiency could result in an inability to reproduce.
The following are other notable minerals in liver, along with their health benefits for dogs;
1. Vitamin B2
This vitamin is involved in cellular development and function. Vitamin B2 also works synergistically with copper (which is also fairly abundant in liver) to convert the food that your dog eats into energy.
2. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is associated with the formation of red blood cells as well as the synthesis of DNA. It also promotes brain function.
Choline helps with brain development. It can also improve the functions of your dog’s vital organs, including his liver.
Iron can boost your dog’s blood circulation by helping to carry oxygen and nutrients to various parts of his body.
In addition to the above minerals, liver also packs significant amounts of zinc, phosphorus, as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Potential Risks of Liver for Dogs
While liver comes with plenty of health benefits for dogs, there are also potential health issues to watch out for.
The most common health concern with liver for dogs is vitamin A overdose, which results in Vitamin A poisoning or a condition that’s medically known as hypervitaminosis A.
Some of the symptoms of hypervitaminosis A include;
- Anorexia or a chronic loss of appetite,
- Digestive problems,
- Peeling of the skin,
- Birth defects,
- Bone deformity and bone spurs,
- Tremors and convulsions,
- Generalized fatigue, and
Another possible risk of liver for dogs is that it might result in an allergic reaction, especially if you’re offering the meat to your canine friend for the first time.
Since your pooch is not yet introduced to liver, the organ can cause him to experience allergic reactions in the form of gastrointestinal issues. Examples of these GI issues include nausea and a loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
Also, the fact that liver contains almost zero fiber means it could produce laxative effects, thereby increasing the dog’s risks of developing diarrhea.
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So, does liver give dogs diarrhea?
It sure can. As we’ve just highlighted, diarrhea could either result from allergic reactions in the dog’s gastrointestinal tract or from liver’s laxative properties.
Generally, the following types of dogs should avoid consuming liver, or at least eat the meat in very small amounts;
i. Expecting dogs – Too much vitamin A is associated with birth defects.
ii. Dogs with gout – Liver is high in purines. Purines are compounds that increase the formation of uric acid in the blood, which is a risk factor for gout.
However, note that feeding liver to your dog doesn’t necessarily increases his risks of gout. Instead, the meat only aggravates the condition.
iii. Dogs with GI irritation – Liver may mess up your dog’s digestive system if the dog is already suffering from certain gastrointestinal conditions like irritable bowel syndrome.
Other potential hazards of feeding liver to dogs depend on how you prepare the meat before offering it to your pooch. And that brings us to the next question, is cooked liver good for dogs? The following section shall expound more on that.
Can Dogs Eat Raw Liver – Comparing Raw and Cooked Liver for Dogs
Both raw and cooked liver are packed with essential vitamins that dogs can benefit from. But is raw beef liver good for dogs?
Generally, you want to avoid giving your dog raw liver, be it raw beef liver or liver obtained from other sources.
It’s intuitive to argue that feeding raw liver to your dog ensures the animal benefits from all the nutritional elements in the organ. In any case, wild dogs consume their prey raw. However, raw liver could contain parasites that might be harmful to your furry friend, such as Salmonella and Campylobacter. Therefore, your best bet is to give your dog cooked liver.
Having said that, your next concern is probably how to cook beef liver for dogs.
Now, the best way to prepare liver for dogs (beef or otherwise) is to boil or steam the meat. And that helps to settle one of the frequently asked questions about dogs and liver, which is ‘can dogs eat boiled beef liver?’
While you’re at it, keep the temperature high enough to destroy any parasites that could be present in the organ, and low enough to keep all the essential minerals intact.
Most importantly, remember to boil or steam the liver in plain water, without adding condiments, fat, or seasoning. Each of these ingredients comes with its own health risks for dogs.
Too much salt in a dog’s diet causes sodium ion poisoning, a life-threatening condition that mostly manifests in persistent tremors and seizures.
Fats could increase the dog’s risks of gaining weight and developing weight-related diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Similarly, spices like onions and garlic could lead to Heinz body anemia, a disease that produces anemia-like symptoms.
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What Are The Healthiest Sources Of Liver For Dogs?
When it comes to liver for dogs, it’s important to insist on liver from grass-fed and/or pasture-raised sources. That means you should stick to farm animals and avoid liver from wild game.
The following questions will help to put this point into a better perspective;
Can dogs eat beef liver?
Beef is the most common source of liver. Beef liver also happens to be safe for dogs too…in moderation.
What of fried beef liver, can dogs eat fried beef liver?
While dogs can eat fried beef liver, you want to avoid it as fried meats tend to be high in fat.
Can dogs eat calf liver?
Yes, but this will depend on what calf we’re talking about. Liver obtained from calves of farm-raised animals is safer than that obtained from calves of wild game.
Can dogs eat goat liver?
Not only is goat liver delicious, but it’s also nutritious and perfectly safe for your pooch.
Can dogs eat lamb’s liver?
Yes, lamb liver is perfectly safe for dogs as the liver from lambs is unlikely to contain harmful parasites.
Can dogs eat rabbit liver?
Liver from rabbits is safe to the extent that the rabbit was farm-raised.
Can dogs eat chicken liver?
Chicken liver is also safe for dogs. Besides packing all the essential minerals contained in all livers, chicken liver is also known for being significantly low in cholesterol levels. Coupled with its high protein content, chicken liver is ideal for dogs with conditions like obesity, diabetes, and pancreatitis.
So, is chicken liver good for dogs with pancreatitis? Yes, just ensure that you don’t overfeed chicken liver to your pooch as that could be counterproductive to his health.
Still on chicken liver, you could be wondering, can dogs eat cooked chicken livers? And what of fried chicken liver, can dogs eat fried chicken livers?
Now, you can offer fried chicken liver to your dog but you probably shouldn’t as frying introduces too much fat into the food.
Can dogs eat duck liver?
Much like chicken liver, duck liver is also considered safe and beneficial for dogs.
Can dogs eat ox liver?
Yes. The mere fact that ox is a farm-raised animal makes its liver safe for dogs.
Can dogs eat pork liver?
Although we’ve already mentioned it, it warrants repeating that liver obtained from farm-raised animals like pigs is completely healthy for dogs.
Can dogs eat deer liver?
Unfortunately, deer liver may not be so safe for your canine friend. Being a wild animal, you can never vouch for what deer consume, which means their livers might be infected with parasites.
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Can dogs eat moose liver?
Moose and deer belong in the same family. So, if deer meat is generally discouraged for dogs, then moose liver can’t be healthy either.
Can dogs eat elk liver?
Elk and moose are one and the same thing. Therefore, elk liver is just as potentially harmful for dogs as moose liver is.
Can dogs eat turkey liver?
This depends. Liver meat from domesticated turkeys is preferable to that obtained from wild turkeys.
So, can dogs eat cooked turkey liver?
Again, it depends on whether the turkey is domesticated or wild.
Can dogs eat goose liver?
The rule for turkey liver applies to goose liver as well. While the liver from domestic geese is safe for dogs, the same cannot be said about liver from wild geese.
In addition to the source of the liver, there’s also the question of the form that the liver comes in. And that begs the question, can dogs eat liver cheese? And what of liver pate, can dogs eat liver pate?
Both liver cheese and liver pate are fine for dogs. However, liver cheese might contain too much fat as well as lactose, an enzyme that some dogs are intolerant to. On its part, liver pate could contain worrying levels of salt, onion, or garlic. So, if possible, consider other forms of liver to offer your dog.
Some dog owners might also be wondering, can dogs eat dried liver?
The idea of dried meat is often discouraged since most dried meats are treated with salt to prevent further moisture build-up. Otherwise, dried liver would be safe for your pooch if it contains no other harmful ingredients.
How Much Liver Can I Give My Dog?
One of the best ways to determine how to feed liver to dogs is to know the exact portions of liver to give him. Indeed, it’s not unusual to come across a dog owner wondering, “how much liver can dogs eat?”
Now, there’s no hard and fast rule on how much liver your dog can consume. That depends on a variety of factors, such as the animal’s age, size, and general immune condition.
But can dogs eat liver every day?
Since there’s no one-size-fits-all approach as far as determining the correct portions of liver to give dogs is concerned, your next question is probably, can dogs eat beef liver every day?
While there are numerous liver treats for dogs out there, always ensure that you go for treats that are formulated with ingredients which are considered safe and beneficial to dogs.
Liver is a yummy and nutritious treat for dogs. However, liver also comes with certain inherent dangers, especially if you feed it to your canine friend in excess. The conventional wisdom is to give your dog cooked liver obtained from farm-raised animals.
Most importantly, serve liver to your pooch only as an occasional treat; the meat should never replace your dog’s regular diet.
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