Most people make an “ewww” face when you bring up the topic of eating liver. Many of us did not grow up eating this strange but powerfully nutritious food.
Luckily, dogs don’t have the same reaction. Liver is an instant hit with most of them!
What’s so great about liver? For starters, it contains 10 to 100 times the nutrients of muscle meat. You know—the stuff that’s normally eaten such as hamburger, chicken breast, etc. It has a large amount of vitamin A, several B vitamins, iron, trace minerals, and CoQ10. It’s also a good source of protein.
Grass-fed and pasture-raised animals produce liver with a better nutrient profile, but that doesn’t mean you should skip using liver if you can’t find grass-fed products.
Although the liver does clean toxins from the body, it is not a storage organ for those toxins. If all you can get is conventionally-produced liver, it still has great nutritional benefits.
Eating Liver Benefits the Liver
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, liver from different animals may have slightly different properties, but many of them are “sweet” in flavor, benefit the Liver, benefit eyes/vision, and tonify Blood. It may be used in cases of “Blood deficiency,” and “Essence deficiency.”
Even if you don’t have any knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine, it’s easy to understand how eating liver might help a debilitated, fatigued, possibly anemic animal, when it has such a high nutrient content.
Something to keep in mind if you decide to feed your pets liver: it’s very rich and may cause loose stools if too much is fed.
Start with about half a tablespoon every few days for a medium-sized dog and watch the stools. If they get loose, decrease the frequency of feeding and/or the amount given each time. To learn about treating your dog’s diarrhea, click here.
There are a few dogs who have problems with copper metabolism. Beef liver is fairly high in copper. If your dog has copper issues, discuss it with your veterinarian before feeding it.
Different Ways to Serve Liver to Your Dog
If your pet tolerates it without developing loose stools, you should consider feeding up to 1 oz. of liver per day for a medium to large dog, and up to 0.5 oz. per day or small dogs.
Feeding double that amount of liver only 2-3 times a week is another good strategy. Just to be safe, don’t exceed those amounts as there is some possibility of vitamin A overdose if large quantities are eaten.
Liver is readily available in most grocery stores. Look for plastic containers of chicken livers in the meat department. Beef liver is often found in the freezer section.
If you are at a butcher shop or farmer’s market, just ask if they have any liver for sale. Sometimes they don’t display it, but have it available on request.
Liver may be served lightly cooked or raw if you have a trusted source and your dog is accustomed to raw foods. I use dehydrated beef liver for treats.
They’re affordable, store well, and are very popular with my patients. If your dog is extremely reactive to new foods and you want to start very slowly, you can even purchase liver tablets or capsules at health food stores or online.