Importance of a Healthy Liver in Dogs

The liver is one of the largest organs in the body. It is a vital organ which performs multiple functions. It helps your dog metabolize fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. It stores and processes vitamins, minerals, triglycerides (a type of fat), and glycogen (a form of glucose, or sugar). It aids in blood clotting and takes part in your dog’s immune system. The liver also removes toxins from your dog’s body and helps metabolize medications. Additionally, the liver is unique in the way that it can repair itself and regenerate after injury or disease. The liver performs numerous essential functions that are crucial for maintaining overall health. Understanding these functions can help in recognizing the importance of liver health and he role of liver support supplements

Here are the primary functions of the liver in dogs:

  • Metabolism
  • The liver is central to the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. It helps convert nutrients from food into energy and building blocks for the body. It regulates blood sugar by storing and releasing glucose as needed. It also processes fats and proteins, converting them into usable forms for the body.

  • Bile Production
  • The liver produces bile, a digestive fluid essential for the digestion and absorption of fats. Bile is released into the gastrointestinal tract. It helps break down fats into fatty acids in the small intestine during digestion. The liver makes bile continuously, even when food is not being digested, and extra bile is stored in the gallbladder.

  • Detoxification
  • One of the liver's most crucial functions is detoxifying the blood by breaking down and removing harmful substances. These includes toxins, drugs, chemicals, and metabolic waste products. The liver converts these harmful substances into less toxic forms or facilitates their excretion through bile or urine. The bacteria of the intestinal tract produce ammonia as they break down proteins, and ammonia can accumulate in the blood at potentially toxic levels. Urea is a safer product than ammonia and is excreted (passed out of the body) in the urine.

  • Storage
  • The liver stores essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals. It stores glycogen (a form of glucose), vitamins A, D, E, K, and B12, as well as minerals like iron and copper. These stores are released into the bloodstream as needed to maintain homeostasis (internal equilibrium or stability).

  • Protein Synthesis
  • The liver synthesizes various proteins crucial for bodily functions. These include albumin (which maintains blood volume and pressure), clotting factors (essential for blood clotting), and various enzymes and hormones as well special proteins (lipoproteins) that help carry fats through the body.

  • Immune Function
  • The liver plays a role in the immune system by filtering out bacteria and pathogens from the blood. It contains specialized immune cells called Kupffer cells that capture and digest bacteria, worn-out cells, and other debris in the blood.

  • Hormone Regulation
  • The liver helps regulate and metabolise various hormones. It breaks down and removes excess hormones from the bloodstream, ensuring hormonal balance.

  • Blood Clotting
  • The liver produces proteins that are needed for clotting of blood. These include fibrinogen and other clotting factors that help prevent excessive bleeding during injuries.


    Liver Disease

    Given the liver's extensive range of functions, maintaining its health is critical for a dog's overall well-being. Liver dysfunction or disease can lead to a cascade of health issues, including metabolic disturbances, toxin build-up, digestive problems, and impaired immune function.  Liver disease is a broad term used for a variety of acute (sudden) or chronic (long term) ailments that affect this important organ. Some of the disorders associated with liver disease include:

  • Acute Liver Failure
  • This is the sudden loss of liver function caused either by damage to a healthy liver or by stress on an already damaged liver. Causes can include trauma, poisoning and infections like Leptospirosis.

  • Acute Hepatitis
  • Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver and acute hepatitis is when the liver becomes inflamed very suddenly. This can be due to toxins, viruses, bacteria, drugs, etc.

  • Chronic Hepatitis
  • The long term inflammation of the liver is called chronic hepatitis. This can be caused by viral and bacterial infections, excess copper and certain medications. Breeds predisposed to chronic hepatitis include Cocker Spaniels, Bedlington Terrier, Dalmation, Doberman, Great Dane, Labrador Retriever and others.

  • Tumors and Cancer
  • Tumors in the liver can either start in the liver itself (primary tumors) or spread from elsewhere in the body. The liver can also be affected if cancer in other organs metastasizes and spread. Such cancers include pancreatic cancer, lymphoma and breast cancer.

  • Liver Shunt
  • A liver shunt (portosystemic shunt) is when abnormal blood vessels allow blood to bypass the liver or go through it without being filtered for toxins. This can be a congenital defect Dogs can be born with this defect. Certain breeds are Golden Retriever, Irish Wolfhound, Labrador Retriever and Old English Sheepdog.

  • Hepatic Lipidosis
  • This is a syndrome seen in dogs with sugar diabetes. Abnormalities in the metabolism of glucose and fat in diabetic dogs cause an accumulation of fat in the liver that may eventually result in liver dysfunction.

  • Cirrhosis
  • This occurs when scar tissue replaces healthy liver cells. Cirrhosis may develop from any chronic, long-standing liver disease.


    Symptoms of Liver Diseases

    Because liver disease is an umbrella term for a number of conditions, the symptoms vary and can be easy to miss. These are some common symptoms of liver disease to watch out for in dogs.

    • General malaise (weakness)
    • Lethargy
    • Vomiting
    • Weight loss
    • Diarhhoea
    • Excessive drinking and urination
    • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin, eyes, gums, or tongue) in severe cases 

        Benefits of Liver Supplements

        Along with medication, liver supplements for dogs can provide a variety of benefits, especially for those with liver issues or those needing support to maintain optimal liver health. These supplements often contain ingredients that promote liver function, detoxification, and overall well-being.


      • Detoxification
      • Ingredients like Silymarin, N-Acetylcysteine and L-Ornithine have antioxidant benefits and support the liver’s ability to process and eliminate toxins, reducing the risk of toxin build-up that can lead to liver damage or systemic illness. 

      • Liver Cell Regeneration
      • Silymarin supports the liver's natural healing processes, helping to restore and maintain liver function, particularly in dogs with liver damage or disease.

      • Improved Bile Production
      • Ingredients like Artichoke Leaf Extract stimulate bile production that enhances digestion and nutrient absorption by improving the breakdown and absorption of fats in the digestive tract.

      • Anti-inflammatory & Antioxidant Benefits
      • Nutrients like Curcumin, Quercetin and Selenium dioxide reduce inflammation in the liver, which can be beneficial for dogs with inflammatory liver conditions. They also provide antioxidant protection by combating free radicals and protecting the liver from damage. 

      • Prevent Fat Accumulation 
      • Ingredients like Tricholine citrate and Phosphatidylcholine prevent the accumulation of fat in the liver, thereby improving liver health and function.



        Understanding the liver’s functions underscores the importance of supporting liver health through a balanced diet, adequate exercise and high quality supplements. Liver supplements can provide comprehensive support for liver health, aiding in detoxification, protecting against oxidative damage, promoting cell regeneration, and supporting metabolic functions. These benefits can help improve your dog's overall health, energy levels, and quality of life. 

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