Beef Liver for Dogs: The nutrient-rich food choice for your dog

It is a common practice for owners to cook beef liver for dogs. Here are some of the benefits and risks as well as the quantity of beef liver to feed dogs, cooking methods, and things to take into consideration when feeding them to dogs with diseases.


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Is beef liver good for dogs? 

Yes, beef liver is good for dogs as their main meal or snacks. They can be served raw, cooked or in jerky form. 

The benefits of beef liver for dogs include:

Nutritionally rich

If your dog is hurt or sick, you can consider incorporating beef liver in its diet to help it heal quicker. Beef liver is rich in iron, vitamin A, B and D, folic acid, phosphorus, essential fatty acids, zinc, and copper. These nutrients protect and support the dog’s digestion, immune system, reproductive organs, as well as bone, joint, nerve and mental health.

Benefits to the liver

Liver is a good source of nutrients for dogs as it helps to improve their overall liver health and eyesight.The highly nutritious content of liver makes a fatigued, anaemic or debilitated dog feel better. Liver is usually served to dogs to treat blood deficiency issues as it can purify blood. 

Source of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids

The Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids in the liver help to improve the immune system and make your dog’s skin look shiny and healthy. 

Energy boosting

Liver is a protein rich in vitamin B12 that can help boost your dog’s energy. It also contains less fat than muscle meat. You can consider feeding your dog liver as a snack before going to a hike or jog.  

Risks of over-feeding your dog beef liver

Overfeeding your dog with beef liver can lead to many issues such as:

Copper toxicity

Some dogs have problems with the metabolism of copper. Since beef liver has a high content of copper, you should check if your dog is genetically unable to eliminate copper from its body, to avoid copper toxicity. 

Examples of dog breeds that are more prone to copper toxicity include 

  • Bedlington Terriers
  • West Highland White Terriers
  • Skye Terriers
  • Dobermans
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Dalmatians

Since copper toxicity accumulates over time, you should take note of signs of liver disease, which are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Intermittent vomiting
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive peeing

Hypervitaminosis A

Hypervitaminosis A or commonly known as vitamin A toxicity occurs when dogs consume excessive amounts of liver or have liver together with vitamin A supplements. An excess of vitamin A can decalcify teeth and bones as well as cause damage to the liver. 

Symptoms of Hypervitaminosis A usually do not appear until the dog reaches middle age. There could be additional bone growth or deformed bones in the spine or elbows, weight loss, and anorexia. 

Most of the time, the dog’s condition will improve when the diet has changed or supplementation of vitamin A is halted. However, joint damage and formation of new bones are irreversible and do not improve even with treatment. In more serious cases, the new bones need to be removed surgically. 

You should therefore always consult the veterinarian before introducing liver in your dog’s diet to confirm the amount given is appropriate for its dietary needs and size.

Excessive Iron


An excessiveness of iron in your dog owing to overfeeding of liver can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, seizures or internal bleeding. 

Loose stools

Excessive feeding of liver to your dog can lead to loose stools.

High Phosphorus

For dogs who have kidney conditions, their nutritional diet should be tailored based on the severity. Generally, their diets should have reduced sodium, phosphorus, and protein while being supplemented with omega 3 fatty acids

A diet low in phosphorus is necessary to ensure a low level of blood phosphorus that is believed to slow down the development of the kidney disease and therefore increases survival rates. Since beef liver contains high amounts of phosphate, you should try to avoid feeding it to your dog with kidney conditions.

How much liver can I give my dog?

The amount of liver you can serve your dog depends on whether you are giving other organ meats, which will constitute approximately 25% of its diet. If you are only serving liver to your dog, it should be 5% to 10% of its diet, by weight. The amount of raw liver given should be of a similar ratio of body parts given in a normal diet. 

A general rule of thumb is to include liver as a nutritional supplement on top of its usual diet. To avoid vitamin A overdose, for a small breed dog, 1 to 2 liver treats each week are recommended, for medium sized dogs, 3 to 4 treats and for big dogs 5 to 6 treats. 

You should note that if this is the first time introducing liver to your dog, do it gradually and monitor its reaction. You can start by introducing half a tablespoon to your dog once every few days. The portion or frequency can be reduced if it has loose stools or a gurgling tummy until its digestive system has adapted to the new diet.

Alternatively, you can easily purchase beef liver natural dry treats from Petcubes for your dog and save the hassle of worrying about the right portion and cooking method. 

How to cook beef liver for dogs?

Keep it simple. Try not to use seasonings, butter, and other additives. Below are the instructions to cook liver for dogs:

  1. Remove it from packaging and thaw if it’s in a frozen state.
  2. Rinse with cool water to remove all dirt, debris and impurities that may have been on the liver since it’s been wrapped in packaging. 
  3. Cover the liver with water in a medium or large boiling pot. 
  4. Heat the water over the stove and reduce the heat once it starts boiling. Allow the liver to simmer in water for approximately 15 minutes.
  5. As soon as the liver turns tender, remove from the pot and let it cool down. Dice it into bite size before serving it to your dog. 

Is cooked or raw beef liver for dogs better?

To enjoy the maximum benefit of beef liver, you should feed your dog raw liver because plenty of nutrients can be killed through cooking. 

Based on the interpretation on the findings of 2007 paper published by USDA, cooking liver resulted in the loss of

  • 25% of vitamin C and copper
  • 30% of phosphorus
  • 35% of folate
  • 40% of magnesium, iron and vitamin B-12
  • 25% of vitamin A
  • 55% of niacin and B-6 vitamin 

Note: These info are calculated using 100% minus retention percentage for liver, simmered, without dripping (retention code 1152).

Choline, calcium, and beta carotene are nutrients from the liver that are insignificantly affected by simmering. 

However, if your dog does not like the texture or taste of raw liver, there are other methods to make it more appetizing, such as

  • Disguising it by grinding and mixing with other meats
  • Sear the outside of liver lightly but not cook it entirely
  • Dehydrating the liver to keep most nutrients as dehydrating requires lower temperature than cooking

Thus, cooking liver will be the last option, usually for those with diseases or conditions that disallow them to consume raw food in case of infections. 

Beef liver for dogs with anemia 

Anemia is caused by insufficient iron in the bloodstream. Symptoms of anemia include:

  • Weakness and lethargy 
  • White or pale gums and inside of eyelids
  • Rapid pulse, labored breathing, panting
  • Black stool 

With its high level of iron, vitamin B12, and protein, beef liver is a good choice to replenish these nutrients levels in your dog’s bloodstream. The recommended amount of cooked liver for a large dog is 4 ounces and 2 ounces for a smaller dog. 

Beef liver for dogs with cancer

Cancer can affect your dog’s digestive system. Treating cancer may cause mouth ulcers to grow and a decrease in saliva. Other side effects include loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. 

Cancer cells cannot convert fat to energy so they feed on carbohydrates. Liver contains a lot of iron, B vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids that could be helpful for cancerous dogs. A high level of omega-3 fatty acids can potentially reduce tumors. 

However, for dogs with cancer, you have to ensure that the beef liver you prepare is cooked thoroughly to eliminate microbes inside and on its outer surface. The goal is to maintain the weight of the cancerous dog and try to maintain low change in diet.

Conclusion

Even though beef liver provides many nutrients to dogs, moderation is key. Try not to rush when introducing it as a supplement to your dog as overfeeding will cause many side effects. Thus, consult your veterinarian to draw up a diet plan together that is well suited for your dog’s nutritional and health needs.

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