Is Liver Good for Dogs + How to Make Homemade Liver Treats For Your Pup

Nutrition
February 4, 2024
Author: 
Diana Bocco
Reviewed By: 
Dr. Farshad Goodarzi - Animal Nutritionist
5 minute read

Is beef liver good for dogs? what about Chicken liver? At Cola’s Kitchen, we understand the power of healthy, nutritious food for our canine companions. That's why we're taking a closer look at a topic every dog owner should know about – is liver good for dogs? The truth is that liver packs a punch with its high nutrient content, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for every dog.  

This guide will explore not just the incredible nutritional benefits of liver for dogs but also take a critical look at any potential risks involved. Plus, for those who love pampering their pups with homemade treats, we'll be sharing some tail-waggingly good liver treat recipes. 

Whether you're an experienced dog owner or new to the pack, this article is your go-to resource for all things liver in a dog's diet. So, is liver good for dogs? Let's unleash the facts and get cooking on some healthy and delicious treats your furry friend is bound to love!

Nutritional Benefits of Liver for Dogs 

Liver is a powerhouse of nutrition for dogs, boasting a rich array of essential nutrients that are beneficial for your furry friend's health. Packed with high levels of protein and low in calories, liver offers more than just basic nourishment. It's an excellent source of Vitamin A, vital for maintaining healthy vision, immune function, and skin and coat health. The liver also contains a significant amount of D and B vitamins, particularly B12, which play a crucial role in maintaining energy levels and brain function.1

Iron found in liver is highly bioavailable, meaning it's easily absorbed and utilized by your dog's body, supporting healthy blood cells and overall vitality. Unlike some iron supplements, the natural iron in liver is less likely to cause constipation or other digestive issues. Additionally, liver is a great source of essential fatty acids, contributing to joint health and cognitive function.2

When comparing liver to other common dog foods, its nutrient density stands out. While commercial dog foods are formulated to meet basic nutritional needs, liver provides a concentrated source of vitamins and minerals that can enhance your dog's diet. It's especially beneficial for dogs with certain deficiencies or health conditions that require a nutrient boost.

However, it's crucial to balance liver with other foods. Feeding your dog liver exclusively or in large quantities can lead to vitamin A toxicity, which underscores the importance of moderation and variety in your dog's diet. As a part of a balanced diet, liver can be an excellent addition, providing key nutrients that support your dog's overall health and well-being.

Remember, while liver offers significant health benefits, it should complement a well-rounded diet tailored to your dog's specific needs. Always consult with your vet to determine the best dietary plan for your pup.

What type of liver to choose

Liver, beyond being a nutritional powerhouse for dogs, varies in its nutritional profile depending on the type.3 For instance, beef liver is exceptionally high in vitamin A, making it great for your dog's vision and immune system. It also packs a hefty dose of iron, crucial for healthy blood cell formation. What about chicken? Is chicken liver good for dogs? Chicken liver, known for its high nutrient content, is a leaner option and a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, promoting a healthy coat and skin.

Comparatively, lamb liver is rich in zinc, which supports immune function and wound healing, and is a great alternative for dogs that might be allergic to beef or chicken liver.4 Pork liver, while not as common, provides a good balance of these nutrients but should be given in moderation due to its higher fat content.

Each type of liver brings something unique to the table in terms of nutrition. For the best mix of vitamins and minerals, it’s best to rotate between these different types. Remember, regardless of the type, moderation is key to prevent nutrient imbalances. 

Can All Dogs Eat Liver? 

Liver, as a dietary option for dogs, brings a lot to the table in terms of nutrition, but it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. Different dogs have varying dietary needs and sensitivities, making it crucial to consider each pet's unique health profile. For example, while liver is packed with essential nutrients, certain dogs, especially those with specific health conditions, may not respond well to it.5

For puppies or older dogs, whose digestive systems are more delicate, introducing liver into their diet requires a careful approach. A gradual introduction, with small portions initially, helps in gauging their body's response. This method is also beneficial for identifying any potential allergies or sensitivities.

Is liver good for dogs every day? Liver can be a great source of protein within a balanced and personalized diet. Incorporating liver into a dog's diet should be done thoughtfully and in moderation. Since liver is high in certain nutrients like vitamin A, overfeeding can lead to health problems. Cooked liver, free of added spices or seasonings, is the best way to serve it, safeguarding against any digestive discomfort or toxicity issues.

By understanding your dog's specific dietary needs and introducing liver cautiously, you can safely add this nutrient-rich food to their diet, enriching their nutritional intake without risking their health.

Potential Risks of Feeding Liver to Dogs 

Feeding liver to dogs, while nutrient-rich, comes with certain risks that pet owners should be aware of. 

While liver is packed with essential nutrients for dogs, it's important to be mindful of the potential risks associated with its consumption. The most significant concern is Vitamin A toxicity. Liver, especially from beef and chicken, is very rich in Vitamin A, and while beneficial in the right amounts, excessive intake can lead to toxicity. Symptoms of Vitamin A overdose include bone deformities, digestive issues, and lethargy. This is especially serious in puppies, where too much vitamin A can lead to developmental problems.

Allergies, though rare, are another risk to consider. Some dogs may have an allergic reaction to liver, leading to symptoms such as itching, redness, or gastrointestinal issues. It's crucial to introduce liver slowly into your dog's diet, watching for any signs of allergic reactions or intolerance.

The liver's source is also a factor. Ideally, the liver should come from organically raised, hormone and antibiotic-free animals. In fact, veterinarians recommend that “if you feed organ meat, this should ALWAYS be organically sourced, especially liver since this organ filters many toxins.”6 

In terms of quantity, moderation is key. Liver should only be a small portion of your dog's overall diet. Generally, organ meats like liver should not make up no more than 5% to 10% of a dog's total dietary intake. This helps avoid imbalances in nutrition and reduces the risk of Vitamin A toxicity. For most dogs, this equates to a few small pieces of liver a couple of times a week.

Given these potential risks, it’s best to always consult with a veterinarian before introducing liver into your dog's diet, especially if your dog has pre-existing health conditions or dietary restrictions. They can provide tailored advice on the appropriate quantity and frequency of liver consumption for your specific dog. Remember, a balanced diet is essential for your dog's overall health and well-being.

Tips for Making Homemade Liver Treats 

Creating homemade liver treats for your furry friend can be both fun and rewarding. Here's how to whip up a batch of these tail-wagging delights:

  • Select the Right Liver: Each type of liver brings its own flavor and nutrition. Beef liver packs a punch with vitamins, while chicken liver is a leaner choice. For variety, try lamb or pork liver too. Each has its unique taste and nutrient profile that your pup will love.
  • Prep and Cook with Care: Start by cleaning the liver and trimming off excess fat. Cooking methods can vary — from boiling for simplicity to baking or dehydrating for a chewy texture. If you're baking, slice the liver into even pieces and cook them slowly in a low-heat oven until they're dry. For a longer shelf life, dehydrating is your best bet. Thinly slice the liver and use a dehydrator until they are crisp.
  • Seasoning Matters: Dogs love liver in its natural state, but feel free to add dog-safe herbs like parsley for an extra health kick. Avoid harmful ingredients like onions, garlic, and excess salt.7
  • Storing Your Treats: Freshly made liver treats can stay in the fridge for about a week. If you've made a large batch, freeze them for up to six months. Dehydrated treats last longer and can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Remember, these treats are just that – treats. They should complement a well-balanced diet, not replace it. Use them as a special reward or for training purposes. Watching your dog enjoy these homemade goodies will be a treat in itself!

Homemade Liver Treat Recipes

Creating homemade liver treats for your dog can be both fun and rewarding. Bring your pup into the kitchen with you, and you can have an afternoon of bonding over yummy (well, at least yummy for your pup!) snacks. 

Here are several recipes to get you started, each offering a unique way to incorporate this nutritious ingredient into your dog's diet.

Simple Baked Liver Treats - Ideal for Training

  • Start by boiling beef liver for about 10-15 minutes until it's no longer pink in the middle.
  • Preheat the oven to 250°F (120°C).
  • Cut the cooked liver into small, bite-sized pieces perfect for training treats.
  • Spread the pieces on a baking sheet and bake for 1.5 to 2 hours until they are dry and hard. This low and slow cooking method preserves nutrients while making the treats easy to store.
  • Cool them completely before offering them to your dog.


Liver and Pumpkin Biscuits - Great for Sensitive Stomachs

  • Puree equal parts of cooked chicken liver and canned pumpkin. Pumpkin is gentle on sensitive stomachs and is a great source of fiber.
  • Gradually add whole wheat flour until a workable dough forms.
  • Roll out the dough and cut it into fun shapes with a cookie cutter.
  • Bake the biscuits at 350°F (175°C) for about 20 minutes or until they are crispy.


Liver Jerky - Perfect for Big Chewers

  • Thinly slice raw liver for this chewy treat, ideal for dogs who love to gnaw.
  • Lay the strips on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Dehydrate in the oven at 200°F (93°C) until they are dry and chewy, typically around 2-3 hours.
  • This method of preparation makes the liver jerky a long-lasting treat.


Grain-Free Liver Cake - Suitable for Dogs with Grain Allergies

  • Blend cooked liver and eggs, then mix in a grain-free flour like coconut or almond flour to create a batter.
  • Pour into a greased baking pan and bake at 350°F (175°C) until the cake is firm and springy to the touch.
  • This recipe is especially good for dogs with grain allergies or sensitivities.


Liver and Vegetable Mash - Nutrient-Rich for All Ages

  • Boil liver with dog-friendly vegetables like carrots and peas until soft.
  • Mash or puree the mixture for a nutritious meal or treat, ideal for dogs of all ages.
  • This recipe combines the nutritional benefits of liver with the vitamins and fiber of vegetables.

Liver and Oatmeal Cookies - Ideal for Older Dogs

  • Boil beef or chicken liver, then finely chop or puree it.
  • Mix the liver with oatmeal, a little bit of water, and an egg to create a dough.
  • Roll out the dough and cut it into shapes suitable for your dog's size.
  • Bake at 350°F (175°C) for about 30 minutes.
  • These cookies are softer, making them perfect for older dogs with sensitive teeth.


Frozen Liver Cubes - Refreshing Summer Treat

  • Puree cooked liver with a bit of water or unsalted chicken broth.
  • Pour the mixture into an ice cube tray.
  • Freeze until solid.
  • These treats are a cool and refreshing snack, especially beneficial during hot weather.


Liver and Rice Balls - For Sensitive Digestion

  • Cook liver and mix it with cooked rice.
  • Form small, bite-sized balls, perfect for dogs with sensitive digestion.
  • These treats are gentle on the stomach and easy to digest.


Liver and Sweet Potato Chews - Rich in Fiber

  • Boil liver and sweet potato separately, then mash them together.
  • Spread the mixture thinly on a baking sheet.
  • Dehydrate in the oven at a low temperature until chewy.
  • These treats combine the nutritional benefits of liver with the fiber-rich goodness of sweet potatoes.


Remember, when introducing new treats to your dog's diet, start with small quantities and watch out for any adverse reactions. Also, consult your vet before making significant changes to your dog's diet, especially if they have specific health issues. 

Summing Up Liver for Dogs

If you’ve ever wondered, “can a dog eat liver?” we hope this article helped put your concerns at ease! Liver has a rich nutritional profile, including high levels of essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins — but it must be fed in moderation due to potential risks like vitamin A toxicity and the need to maintain a balanced diet.

If you’re inspired to give liver a try, make sure you consult with your vet. They can provide tailored advice considering your dog's specific dietary requirements.

At Cola’s Kitchen, we believe in the power of healthy, homemade meals to enrich your dog's life. So, why not give these liver treat recipes a try? It's a fun, rewarding way to ensure your furry friend enjoys a healthy, tasty snack!

References:

  1.  https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-organ-meat 
  2.  https://animalwellnessmagazine.com/organ-meats/ 
  3.  https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/canine-nutrition/offal-organ-meat/ 
  4.  https://www.nutritionadvance.com/foods-high-in-zinc/ 
  5.  https://animalwellnessmagazine.com/organ-meats/ 
  6.  https://hartfieldanimalhospital.com/news/home-made-dog-food 
  7.  https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/onion-garlic-chive-and-leek-toxicity-in-dogs 
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