Dogs experience their fair share of digestive upset. Perhaps they caught a stomach bug or ate something they shouldn’t. But for some dogs, vomiting and diarrhea are recurring parts of their day. When dogs develop digestive problems, pet parents often look to the gastrointestinal tract for answers. However, your dog’s liver might be the culprit.
The liver and digestive tract are closely linked to each other. When the liver develops problems, so does the digestive system. Below is a quick overview of how these systems are connected and what you can do to support both your dog’s liver and digestion.
The liver’s role in digestion
The liver is a crucial part of your dog’s digestive system. It serves many functions that ultimately help convert food into nutrients that the body can absorb for energy. One of the liver’s main roles is bile production. The liver makes a digestive juice called bile that breaks down food in the small intestine. This substances flows through bile ducts that either lead to the small intestine or the gallbladder for storage.
The liver is constantly producing bile. It transfers excess bile to the gallbladder for safekeeping until the next time your dog eats. During meal times, hormones signal the gallbladder to contract and release bile into the small intestine. Bile is a crucial digestive component that makes it easier for nutrients to enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the entire body.
Nutrients pass through the intestinal wall and get absorbed into the bloodstream. A blood vessel called the portal vein delivers these nutrients to the liver. The liver processes and sends nutrients where they need to go. It can even store nutrients until the body is ready to use them. For example, the liver can convert simple sugars into glycogen and put them in storage. The liver turns glycogen back into simple sugars when it’s time to burn them for energy.
The liver also protects your dog from the harmful by-products of digestion. Bacteria produce ammonia when they break down proteins in the gastrointestinal tract. Ammonia in high amounts can be toxic to dogs. The liver converts ammonia into a safer form called urea, which exits the body through urine.
Symptoms of poor liver health in dogs
Liver damage can have negative consequences for the digestive system. Dogs with liver problems will experience an upset stomach, and they might develop health issues in other parts of the body.
Talk to a vet if you notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- Gas and bloating
- Loss of appetite
- Itchy or flaky skin
- Jaundice (yellowing eyes or gums)
Natural ways to support liver health
Pet parents have many options for supporting their dog’s liver health. By keeping the liver in top shape, you can reduce digestive upset in your dog. Here are some nutritional tips that can promote a healthy liver and digestive system.
- Start meals with dandelions: The dandelion leaf is a type of bitter green known for its ability to increase appetite and put the digestive tract in motion. It does this by stimulating bile production in the liver. Dandelion leaves are perfectly safe for dogs to eat, and they’re most effective right before meal times. Dogs can also eat dandelion root, which reduces indigestion, boosts nutrient absorption and serves as a laxative for regular bowel movements. The easiest way to administer this herb is by placing a couple drops of dandelion tincture on your dog’s tongue.
- Incorporate a daily liver supplement: Promote healthy digestion in your dog by giving them a daily liver supplement. The main ingredient in these supplements is milk thistle, which is praised for its ability to detoxify the liver and help it eliminate toxins from the body. Liver supplements are great for dogs with liver disease and those experiencing minor digestive problems. Consult a vet to learn the proper dosage for your dog.
- Switch to smaller, more frequent meals: Dogs who eat one or two large meals a day are more likely to experience digestive problems. Consuming large quantities of food all at once can overwhelm the liver, making it difficult to break down food and absorb nutrients into the bloodstream. Alleviate stress on the liver by dividing your dog’s food into multiple, smaller meals throughout the day. This can reduce the frequency of gas, bloating, vomiting and diarrhea.
All the systems in your dog’s body are connected. A prime example of this concept is the connection between the liver and digestive system. The condition of their liver can make or break the digestive system’s health. By supporting the liver, you can promote healthy digestion in your dog.