cbd oil for dogs with liver failure

How Can CBD Help Treat Liver Issues in Dogs?

The rising popularity of CBD products for dogs has inspired many pet owners to get on board with giving the supplement to their companion animals for a wide variety of conditions. These include epilepsy and seizures, cancer, pain, inflammation, joint and bone health, diabetes, and arthritis. CBD also serves as an immune system regulator, a neuro-protector, antibacterial and post surgical assistant to healing. As such, it is becoming a prized remedy for supporting pet health.

Studies on the benefits of CBD for dogs are few and are just beginning to appear in larger numbers. These studies have focused primarily on the use of CBD for treating arthritis and epilepsy in dogs, as well as for canine pain relief. There is a group of disorders, however, for which CBD may be or great benefit for dogs, and that is the category of liver disease. There are no long-term studies on the efficacy of CBD for treating these conditions, but many holistic vets feel it has an important role to play in this area.

Types of Liver Disease in Dogs

The liver is the second largest organ in a dog’s body, the largest being the skin. It plays a critical part in metabolism and breaking down toxins, in all being responsible for some 1,500 different biological processes. The liver filters the blood, produces bile to break down fats, produces proteins that are responsible for clotting, regulates blood levels of amino acids, stores iron that is used in the processing of hemoglobin, helps the animal to resist infections by filtering bacteria from the bloodstream, and much more. When the liver is compromised, the result can be a variety of serious health issues for the dog.

The primary challenges to canine liver health are:

2. Toxic plants and chemicals

4. Cancer and tumors

7. Congenital conditions

Let’s look at each of these individually.


Fungi, parasites, viruses (such as Adenovirus)and bacterial infections (such as Leptospirosis) can invade a dog’s body, infect the liver, and cause extensive damage. Leptospirosis — one of the most common infections — is spread to dogs via contact with wildlife such as rodents that carry the bacteria. The Leptospirosis spirochetes invade the body, spreading to and reproducing in the liver, kidneys, eyes, central nervous system, and reproductive system. The most obvious indication of this condition is fever, which often resolves upon the development of antibodies produced by the animal’s immune system. However, if the immune system is compromised, it is difficult for the dog’s body to resist the infection and the result can be fatal.

Toxic Plants and Chemicals

The liver is the first line of defense against environmental toxins. These toxins are ubiquitous in the homes and gardens of pet owners in the form of common plants that are toxic to dogs. These include aloe, begonia, daffodil, castor bean, sago palm, autumn crocus, lilies, tomato leaves, and many others. Foods such as raisins or chocolate are well-known canine hazards. And exposure to household cleaning products and a variety of other chemicals can cause poisoning and liver damage.


Drugs, even those prescribed by veterinarians, can be harmful to dogs. Pharmaceuticals account for much of the poor health seen in animals treated via conventional medical means. Prednisone, phenobarbital, and tetracycline are among the commonly administered medications that can cause canine hepatic disease.

Cancer and tumors

Liver cancer in dogs can be caused by exposure to pesticides, herbicides, or other environmental chemicals. It can also be the result of molds found in common pet food additives, diabetes, long-term use of painkillers, parasites, and untreated heartworms, among other causes. The cancer may spread to other vital organs if not treated.


Commercial pet food is often contaminated with aflatoxins, which are a major contributor to poor health in companion animals. Aflatoxins are a type of mycotoxin that come from the Aspergillus fungus and can not be killed by high temperatures, so even cooked foods are likely to contain them. They are found in foods such as corn, wheat, soybeans, peanuts, Brazil nuts, rice and walnuts. Aflatoxins bind with DNA and cause cell mutations which lead to cancer. Low cost kibble is most likely to contain these substances, but even premium quality brands have been found to harbor aflatoxins. Chronic exposure to aflatoxins has been associated with increased risk of liver cancer (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1314947/).


Vaccination has an important role to play in maintaining a dog’s health. However, there are risks associated with over-vaccination. Finding the proper balance between core vaccines (those that all dogs should receive to be protected against serious diseases such as distemper, adenovirus, parovirus, and rabies) and non-core vaccines (those given based on individual need). Vaccination schedules should depend on lifestyle and exposure factors, and is ultimately a decision to be made by the individual pet owner in consultation with their veterinarian. Many holistic vets feel that over-vaccination can lead to chronic illness in pets, including certain types of cancer originating from vaccination-caused inflammation.

Congenital Conditions

A congenital liver shunt is an abnormal but common condition in dogs. A shunt results from a birth defect known as PSS or portosystemic shunt. It is an abnormal blood vessel that connects the digestive tract with the circulatory system, bypassing the liver and preventing it from filtering proteins that need to be digested and absorbed in the gut. As a result, proteins are diverted into the bloodstream instead of being processed through the liver. This condition results in a variety of health problems including poor growth, low appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea and neurological problems.

How Can CBD Help Treat Liver Issues in Dogs?

CBD has an important role to play in healing liver disease. It can be part of a targeted treatment approach that includes diet, nutritional supplements, veterinary supervision and pharmaceuticals if indicated. Here are a few primary ways that CBD can help dogs being treated for liver conditions.

· Inhibits tumor growth

· No harmful side effects

· Decreases side effects of conventional cancer treatments

· Reduces pain and inflammation

· Maintains healthy appetite

· Treats symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, vertigo, thus making dog more comfortable and improving quality of life.

When Should CBD Not Be Used for Canine Liver Disease?

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There are two areas in which using CBD to treat liver disease comes with caveats. One is congenital liver shunts. Dr. Michael Dym, DVM (http://doctordym.com) says that when treating these conditions his focus is on cutting down on the workload for the liver. This includes switching to a high quality low protein diet and using supplements such as SAMe and milk thistle, rather than using CBD. He’s hesitant about using supplements with all liver conditions, but particularly with congenital issues. “We don’t really know the effects,” he says. He has no hesitation, however, about using CBD for cancer, toxicity, infection, and problems caused by diet and over-vaccination.

The other time to be cautious is when an animal is on pharmaceuticals. Cytochrome P450 is a family of enzymes that play a key role in the metabolism of medications, including both veterinary drugs and CBD. As a consequence, they could interfere with one another’s effectiveness. Dr. Dym says that “they don’t actually neutralize each other, but [given] the fact that [both] are metabolized with the liver Cytochrome P450 system, we just have to be mindful when the liver is chronically compromised.” He may use slightly lower doses of CBD in these cases while being careful to support the liver with appropriate diet and nutrition and closelymonitor the dog..

The Big Picture: CBD as a Treatment Option For Your Dog

CBD offers enormous potential benefits for dogs with liver conditions and should not be overlooked as a treatment option. A good holistically oriented vet will use a comprehensive approach including dietary and nutritional support while conducting regular lab tests to track the animal’s progress.

A reputable holistic vet will also take great care to select high-quality CBD brands — carefully sourced, organically grown, and rigorously tested — to use in their practice. Choose a good vet who does their research, and the rest of the picture will be easier to sort out. And a good prognosis for your pup will be the most likely result.

Does Pet CBD Cause Liver Damage – What’s The Truth?

Recently there’s been a lot of hullabaloo about pet CBD and liver damage in pets – mainly dogs, but we’ll get into that later. I want to talk about this as many of you seek out my articles to help keep you informed about pet CBD. So, let’s dive into the question: Does pet CBD cause liver damage?


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what’s all the ruckus about?

A recent study and resulting FDA notice!

At first glance, the FDA notice may seem a little alarming. However, with a little bit of digging you can see that the report is actually about a very specific FDA-approved, prescribed, purified form of CBD called Epidiolex.

Epidiolex is approved to treat two forms of severe, and rate, epilepsy:

  • Lennox Gastaut syndrome (LGS)
  • Dravet syndrome (DS)

The study, conducted by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences actually created concern for people giving their furry companions pet CBD. So, let’s break it down some more.

can pets be prescribed epidiolex?

While the FDA can restrict off-label use of a drugs for animals, they haven’t done so with Epidiolex. Also, because the drug contains CBD, a federally classified controlled substance, it would have to be cleared by the DEA.

Around mid-April of 2020, the DEA removed Epidiolex from its controlled substance classification under the federal Controlled Substances Act. (source)

The Pet Lifestyle Guru

So, now veterinarians can prescribed Epidiolex to pets. However, most do so only in the most severe of epileptic cases – not as a first-attempt medication. However, unlike humans, there is no insurance that covers this drug – which costs upwards in the tens of thousands each year for an average-sized dog.

How Is Epidiolex Different Than Regular Cannabis Store CBD?

This is a very good and key question! Epidiolex is an isolated, single molecule form of CBD. All other CBD oils, tinctures, etc., are made from whole-plant cannabinoids. Whole-plant, or what’s commonly referred to as full-spectrum, CBD has proven to be more effective for a broad range of conditions.

However, with the severe epileptic conditions, a very specific CBD molecule was determined as more effective. This single molecule form of CBD was ‘isolated’ and then patented for distribution under the name Epidiolex.

Raised Right Pet Food

Is epidiolex in regular, over-the counter pet CBD?

Absolutely not. Epidiolex cannot be found in an over-the-counter pet CBD. Both for cost and stability reasons – and this leaves out the prescribed treatment factor. However, it’s worth noting here the importance of the quality of CBD used in your pet’s CBD product is incredibly important.

This is why I am forever talking about the science of pet CBD – and not the marketing. Here is our collection of pet-CBD information you should read.

So, Does Pet CBD Cause Liver Damage

The easy answer is: no, pet CBD doesn’t cause liver damage! But what about that study?

The answer and follow-up question are intrinsically linked. While the FDA’s website does reflect that ‘liver injury’ is a side effect of CBD, it’s important to read the detailed information. It points directly to Epidiolex:

Liver Injury: During its review of the marketing application for Epidiolex — a purified form of CBD that the FDA approved in 2018 for use in the treatment of two rare and severe seizure disorders — the FDA identified certain safety risks, including the potential for liver injury. This serious risk can be managed when an FDA-approved CBD drug product is taken under medical supervision. (Source)


The Epidiolex Study

This study caused a lot of stress to the average pet CBD consumer. Because, on the surface, it implied that CBD caused liver damage in pets. Most likely the choice of wording was due to increase reach… As likely very few people know the CBD product name Epidiolex.

How Epidiolex Was Administered For The Study: A total of six study mice were divided into two groups (control and test). Control mice received scaled daily maintenance amounts of Epidioplex; and, test mice received acute toxicity amounts.

And, you can guess the results. It stands to reason that the mice that received acute-toxic levels of Epidioplex experienced a much higher level of liver damage.

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Pet CBD Is Highly Effective

There are numerous studies that point to the effectiveness of full-spectrum CBD in pet products. It’s been found to shorten the frequency of siezures. Also, pet CBD reduces the pain (as well as inflammation) associated with arthritis. As well as pancreatitis – this is an unknown benefit! Pet CBD is highly effective for anxiety. And has been shown to reduce symptoms associated with autoimmune diseases.

This is why we always dive in when it comes to pet CBD – the benefits are amazing when used correctly!

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Who Is The Pet Lifestyle Guru

Hi, I’m Rebecca Sanchez, The Pet Lifestyle Guru, and I work with pet parents and pet brands to develop happy, healthy, holistic dogs. I cover homecooked dog food and treat recipes, pet CBD, pet homeopathic, pet naturopathic care, holistic pet health, and pet herbal medicine. I’m also paid (can you believe it!) to discover the newest pet products. Speaking of pet products, if you’d like to earn some free pet products, check this out.

Recipe: Easy-to-Make Homemade Dog Food for Liver Disease

Unfortunately, for dogs diagnosed with liver disease, there are no specific treatments available.

The only way to treat liver disease in dogs is to adjust their diet and ensure they’re always well-hydrated.

This homemade dog food for liver disease recipe I show you in the video above and discuss later in this article is specifically designed to help with the condition.

Like in humans, the canine liver is a vital organ involved with almost every process and is directly responsible for many functions in the body.

It also plays a significant role in a dog’s immune system and ability to fight off diseases. Dogs with liver disease are at more risk of contracting many other illnesses, which is why it’s essential to treat them immediately.

Having your dog diagnosed with the liver disease means that you will need to change this diet.

Even though some commercial dog food brands for liver disease, many vets recommend making your homemade dog food for liver disease.

Ultimately, the severity of your dog’s condition will dictate the specific nutritional requirements.

Before you try this homemade dog food recipe for liver disease, you must speak with your veterinarian.

Do not switch your dog to a homemade diet until then. When it comes to canine liver disease, any changes to what your dog eats should be made with extra care and caution.

The reason being is because this condition is susceptible. If your dog receives too much or too few specific nutrients, that could accelerate the progression of his liver disease condition.

Your veterinarian may even refer you to a canine nutritionist for testing and a more detailed nutritional plan, so make sure you check with them beforehand.

If your dog has a sensitive stomach, this condition especially needs careful monitoring.

Now, if you’ve already spoken with your vet about your dog’s condition and you’re looking for homemade dog food for liver disease recipe, this one may be right for your Fido.

Note: We created this homemade dog food recipe for a dog weighing about 50 pounds.

Homemade Dog Food for Liver Disease Recipe


  • 3/4 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup cooked, diced chicken
  • 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal
  • One boiled egg
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin


The best thing about this homemade dog food for liver disease recipe is straightforward to make. As you see in the video, with about 15-20 minutes of prep work, you’ll have a meal ready to serve to your Fido.

The more often you do this, the quicker the process becomes.

You’ll have to get used to repetition since there aren’t that many dog food choices for dogs with liver disease, so their diet will be pretty mundane for a while.

Start by cooking the chicken any way that you prefer. You can boil it, bake it or cook it in a frying pan on your stovetop – it doesn’t matter, as long as it is thoroughly cooked. You’ll also need to boil the egg in advance and cook the oatmeal.

Once those three ingredients have been cooked, all you need to do is mix it all. You’ll want to chop the egg and cube the chicken.

Then you can combine all five ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

As you can see, this homemade dog food for liver disease recipe doesn’t look very appetizing to us.

But trust me when I tell you that your dog will completely disagree. The aroma of the chicken, egg, and cottage cheese will drive him wild! See my boxer, Chloe, devouring her meal below.

Creating a Diet for a Puppy

When you’re trying to create a diet for a puppy with liver disease, there are a few things you want to focus on, including:

  • high quality, easily digestible protein sources
  • low in copper and sodium (stay away from organ meat, especially liver)
  • high in antioxidants
  • high in fat (your vet may recommend 20-50% fat in your dog’s diet)

Carbohydrates are another nutrient that will need to be provided in your dog’s diet. They aid in digestion and add fiber to his diet.

Carbohydrates also help to remove ammonia from the system, which the liver may not be able to do on its own anymore.

Your veterinarian may also recommend certain supplements to add to your homemade dog food. Popular accessories for pets with a failing liver include Vitamin E, Vitamin B complex, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and Zinc.

The necessity of these supplements will depend on your dog’s unique condition, so don’t add them unless directed to by your veterinarian or a canine nutritionist.

This recipe will make about 3 cups of dog food. You can serve it to your pet as soon as it is thoroughly mixed.

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You can also make a larger batch and store it in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 months.

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More Information on Dog Liver Disease

Knowing good dog food recipes for liver failure or disease is just one part of taking care of your pup with liver issues.

You should also make sure to have a semi-thorough understanding of the disease itself. While your vet can answer your questions, it is helpful to know what to expect with dogs with liver disease.

A Quick Overview of Canine Liver Disease

Canine liver disease (CLD) negatively affects the way that your dog’s liver functions. In mild cases, the liver only slows down.

In severe cases, your dog may experience liver failure. The disease typically worsens over time, but catching it early and adjusting your dog’s diet can help fight it.

To understand CLD, remember that the liver removes toxins and external waste from the body. If your dog has CLD, the liver can’t effectively expel these toxins and waste. This lets those harmful substances build up.

Another function of the liver is producing bile. Bile helps with digestion, which is why liver issues can negatively affect the digestive system.

The good news is that the liver can regenerate with proper care.

Warning Signs of Liver Disease in Dogs

One of the first steps to creating a dog liver disease diet is recognizing that your dog has issues with his liver.

Your vet can diagnose liver damage, but you need to know to take your pup to the vet in the first place.

If you notice any of the following signs, your dog’s health, precisely that of his liver, maybe at risk.


Jaundice is when the skin has a yellowish tinge. Because of their fur, jaundice on canines is most noticeable by their ears, gums, and eyes.

Gastrointestinal Problems

Issues with your dog’s liver function can lead to a range of GI issues. These may include excessive urination, weight loss, vomiting, decreased appetite, diarrhea, visibly increased thirst, or changes to his stool color.

Hepatic Encephalopathy

Hepatic encephalopathy refers to a variety of neurological symptoms that are a result of liver issues.

Dogs with these symptoms may experience personality changes, anxiety, blindness, disorientation, seizures, or confusion. The combination of symptoms is a severe brain condition.

Other Potential Symptoms

In addition to the symptoms already mentioned, the following are other potential signs that your dog’s liver health needs attention:

  • Lethargy
  • Blood in feces or urine
  • Play bowing
  • Instability while walking
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Licking lips
  • Itching
  • Muscle wastage (but in advanced cases)

The exact symptoms will depend on the type of liver disease that your dog has. Hepatic encephalopathy is one type. Others include:

  • Acute liver failure: This is when the liver suddenly loses function. It is commonly linked to blood clotting problems and neurological issues.
  • Chronic hepatitis: This is the most common liver disease affecting dogs. Numerous potential risk factors include genetics, infectious agents, copper, severe trauma, and infections.
  • Portosystemic shunts: Most dogs are born with this issue but can also develop the following illness. This condition, PSS, is when an abnormal vein connects the blood supply from the intestines with the vein that brings blood to the heart. The abnormal vein bypasses the liver or “shunts” the blood flow past the liver.

Potential Causes of Liver Disease in Dogs

You can control some of the potential causes of liver problems in your canine but not all. Some possible reasons include:

  • Poor diet
  • Stress
  • Endocrine disease
  • Copper toxicity
  • Infectious agents, including viral ones or leptospirosis
  • Certain pharmaceuticals
  • Severe trauma

Common Questions about Feeding Dogs with Liver Problems

Have lingering questions about caring for dogs with liver problems, specifically what to feed your pup? The following should answer them for you.

What Is the Goal of the Proper Diet for Poor Liver Function?

There are a few primary goals when developing a diet for dogs with liver disease.

You want to give your pup enough nutrition so he can maintain his overall health and energy.

Also, you want to encourage liver regeneration while reducing stress on the liver.

You also want to prevent complications.

Finally, you want to prevent copper and other substances from accumulating in the liver and further damaging it.

What Foods Are Good for Dogs with Liver Disease?

Dogs with liver disease should eat some dairy products, with ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, goat cheese, and yogurt is good options.

You should give your pup high-quality protein sources, such as fish, eggs, boneless chicken, and boneless turkey.

Importantly, you want to choose protein sources that are low in copper. Limit pork, salmon, lamb, and duck, all of which are high in copper.

Fish oil is also a good addition, thanks to its omega-3 fatty acids. Ensure your dog gets soluble fiber with plain canned pumpkin, barley, white rice, or oatmeal.

Your dog can also enjoy coconut oil, seedless watermelons, papayas, figs, blueberries, and other fruits.

What Should Dogs with Liver Problems Not Eat?

If your dog has liver issues, avoid giving him fish or organ meats that are high in purines. It would help if you also avoided meats with high copper content.

How Do You Treat a Dog with Liver Disease Naturally?

Diet changes are an essential part of treating your dog’s liver problems. Your vet may also suggest supplements like milk thistle or SAM-E. In the case of infections, your vet may suggest antibiotics as well.

How Can I Improve My Dog’s Liver Function?

The most crucial step is to consult your dog’s vet. They will recommend any dietary or lifestyle changes as well as medications.

For example, they are likely to suggest a diet high in fat and low in protein.

Can a Dog’s Liver Repair Itself?

The term liver regeneration can be somewhat confusing. That is because the liver can heal itself, but only up to a certain point.

Once the liver disease becomes terminal, it is too late to reverse the damage. Before this, however, you may be able to restore your dog’s normal liver function.

Whether your dog’s liver can repair itself depends on the severity of the disease, how early you catch it, and the cause of the disease.