HEALTHY LIVER, HEALTHY DOG!

It is common these days for many of us to do a ‘liver cleanse’ periodically as we know the benefits of supporting healthy liver function in our own bodies. But did you know this is just as important for our dogs and they too can benefit from a periodic cleanse.

A healthy liver is the cornerstone to having a long and healthy life for your dog. The liver is believed to perform several hundred functions including assisting carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism, detoxification, and assisting in blood cell production and storage. These actions are all carried out by one cell-  hepatocytes. Liver cleansing therefore is aimed at supporting these cells so that they can perform optimally.

Because the liver affects so many functions in the body, from a Naturopathic perspective, we recognise a connection between a variety of symptoms and this important organ. Toxins from foods, vaccinations, medications, water, parasite treatments etc can have a negative impact as can emotional stress from lack of exercise, attention, or basic needs being met.

Changes in behaviour such as restlessness and irritability, as well as physical issues such as  anal gland problems, allergies, seizures, autoimmune diseases, general skin conditions and gastrointestinal problems also show liver imbalance.

A general liver cleanse twice yearly can really boost liver function, thus taking stress off other vital organs including kidneys. This is beneficial even if your dog shows no signs of ill health. Herbs such as St Mary's thistle, Dandelion, Yellow dock, and nutrients including amino acids, Glutathione, B vitamins and antioxidants like E and C are generally recommended. St Mary’s thistle in particular, is very supportive of liver function as it contains a flavonoid compound called silymarin which itself is a combination of several other active compounds.  Silymarin and other related compounds support and protect the liver. Specifically, they strengthen the liver cell’s resistance to harmful toxins as well as  stimulating new cell reproduction.  St Mary’s thistle can be easily added into your dog’s food in liquid or tablet form.

For those using chemical flea/tick and worming treatments, it is recommended to use a 7-10 day regime of St Mary’s thistle as this assists the liver to process these chemicals before they can lead to build up in the system. This includes spot on treatments that are absorbed directly into the bloodstream. I would do this at least every 3 months for those using these products regularly on their dogs. Better still, swap these toxic products to more natural herbal based ones(for more information on these, see my article on natural worming)

You could giving your dog a more general detoxification routine using liquid Chlorophyll, a herbal tonic ( seek advice from an animal Naturopath or herbalist for this) or even giving your dog a 24 hour fast which will give much needed rest to an overworked digestive system.
Diet is the foundation of good liver health and if you are feeding a raw, grain –free diet to your dog, you are already giving them a head start. For those however that feed commercially, I highly recommend adding in a short detox regime regularly to assist your dog to eliminate unwanted toxins, as these are highly processed foods. Ideally, if you are still feeding commercial foods to your dog, it may be time to rethink diet, especially if they are experiencing any chronic illness. This along with detoxification and liver support can go a long way to helping resolve many chronic problems and lead to long term balance and health.

NB:  always check with your vet or holistic animal practitioner when deciding on a detoxification program for your dog.

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