For many generations, liver was considered a staple of the human diet and was highly recommended by doctors as a way to treat anemia, which is a lack of iron in the blood. Today, most of us make a face when presented with the idea of cooking and eating liver. Fortunately, your dog will not make this kind of face when you put liver in his food bowl, in fact, most dogs absolutely love the taste of liver.
What makes liver such a great food? When you compare it to "muscle meat" which is what most dog food is made from, it has about 10 to 100 times the level of nutrients. These meats include chicken breasts, hamburger, and so on. Among the many nutrients found in liver are vitamins A and several B vitamins, CoQ10, trace minerals, and of course, plenty of iron. Liver is also an excellent source of protein.
Anemia is the result of a lack of iron in the bloodstream. This condition is quite common in humans but is considered to be rare in dogs. The most common occurrences of anemia in dogs is in those suffering from malnutrition and in puppies who have hookworm infestations.
When it comes to dogs, there are several easy to spot symptoms of anemia. These include:
■ Gums and inside of eyelids that appear to be pale or white
■ Lethargy and weakness
■ Panting, labored breathing, rapid pulse
■ Black tar-like stool (the result of internal bleeding which could be the cause of anemia)
If your dog's anemia has become severe, the vet should be able to detect a heart murmur along with the rapid heartbeat. If you take your dog out for strenuous exercise and has severe anemia, he might collapse.
There are several causes of anemia in dogs, some of which are common such as fleas and other parasites, injuries and wounds, and exposure to toxic chemical poisoning. Among the less common causes of canine anemia are canine autoimmune hemolytic anemia (an autoimmune disease), tumors affecting the kidneys, intestinal tract, and bladder, ulcers, and cancer.
As you can see, anemia is not something that "just happens", it is considered to be a secondary condition of a more serious medical issue. This is why it is so important for you to contact your vet if you think your pup has anemia. Once your vet has diagnosed the cause of the anemia, he can begin treatment. In the meantime, there is no reason why you cannot start feeding your dog liver or herbs that are rich in iron to help stimulate the growth of red blood cells that will restore your dog's iron levels, his energy levels, and his strength.
Liver makes a great choice for helping to restore the iron levels in your dog's blood, but you do need to start him out on a small amount as liver is very rich and can cause him to have diarrhea if you feed him too much. Talk to your vet about the proper amount to feed him. For example, starting out with 1/2 tablespoon per day is good, but pay close attention to his stools. If they become loose, you may need to reduce the amount. You can buy chicken livers or beef liver in your grocery store or, better yet, go to your local butcher and ask for fresh grass-fed liver (which is better for your dog anyway). It can be served to your dog raw or lightly cooked, but bear in mind that raw liver has a much higher level of all nutrients as cooking tends to remove them.
There are also a number of herbs, vegetables, and forms of seaweed containing very high levels of iron that you can feed your dog to help with his anemia. However, before you begin any type of treatment for canine anemia, you need to take your pup to see his vet, find out what is causing it, and have the underlying condition treated or all the liver in the world will not help.