When it comes to your dog’s diet, you may feel like it’s anything but straight forward. Knowing what’s good and not so good for your pooch can be downright confusing—especially when you’re reading conflicting information online.
You’ll be happy to know there are lots of whole 'human' foods that dogs can eat and benefit nutritionally from. Including these in your dog’s diet is a great way to ensure he’s getting all the nutrients he needs.
One food group that regularly causes a lot of confusion is organ meats, including beef liver. As you’re probably aware, the liver is one of the most nutrient-dense parts of a mammal’s body. The livers of the domestic pig, cow, lamb, calf, ox, chicken, goose, and cod are widely available. Most butchers and supermarkets stock these for humans to eat. But can dogs eat beef liver?
Yes! Beef is not only safe, it’s highly recommended for dogs. Liver is an incredible source of nutrients—much more so than any commercial dog food. It’s rich in protein, low in calories, and packed with essential vitamins and minerals. A must for any dog on a raw diet!
Like any good multivitamin, the liver contains almost everything your dog needs for good health. It’s an excellent source of Vitamin A. This is an important antioxidant required for healthy vision and a strong immune system. It also helps with proper cardiovascular function.
Liver provides Vitamin D, which supports immune function and bone health. It also helps protect against infection and autoimmune conditions. B vitamins (including folate) support energy production and prevent anemia.
The liver contains loads of iron required for transporting oxygen to blood cells. Iron also supports brain function, and regulates body temperature. Low iron levels can lead to low levels of important immune cells. Other minerals including copper and zinc support bones, joints, coat, and immune function.
The phosphorus in beef liver is also important for your dog’s kidney function. Phosphorus helps your dog maintain a normal heart rate, especially during exercise. It also helps with healthy muscle contractions.
Protein is an essential part of any dog's diet. Protein is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of your dog’s tissues, organs, enzymes, hormones, and antibodies. In fact, protein makes up around half of your dog’s body mass. Both adult dogs and puppies need plenty of lean protein every day to replenish and maintain their muscles.
When compared to beef mince, beef liver contains six times as much iron. It contains 1,200 times more vitamin A and 16 times more vitamin D. Best of all, it contains a third the total amount of saturated fat as beef mince!
It’s never a good idea to feed your dog too much of one thing. The high vitamin A content of beef liver can increase the risk of hypervitaminosis A. This can lead to bone and muscle deformities or weight loss.
Although your dog would have to eat a lot of liver for this to happen, it’s best to keep his liver intake moderate.
You can safely feed your dog small amounts of liver 1–3 times per week. This should be given as a nutritional supplement in addition to his regular diet.
When feeding a raw diet, aim to feed the same ratio of body parts as the whole prey. In most wild animals, organs comprise about 25% of body weight. This means you could give your dog a variety of organs that make up around 25% of his diet.
Always choose fresh beef liver. To provide maximum benefits, your dog should eat the liver raw. Cooking breaks down much of the valuable nutrients. Even just simmering a liver can destroy 40% of the iron, magnesium, and vitamin A content, and up to 55% of the niacin and B6 content—plus many other nutrients.
If your dog doesn’t like the taste of raw liver, it’s very easy to grind up and mix into other meats. Many raw food suppliers offer a ‘whole prey’ grind that contains the most nutritious parts of animals: ground muscle meat, bone, and organs. If your dog is really fussy, try lightly searing the outside of the liver in a hot pan. This should make the texture more palatable without cooking it all the way through.
If you have a dehydrator, you can also try dehydrating the liver to make liver treats! Cut it into thin strips and dehydrate on the meat setting for about 10–12 hours. You can feed as jerky or cut into bite-size treat pieces.
Learn more about foods that dogs can and can't eat: