Dog Jumping for Frisbee - Healthier Homemade Logo

Healthier Homemade

for dogs

precision nutrition matters

Dog owner and her sick dog, they are touching heads in sadness.

Liver Shunts in Dogs

Integrating Custom Homemade Recipes into Medical Programs for Dogs with Liver Shunts:


Liver shunts are caused by abnormal veins that carry blood from the intestines and body organs past the liver and straight into the arteries. This “untreated” blood contains excess ammonia which causes seizures and promotes urate bladder stones. Genetic defects, especially in certain breeds of dogs, and failing livers create these shunts.


Large, portosystemic shunts are best treated by surgery to decrease vein(s) size or close it (them)completely. Low protein diets can be effective in eliminating or reducing seizures and help dissolve and prevent urate bladder crystals and stones in shunts where surgery is not a good option. The Healthier Homemade dog food recipes for liver shunts have a calorie distribution that is considered favorable for liver shunt patients, meaning it has less meat protein than normal diets. The recipes also contain the minimum amounts of copper recommended by veterinary experts for liver conditions resulting from copper toxicity.


Your dog’s diet is only one tool for liver shunts and urate stone management, it is not a substitute for a comprehensive veterinary treatment plan. Treatment may also require intestinal ammonia trapping with fiber, prebiotics and probiotics, lactulose laxative and possibly seizure control medication for successful management of dogs with hepatic encephalopathy.


LS patients with urate crystals may also require other medications and urine pH modifiers. Healthier Homemade recipes for liver shunts may not be appropriate for patients that also have dietary restrictions for other conditions (inflammatory bowel disease/chronic enteropathy, short bowel syndrome or cancer).


Since low protein diets are not a favorite for dogs, “Food Fatigue” is common in patients on these diets. We recommend the generous use of condiments (bacon grease, BBQ sauce, Teriyaki baste, Catsup, Honey, etc.) along with appetite stimulants to keep these patients interested in eating their diets. Low protein recipes are not appropriate for normal adult dogs, or puppies.


Although Healthier Homemade dog food recipes exceed AAFCO and NRC daily nutrient requirements and meet the minimum NRC requirements for protein and the sulfur-containing amino acids (methionine and cystine) to ensure adequate taurine production, we prefer to err on the side of caution. The Healthier Homemade LS program includes taurine supplementation for this heart protecting amino acid.


Low protein diets should also be used with caution in male dogs with urate stones that have not been surgically removed. The diet may promote the dissolution of urate stones that could result in stone shrinkage sufficient to cause stones to be passed into the urethra and lodge at the penis bone and block urination. This can be a life-threatening condition and require emergency surgery. 


Each Healthier Homemade Starter Kit includes a nutrition data fact sheet, so owners and their veterinarians can see that all of the 42 daily essential nutrients are in meals prepared with our recipes, when used as directed. Commercial prescription diets, especially kibble, may be unappealing. Freshly cooked meals make a difference!

Click here to learn about recipe programs that are available for dogs suffering from Liver Shunts.