DOG FOOD AND LIVER DISEASE: THE HIDDEN DANGER

DOG FOOD AND LIVER DISEASE: THE HIDDEN DANGER

DOG FOOD AND LIVER DISEASE: THE HIDDEN DANGER

In 2022, a bombshell report from Cornell University alerted veterinarians to the danger of Dog Food and Liver Disease saying: Pet foods are causing liver damage at an alarming rate.

Here’s how the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and pet food manufacturers let this problem escalate, and how you can shield your dog from copper toxicity.

THE COPPER CONUNDRUM

Copper, a vital trace mineral, is essential for dogs. They can’t produce it on their own and must obtain it through their diet. Copper plays a crucial role in activating enzymes that drive nearly every metabolic function in a dog’s body, and it’s also key for building red blood cells and maintaining healthy connective tissue, skin, and coats.

However, when dogs consume too much copper—resulting in copper toxicity—the mineral accumulates in the liver, leading to inflammation and damage. This can scar the liver, eventually causing liver failure and even death.

The insidious nature of liver inflammation means that most dog owners remain unaware of the issue until it’s advanced. The only early indicator is a change in ALT levels. As liver damage progresses, symptoms such as abdominal swelling, diarrhea, loss of appetite, jaundice, increased thirst, and vomiting might appear. But by then, the damage is often severe.

In essence, liver disease is a silent threat that usually goes unnoticed until it’s too late. Even if your dog’s ALT levels are high, vets rarely consider copper toxicity as a cause.

RISING COPPER LEVELS IN DOG FOOD

DOG FOOD AND LIVER DISEASE: THE HIDDEN DANGER

In 1929, researchers found that the average copper content in a dog’s liver was around 10 µg/g. By 1982, this average skyrocketed to 200 µg/g, and by 1995, it reached 453 µg/g. The copper levels in dogs’ livers doubled in just 13 years and continue to rise.

Today’s dogs are essentially walking around with livers akin to those of alcoholics.

HOW MANY DOGS ARE AFFECTED?

A Cornell study revealed that 58% of liver biopsies showed signs of inflammatory liver disease, with an average copper concentration exceeding 400 µg/g.

This suggests that more than half of dogs could be affected by excess copper.

THE SOURCE OF COPPER OVERLOAD

Researchers initially suspected breed-specific diseases but discovered that the copper content in dogs’ livers was directly linked to their diet. Surprisingly, all the foods met AAFCO nutritional requirements.

AAFCO sets nutrient guidelines for pet food manufacturers, usually focusing on minimum amounts. Unfortunately, for most nutrients, including copper, AAFCO hasn’t established a maximum allowable amount.

The minimum copper requirement for adult dogs is 7.3 mg/kg, but dog food makers are free to exceed this as long as they meet the minimum.

WHY IS COPPER INCREASING?

There are several reasons why copper levels in pet food are on the rise:

  • Nutrient Loss During Processing: Heating and processing pet foods can lead to a 40% loss of copper (and other nutrients). To compensate, manufacturers add premixes—bags of vitamins and minerals—to their foods.
  • Premix Issues: These premixes often contain excess copper since AAFCO is primarily concerned with minimum nutrition requirements. Additionally, AAFCO’s past recommendations led to a shift from inorganic copper (copper oxide) to more bioavailable forms like copper sulfate and copper chelate, which are used even more in premium brands.
  • Copper-Rich Ingredients: Many dog foods now include ingredients naturally high in copper, such as liver, fish, seafood, chickpeas, and sweet potatoes.

DETECTING EXCESS COPPER IN DOG FOOD

Pet foods aren’t required to list copper content on labels. If you’re concerned about copper toxicity, ask your dog food manufacturer for a nutritional analysis showing copper levels. Persist until you find a manufacturer willing to provide this information. Ideally, copper content should not be much higher than AAFCO’s minimum of 7.3 mg/kg for adult dogs and 12.4 mg/kg for puppies.

While some low-copper dog foods exist, they often compromise on protein content, making them less ideal choices.


Read: Unraveling the Benefits of Liver and Kidney Detox for Dogs


Detoxing Your Dog’s Liver & Kidneys

If you’re concerned about copper toxicity and liver health in your dog, consider incorporating natural detox methods. Products like Liver Cleanse Naturally and Kidney Cleanses Naturally can help support your dog’s detoxification pathways. The job of the Liver is to filter toxins so that the Kidneys can then flush them from the body.

Liver Cleanse Naturally contains herbs and nutrients specifically designed to enhance liver function, promote bile production, and assist in the elimination of toxins. Similarly, Kidney Cleanses Naturally helps to flush out toxins and support overall kidney health, which is crucial for maintaining a balanced internal environment.

Regular use of these detox products may help reduce the copper burden in your dog’s liver, improve organ function, and enhance their overall well-being. Always consult with your veterinarian before starting any detox regimen to ensure it is safe and appropriate for your pet’s specific health needs.

By staying informed and proactive, you can help protect your dog from the hidden dangers of copper toxicity and ensure a healthier, happier life.

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