detox your dogs liver

Even with a natural lifestyle, all dogs have toxins in their bodies. Helping the liver do its job can aid in cleansing his system.

Fall is a great time for detoxing, especially the liver. Depending on where you live, your dog may have been exposed to an extra-heavy toxic load during the spring and summer, from pest prevention products to herbicides and pesticides sprayed in public spaces.

Even if you care for your dog naturally, you can’t avoid toxins entirely. In addition to seasonal chemicals, dogs are routinely exposed to a mind-boggling list of other everyday toxins, including:

• Radiation
• Electromagnetic fields (EMFs)
• Flame-retardant chemicals sprayed on fabrics, carpets, furniture and upholstery
• Bisphenol A (BPA)
• Hydrocarbons
• Heavy metals
• Hormones, antibiotic residues, toxic preservatives, mycotoxins, carcinogenic by-products, and allergenic ingredients found in pet foods
• Fluoride, chlorine and other chemicals in unfiltered drinking water
• Vaccines, de-wormers, and other veterinary drugs such as antibiotics and steroids.

The truth is that all dogs are carrying a toxin load and have measurable levels of chemicals in their bodies. They walk though chemicals, sleep on them, breathe them in, and eat and drink them in their food and water. And conventional veterinarians prescribe and inject them on a regular basis.

So if you’re wondering if your own dog is carrying toxins in his body, the answer is yes. The good news is that a regular detoxification protocol can help clear his body of those toxins and boost his overall health and vitality.

Focus on the liver

The liver is the most important detoxification organ. Its cells contain sophisticated mechanisms to break down toxic substances. Every drug, artificial chemical, pesticide and hormone is metabolized by enzymes in the liver cells.

Many chemical toxins that enter your dog’s body are fat soluble, making them difficult to excrete. The body stores them – often for years – in fat tissues and cell membranes. Some toxins and vaccines can cross the blood/brain barrier and enter the central nervous system.

The liver has two means of converting fat soluble chemicals into water soluble chemicals so they can be removed from the body in watery fluids such as urine and bile.

1. The phase one detoxification pathway transforms toxic chemicals into less harmful substances through various chemical reactions. Enzymes break down substances in a process similar to food digestion. Phase one can’t take place without these all-important enzymes, and their performance depends on a number of variables, including nutrients in the diet that either enhance or inhibit the process.

During phase one, free radicals are produced that can damage the liver. Antioxidants reduce the damage, but if a dog’s exposure to toxins is high and his diet is deficient in antioxidants, toxic chemicals can do far more damage.

2. After the phase one enzymes have metabolized, some of the substances, metabolites (toxic byproducts) remain and must be quickly picked up by the phase two pathway where they will be made safer for the body to use. Phase two is called the conjugation pathway, where liver cells add another substance to the toxins – for example, cysteine, glycine, or a sulphur molecule – to render them less harmful and water soluble so they can be passed from the body.

Support for phase one — glutathione

To help your dog’s liver do its work, I recommend a glutathione supplement. Glutathione is a peptide molecule that must be synthesized from three amino acids, including glycine. It is responsible for removing xenobiotics, the foreign chemical compounds present in every dog’s body as a result of living in a chemical-laden world.

Glycine is an amino acid essential for healthy function of the digestive and nervous systems. It assists in the manufacturing of glutathione and is important for other detoxification mechanisms; for example, it helps rid the body of chlorine found in the public water supply. Glycine also helps rid the body of heavy metals such as antimony, mercury, aluminum, nickel and lead, as well as plastic residues like BPA.

Support for phase two — taurine and N-acetylcysteine

To assist in phase two liver detoxification, I recommend taurine and N-acetylcysteine (NAC) supplements.

Taurine is an antioxidant amino acid that stabilizes cell membranes, particularly the cells of the skeletal muscles, heart, central nervous system, and white blood cells. It also makes the body’s cells more resilient to free radical attack.

Although a minimal level of taurine is included in pet foods, it is easily depleted in stressed dogs, or those with intestinal dysfunction. Taurine plays a very important role in neutralizing toxins produced by dysbiotic bacteria in the gut, and is also very important in the metabolism and excretion of xenobiotics.

NAC is a cellular antioxidant that boosts tissue glutathione levels and plays a role in binding heavy metals. It protects against oxidative stress and is a potent free radical scavenger, particularly in the central nervous system. NAC also increases levels of intracellular glutathione.

canine liver detox tipsNatural detoxifiers 

Milk thistle is recommended to help remove reactive oxygen species from your dog’s body. The active ingredient in this herb is silymarin, which stimulates the uptake of glutathione from liver cells. Milk thistle also assists in liver cell regeneration.

Schisandra fruit is included in many TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) formulas because it helps protect the liver against various toxins. The hepatoprotective nature of this fruit assists in keeping healthy cells resilient against the effects of environmental toxins.

Curcumin is what gives turmeric its yellow color. This potent antioxidant supports both phases of liver detoxification. Curcumin has anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting properties due to its ability to enhance the body’s detoxification reactions.

Phosphatidylcholine (PC) is critical for a detoxification process known as methylation, which rids your dog’s body of excess hormones – in particular, the fight-or-flight hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline. PC also functions as an antioxidant to protect liver, brain and nervous system cells from damage, and protects the fatty myelin sheath surrounding nerve fibers.

Resveratrol is the active ingredient in a plant called Japanese knotweed. Resveratrol is a potent anti-cancer and anti-aging antioxidant, and reduces liver enzyme elevations by decreasing lipid peroxidation in the liver.

Green tea leaf extract contains catechins which dramatically modify cancer-causing molecules that damage cellular DNA. The inactivation and excretion of carcinogens is a big part of
keeping your dog’s body cancer-free.

Chlorella functions as a potent heavy metal chelator and GI detoxifier. It binds up the excess toxic metals dogs are exposed to. Chlorella’s tough outer cell wall also binds environmental pollutants in the gut, allowing them to be eliminated efficiently.

Superoxide dismutase, also called SOD, is a potent enzyme responsible for the removal of free radicals from the body. It works by catalyzing the breakdown of superoxide radicals into oxygen and hydrogen. Superoxide radicals are toxic to the living cells of your dog’s body. Removing them is critical so his lymphatic system can work optimally.

Dandelion leaf has superior blood-cleansing benefits. Although it also supports liver and gallbladder detoxification, it’s especially helpful for kidney detoxification, assisting in the removal of blood-borne toxins excreted through the kidneys. Clean blood helps ensure metabolic wastes get efficiently carried away from your dog’s tissues and vital organs.

To determine which herbs and supplements are best for your individual dog, along with dosages, consult with a holistic or integrative veterinarian.

While it may be impossible to shield your dog from every chemical that could do him harm, taking steps to cleanse his body by detoxing his liver gives him extra arsenal against all those toxins.


Veterinarian Dr. Karen Shaw Becker received her degree from the Iowa State College of Veterinary Medicine. She owns/operates Natural Pet Animal Hospital, Feathers Bird Clinic, TheraPaw Rehabilitation and Pain Management Clinic and Covenant Wildlife Rehabilitation in Illinois. She co-authored Real Food for Healthy Pets and hosts a holistic animal wellness website (