Plant Based Protein Diets In Liver Disease

Ron Hines DVM PhD

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The only times I know of when plant-origin protein might be a better choice for your pet than meat protein is when its liver is failing. In those situations, the mental disabilities, caused by a rise in toxins that are normally eliminated by your pets liver, might improve when it is given a diet in which the protein source is vegetable. (Some have even noted an improvement when the protein source was switched from meat to dairy - such as low fat cottage cheese). You can read about some common forms of liver disease in which a plant protein based diet might be appropriate here, and here.

Good sources of vegetable protein include soy products such as tofu and soy protein isolates, and TVP. Chick peas (garbanzo beans), lentils peas and beans are other good protein sources. The sources other than soy are high in fiber as well. That fiber increases the flow rate through your pet's intestine which some believe helps lower blood ammonia levels. Some suggest that a branched chain amino acid health food supplement might be helpful as well.

When dealing with liver disease, never give a diet that is higher in protein than the amount required to maintain your dog or cat's healthy lean muscle mass.

Not all cases of liver disease are protein sensitive. You just have to try such a diet and note the effect which should be quite rapid if it is going to help.

I prefer using animal fat rather than vegetable oils when making these diets. Animal fats add flavor and have a better fatty acid profile for dogs and cats than vegetable oils. Cooked rice is a good source of carbohydrate. It is wise to add an appropriate amount of multivitamin supplement (A,D,E,K & Zinc) that is not in a meat flavor base as well. In their ancient histories, felines, including house cats, lost a number of metabolic pathways that would allow them to thrive on plant-based (vegetarian) diets. When liver failure in cats makes a shift toward plant-based proteins desirable, be sure the diet contains adequate taurine.