Can Dogs Eat Beef Liver?

How much beef liver should you feed to your dogs? ¹

If you are anything like me, you are always looking to expand your dog’s diet.

There is always the struggle between finding something that they are going to love, and making sure that it is something that is going to be good for their overall health.

Recently I found myself looking at adding beef liver to my dog’s diet.

But I had so many questions, is it better to serve it cooked or raw?

Is it even safe for them to eat it raw?

What are the benefits of feeding my dogs beef liver?

What might be the drawbacks?

I realized that if I had all of these questions, other people might as well.

So, I decided to collect all the pertinent information I could find about beef liver, and share it with all of you, while I decided if I was going to add it to my dogs diet. 

What is the nutritional value of beef liver?

The first thing I did was take a look at the overall nutritional value of beef liver, based on a 100 gram portion size.

That portion size contains 5.2 grams of total fat, with 2.9 grams of that being saturated fat.

It also contains 393 milligrams of cholesterol, 401 milligrams of sodium and 5.1 grams of carbohydrates.

It is important to note that there is zero dietary fiber and sugars found in beef liver.

Finally, there are 29 grams of protein as well as 6 milligrams of calcium, 6.5 milligrams of iron and 349 milligrams of potassium. 

Beef liver is also very rich in Vitamins A, B12 and Copper.

What do these nutrients do for my dog?

Now if you’re like me you often look at nutrition labels and try to estimate if the values represented are healthy for you, or your dog.

But it’s important to remember that we are responsible for their well being, they can’t tell us that something has too much sugar.

So, how do the nutritional values in beef liver affect our dogs?

It’s important to note that the size of our dogs varies, so their nutritional needs will also vary. 

Fats are a very important part of our dog’s diets, as they provide the energy or fuel that they use on a daily basis.

A good amount of fat also provides insulation from the cold as well as cushioning on their body. Just like in us humans, fat is tough to balance with too little or too much not being healthy. Saturated fat is especially important when it comes to generating energy.

Cholesterol is used by our dogs to help build strong and healthy cells.

Like fat, it’s important to note that too much of a good thing can be bad, even leading to increased risk of heart disease.

Sodium is another very important part of our dog’s diet as it contains electrolytes that help with balance, muscle and nerve function as well as blood pressure.

What you might find surprising is that dog’s don’t actually need carbohydrates in their diet.

They get the majority of what they require from proteins and fats.

This doesn’t mean that all carbohydrates are bad, but it is something we want to limit the intake if possible.

Speaking of protein, this may be one of the most important parts of our dogs’ diets, with them requiring protein each and every day.

Protein contains amino acids that help our dogs grow and thrive.

It also helps them use the energy properly, and develop lean muscles.

Dogs that get too little protein in their diet can actually become overweight, because they aren’t able to convert the fat into energy.

Calcium, just like humans, helps out dogs with their bones, keeping them strong and helping bone growth in younger dogs.

Iron is also required for our dogs’ diets as it helps their red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body to different muscles.

Finally, potassium aids in the way our dogs’ hearts, nerves and muscles react to the electrical impulses from their brains.  

On the vitamin and mineral front, Vitamin A is used by our dogs to help maintain their eyesight, specifically their vision at night, it also helps them maintain healthy skin.

Vitamin B12 helps with maintaining their nervous system and promotes healthy brain functions.

Finally copper helps their bodies develop and maintain red blood cells and improves the absorption of iron from their food. 

How much beef liver is good for my dog?

Now we come to one of the most important questions, how much beef liver should you serve your dog? It is important to note that while beef liver does have some great nutritional value for our dogs, too much of a good thing can cause problems. While each dog is different based on the daily values needed by our dogs we can estimate how much would be good for them.

Larger dogs can safely eat about four ounces of beef liver a day, that’s about 114 grams, a little over the amount that we used for our nutritional examination. Smaller dogs may want to be limited to about 2 ounces a day, or about 57 grams. This strikes a good balance between getting the good nutritional value out of beef liver, without giving them too much of a good thing.

Another important point to note, four ounces (or two for smaller dogs) is likely not going to be enough for them to feel full throughout the day. Beef liver can be a great part of their daily diet, but we don’t want to make it the only thing they eat. We want to make sure that we balance it along with other foods that they will be eating throughout the day. 

A great point to remember is your dog’s protein requirements. On average, your dog requires about 1 gram of protein per healthy weight lb, per day. So if your dog is supposed to weigh 50lbs, we want to make sure they are getting as close to 50 grams of protein a day. This may cause us to increase or decrease the amount of certain foods that are high in protein in their diet, remember we don’t want to have too little protein, but we also don’t want to have too much.

How should I serve my dog beef liver? Cooked vs Raw  

But, what is the best way to introduce beef liver into our dogs’ diets? Well, healthy dogs are actually able to eat beef liver raw! Shocking, I know. One of the biggest concerns you might have about giving your dog raw beef liver is what about the bacteria found in it. The most common type of bacteria found in beef liver is campylobacter. In humans campylobacter can cause a multitude of problems, like irritable bowels, arthritis and even temporary paralysis. The good news is for our dogs, campylobacter is naturally found in their intestines, as it is for many other animals. This means that they are able to safely process this bacteria. It is important to note that if they should come into contact with high quantities of campylobacter, our dogs can still have a negative reaction. The good news when it comes to beef liver, is that the quantities found are well below anything that would give us reason to be concerned. 

Now it is important to note that if your dog is not used to eating raw foods they may go through a period of digestive adjective, with an upset belly as their body adapts to the raw food. Similar to introducing any other kind of food into your dog’s diet, it’s best to go slow and introduce it a little at a time.In

But, what if your dog isn’t one to eat raw food, is cooking it ok? Does that change the nutritional value? Cooking beef liver for your dogs is also one hundred percent acceptable, and will not have any real impact on the nutrition of the food. Now, it is important to note anything you may be adding to the food while cooking, for example butter. If you add butter to the pan when you are cooking beef liver, you are going to want to make sure you take into account its nutritional values, like its high fat content, when feeding it to your dog. 

Where do I even get beef liver?

Beef liver is one of those things that is always available, but you might never notice it. I did a quick search at my local grocery stores and local butcher, and found they all had plenty of fresh beef liver available, right next to the steaks I normally buy. Personally, I think that I would prefer to get it from the butcher, but that’s also where I prefer to get my steaks. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by the reasonable price of beef liver, and found it is something that I can easily fit into my budget. 

What about chicken liver?

Now, you might be asking yourself, why beef liver? What about chicken liver? Is that safe and good for my dog too? The short answer is yes, chicken liver is also safe for your dog, and it provides many of the same nutritional values as well. Now, it is important that everyone make the decision that is best for them and their furry friends, but based on my research I feel that beef liver gives you a little more bang for your buck than chicken liver. Beef liver has more protein, more fat, more calcium, etc than chicken liver. While it is not a marked difference, it is still something that should be noted and calculated when building your dog’s diet. 

Conclusion

Looking back over the facts and research that I have accumulated, I can say, honestly, that beef liver can be a great addition to our dogs’ diets. It is packed with a lot of nutritional values that can help our dogs lead happy and healthy lives. I know I will be headed down to my local butcher to purchase some beef liver for myself and my four legged children to try. 

Photo credits

¹ Photo by Ryuta Ishimoto on Flicker