Is Liverwurst Good For Dogs?

Photo by cheeseslave on Flickr

If you’re looking to add more variety to your dog’s diet, then yes you can occasionally give him a bit of Liverwurst. 

The keyword here is occasionally, like adding a bit of chopped Liverwurst on top of his kibble. 

The main reason why Liverwurst should be fed sparingly to a dog is that this type of food has too much salt and has a high fat content. 

On the other hand, Liverwurst is an excellent source of iron and various vitamins, which a dog does need. 

Bottom line, Liverwurst makes for a nice snack, but offered in moderation, so the dog can enjoy the benefits, without suffering any side effects, such as salt poisoning. 

In this article we’ll be looking at the main ingredients in Liverwurst and also discuss similar foods like liver pate or Braunschweiger. And, no, they’re not the same thing as Liverwurst.

What is Liverwurst?

Liverwurst is a type of sausage made with pig or calves liver. This food originates in Germany and is very popular in many parts of Europe, but can also be found in North and South America. The term wurst means sausage in German, but Liverwurst isn’t your traditional type of sausage, as you don’t have to cook it. It can be served sliced, but the spreadable variant is much more popular.

If you want to feed liverwurst to your dog you can offer him a slice, but you can also cut it in little pieces and spread it over his regular food.

Calories

The question is should you feed this type of food to your dog? There are so many human foods that are not recommended for dogs and some of them are even toxic. Let’s have a look at the nutritional values.

First of all, 100 g of liverwurst provides 327 calories, which is quite high, especially for small breeds.

The good part is that a 100 g serving of liverwurst provides 15 g of protein, and almost no carbs (1%).

The not so good part is that liverwurst contains too many fats, especially saturated fats.

Fats

Fats are important, both for humans and dogs, as they help with vitamin absorption, and they are necessary for energy storage and body temperature regulation.

However, saturated fats have been linked with heart and circulatory system problems. If you want to keep your dog healthy, you should look for products rich in unsaturated fats.

As far as liverwurst is concerned, 100 g contains 9.3 g of saturated fats.

This accounts for 47% of the dietary needs of the average person with a 2,000 calorie diet.

For a small dog, a similar serving of liverwurst represents much more than the total amount of saturated fats he should be allowed per day.

Do keep in mind that according to experts, fats shouldn’t account for more than 10 or a maximum of 15% of a healthy dog’s diet.

Too many fats in his diet puts a dog at risk for heart disease, as well as pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas which can be lethal if left untreated.

Salt

According to the label, 100 g of liverwurst has 977 mg of salt, which represents 42% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for the average person.

Now, the average weight of an adult in the Western world is somewhere around 180 lbs, and 130 lbs in Africa or Asia.

If the salt in one serving of liverwurst is almost half of what an average human needs, how much is that for a 30 lbs dog?

You don’t need to do the math to see that it’s way above the amount of salt a dog needs. Experts say that a 30 lbs dog can safely consume around 100 mg per day.

That’s seven times less than the salt in one liverwurst serving.

It’s definitely not enough salt to kill your pet.

You don’t need to worry even if your dog happens to steal the liverwurst from the kitchen counter and wolf it down before you even realize what’s happening.

The worst that can happen is the dog getting an upset stomach. If it’s a one-time thing, nothing really bad will happen.

What you should worry about is your dog eating too much salt on a regular basis.

Vitamins and minerals

Liverwurst is an excellent source of iron for your dog.

One 100 g serving has 11.2 g of iron, or 62% RDA for humans, which is more than enough for a dog.

Iron deficiency can cause anemia and many pet owners actually wonder how to sneak more iron in their dog’s diet.

Iron is especially important for puppies and young dogs going through a rapid growth spurt. If your dog is in one of these categories you should offer him small amounts of liverwurst every now and then.

Liverwurst is also rich in vitamin B3, which plays an important part in protecting the nervous and digestive system.

It also provides more than 100% of the average person’s needs of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) which supports normal cell function and growth.

What ingredients are in Liverwurst?

Liverwurst is made primarily with liver, but it also contains offal meat and fats (lard).

In itself, liver is quite nutritious for dogs. It provides the same protein amount as meat, but packs less calories.

One thing you need to keep in mind is that liver is very rich in vitamin A, which is essential for a dog’s health, but in moderate amounts. Too much liver in a dog’s diet can lead to vitamin A toxicosis, which can lead to a form of arthritis in which new bone starts growing around the joints, causing stiffness and difficulty moving.

Liverwurst may also contain kidney or heart, which are both rather nutritious and full of vitamins and minerals

When you’re buying liverwurst, check the label carefully. There are many types of liverwurst, which have very little in common with the traditional recipe for this product. Instead, most of these products are filled with stabilisers, preservatives (mostly nitrites, which are not healthy at all) and they may also contain flavorings which are not recommended for dogs, particularly onion.

None of these ingredients are in a quantity large enough to be toxic to your dog. However, if your dog is regularly fed liverwurst these things add up and might cause long term health issues. This is the case for vitamin A which tends to be stored in the dog’s liver.

Is liver pate any better for your dog?

Liver pate is basically a variation of liverwurst. In Northern and Eastern Europe the terms are often used interchangeably. The main difference between the two products is that liver pate is usually spreadable, whereas liverwurst has a more pronounced sausage texture, and can easily be sliced.

As for the ingredients, they’re pretty much the same, so that won’t make much difference to your dog.

Liver pate might contain more spices than liverwurst, particularly onions. At the same time, liver pate made following traditional French recipes might also have egg in it, which is good for your dog.  

If the pate is made with a higher meat to liver ratio, the product might contain less fat, which would make it better for your dog. Also, liver pate has less calories than Liverwurst, so it would be a healthier alternative if your dog is prone to obesity. 100 g of liver pate packs 200 calories and provides 13 g of protein.

Just like Liverwurst, liver pate is a great source of various vitamins of the B group.

Why might Liverwurst be a great way to hide pills?

Liverwurst is a godsend for desperate pet parents who don’t know how to give their dog the pills it might need for whatever disease. Shoving the pills down his throat is not really an option and the best trick is to hide them in a tasty treat. Liverwurst is perfect for this job as it is soft enough to hide a pill inside. Spreadable versions are even better. You can coat the pill in liverwurst or liver pate for that matter and present it to your eager dog. It might be a bit sticky on your fingers, but that’s a price all dog lovers are happy to pay if they can give their pet the medicine he needs.

Liverwurst vs braunschweiger. What is the difference?

There’s a lot of confusion between these two products, which look quite similar, but are nevertheless different. The original Braunschweiger  takes its name from the German city of Braunschweig. The traditional recipe contains raw minced pork or beef organ meat (with at least 30% liver) spiced with garlic, salt, and pepper. The main difference between the two is that Braunschweiger is smoked, while Liverwurst is boiled. Depending on the recipe, Braunschweiger might contain various other spices, none of which can pose particular problems to your dog.

However, if you don’t have a German granny just dying to make Braunschweiger for the whole family, dog included, you’re probably going to buy it from the deli. In this case, you need to assume that the product might contain more salt than your dog actually needs, and other chemicals as well.

Are smoked meats better for dogs than spicy, heavily seasoned meats?

Dogs are supposed to eat meat, preferably raw if possible. Failing that, you should try to offer him boiled meat, preferably with little seasoning.

Few pet owners have time to cook for their dogs so they rely heavily on store-bought products.

Generally speaking, smoked meats might be a better choice as the manufacturing process requires less seasonings or preservatives. Yet, this depends on the manufacturing process, as some food producers rub the meats with salt and herbs to make them more appealing.

Whenever you buy a new product, read the label carefully and check out the ingredients, especially those that appear further down the list, as that’s where manufacturers hide the not-so-healthy-stuff, like nitrites.