Liver for dogs

Raw Liver For Dogs: All Your Questions Answered

I’ve been getting quite a few questions about raw liver for dogs, including:

  • What type of meat is liver?
  • What does 1 oz of liver look like?
  • What’s in liver?
  • How much raw liver do dogs need per day (adult dogs & puppies)?
  • How do I feed raw liver for dogs?
  • How much (chicken) liver do I feed my dog?
  • What types of liver can my dog eat?
  • Can I cook raw liver for dogs?
  • Raw liver alternative
  • What if my dog doesn’t want to eat raw liver?
  • How long can I refrigerate and freeze raw liver?
  • Can I re-freeze raw liver for dogs?
  • What happens when my dog eats too much liver?
  • Where do I buy raw liver for dogs?
  • Can I feed my dog raw venison liver from wild deer?

So today, I’m combining them all into one blog post – if you have any additional questions, please leave them below this blog post in the comment section.

For anyone who’s new to the blog: Hi, I’m your host Barbara! I’m a raw dog food nerd and have been feeding my 3 pups homemade raw dog food as well as store-bought raw dog food since 2015.

Liver for Dogs: All Your Questions Answered

Raw liver for dogs - All your questions answered

Disclaimer: This blog post was originally published in 2021 and has been updated in 2023. It contains affiliate links I may earn compensation through at no additional cost to you. 

What Type Of Meat Is Liver?

You probably know that liver is an organ. However, it’s not JUST an organ, but in raw feeding circles, it’s known as a secreting organ.

All organs that secrete a substance fall into that category. Others are:

  • Pancreas
  • Kidneys
  • Testicles & ovaries
  • Brains
  • Eyes
  • Spleen
  • Thymus

What Does 1 Oz Of Liver Look Like?

Someone recently asked me what 1 oz of liver looks like, so here’s the answer in picture form!

Just FYI, it’s beef liver.

Also, I’m a female and 5’7″ so you can gauge the size of my palm.

How Much Raw Liver Do Dogs Need Per Day?

Adult dogs need to eat 10% of secreting organs per day.

Since half of that needs to be liver, dogs need 5% of liver in their daily allowance of raw dog food.

The other 5% need to be covered by a different secreting organ like the ones I mentioned above.

It’s best to rotate between them! For example, feed liver and kidneys one week, liver and spleen the next, liver and pancreas the one after that, etc.

-> Puppies need to eat 14% of secreting organs per day, 7% of which needs to be liver.

How to Do The Liver Math

So how much liver does Y O U R dog need to eat in ounces per day?

Here’s how to do that math:

Take your dog’s target body weight and divide it by 100. Then multiply it with 2.5.

-> Why 2.5?

Well, 2.5% is a maintenance percentage that keeps your dog at their current weight.

Pregnant dogs and working dogs who use significantly more energy need to be fed at a higher maintenance percentage, up to 4%.

But the average adult dog will be fine with 2.5%, maybe 3%.

If you feel like your dog’s a bit too chunky, redo the math with a maintenance percentage of 2.

This formula will give you your dog’s daily food allowance in pounds. Of that, 5% needs to be liver.

Let’s calculate that amount for a 60lb dog:

60(body weight)/100 = 0.6×2.5(feeding percentage)=1.5lb.

That’s 24oz (1lb=16oz).

Now, 5% of those 24oz is the amount of liver your adult dog needs to eat per day.

That’s 1.2oz of liver per day for a 60lb adult dog.

If your dog eats two meals per day and you want to meal prep ahead of time, you’ll need to add half of that, 0.6oz, to each food storage container.

How Much Raw Liver Can I Feed My Dog: Table With Values In Oz Per Day & Per Week

For your convenience, I provided the amount of raw liver your adult dog needs to eat in oz per day as well as per week.

Enjoy and feel free to use it as guidance for raw dog food meal prep!

How much raw liver can a dog eat cheat sheet for moderately active adult dogs

Tip: For more pre-calculated cheat sheets and worksheets that also help you determine the amount of bone to feed, check out my ebook Understanding the Math in BARF & PMR Raw Feeding!

Understanding the math in BARF and PMR raw feeding

What’s in Liver?

Liver is one of Mother Nature’s multivitamins and rich in nutrients, particularly in Vitamin A.

Vitamin A is a powerful anti-oxidant that supports your dog’s digestion and reproductive organs.

However, it’s important to understand that the amount of Vitamin A in raw liver varies depending on the animal it’s from.

So when you’re comparing the Vitamin A values of 100 grams = 3 oz in raw liver from beef, chicken, turkey, goose, duck and lamb, lamb has the most Vitamin A with 15434 mcg (micrograms).

Followed by duck, goose, turkey, beef and chicken.

Comparing Vitamin A levels in raw liver from beef, chicken, turkey, goose, duck and lamb for raw dog food

You can also see the difference in the amount of other Vitamins and minerals present in raw liver from different animals.

Comparing Vitamin levels in  100 g = 3 oz of raw liver from different animals

As far as minerals are concerned, raw lamb liver is richest in Copper, while goose and duck are richest in Iron.

Beef is richest in Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc, while turkey and goose are richest in Magnesium and Selenium.

Comparing the amount of minerals in raw liver from beef, chicken, turkey, duck, goose and lamb

This goes to show how important it is to rotate the cuts of raw meat you feed your pups as different cuts of meat from different animals have different nutrient profiles!

That’s why if you rotate regularly, you won’t have to worry about nutrient holes in your dog’s nutrition.

By the way, when I became raw dog food nutrition certified by Dogs Naturally Magazine, I learned that wolves eat the organs of their prey first, because they instinctively know how nutrient-rich they are.

Interesting, huh?!

Good to know: Organs that don’t secrete a substance like lung and heart are considered muscle meat in raw feeding.

You can feed about 15-20% of these cuts on a daily basis as part of the muscle meat allowance.

What Types Of Raw Liver Can Dogs Eat?

Dogs can eat liver from a large variety of animals, for example:

  • Chicken
  • Beef/Bison
  • Elk
  • Turkey
  • Duck
  • Rabbit
  • Lamb
  • Pork
  • Goat
  • Ostrich
  • Deer

As a matter of fact, I strongly recommend that you switch between as many different animals as you can source and that your pup does OK with.

Raw Liver For Dogs: All Your Questions Answered
Beef liver for dogs from Raw Paws Pet Food.
Raw Liver For Dogs: All Your Questions Answered
Goat liver for dogs from Raw Feeding Miami.

That’s because different animals have varying levels of nutrients.

Chicken liver, for example, is not nearly as nutritious as liver from other animals.

Raw Liver For Dogs: All Your Questions Answered
Cuts of raw venison I feed my dog, including venison liver

If your dog has severe food sensitivities to a variety of protein sources, you’ll have to stick to the animal your pup does fine with.

This will most likely be rabbit because it’s considered to be a hypoallergenic type of meat.

However, you’ll have to provide an alternative source of the nutrients your pup is missing out on.

You can easily do this with dehydrated veggie & herb or nut mixes from brands like Dr. Harvey’s or The Honest Kitchen.

K9sOverCoffee.com | I add Dr. Harvey's Paradigm to my raw dog food, including raw liver for dogs
Dr. Harvey’s Paradigm turns a limited-ingredient raw meal into balanced dog food.
The Honest Kitchen Base Mix
The Honest Kitchen’s grain-free Base Mix can be mixed with limited-ingredient raw dog food.

Can I Feed My Dog Raw Venison Liver From Wild Deer?

Yes, you can.

I personally do that quite frequently because my boyfriend hunts.

However, there are certain safety precautions to be aware of. For example, freezing the raw venison liver for 3 weeks to get rid of potential parasites.

The deer liver featured in the picture below is from a buck my boyfriend shot. I rinsed it and then froze it for 3 weeks in Wally’s raw dog food freezer.

Just out of curiosity, I also weighed it. It weighed in at almost 16 oz = 1 lb!

You can read more about safely feeding your dog wild venison here.

Deer liver for raw dog food

Liver for Dogs Raw or Cooked?

Ideally, you want to feed the liver RAW.

That said, you can either make your own homemade raw dog food or buy pre-made raw dog food from trusted brands.

For example, Raw Paws Pet Food, Darwin’s or Raw Feeding Miami.

Liver for dogs raw or cooked

I personally alternate between both options. Whenever I can get a good deal on pre-made raw meals, I buy some!

Likewise, when I find discounted individual cuts of raw meat, I buy them as well!

That’s a great way of keeping your raw dog food on budget, but it obviously requires a freezer.

Pre-Made Raw Dog Food With Liver

I’m not aware of any reputable raw dog food brands that wouldn’t include raw liver in their formulas, so you can’t go terribly wrong here. Again, that’s because raw liver is an essential part of raw feeding!

You can find pre-made raw dog food meals from Raw Paws Pet Food here. They’re called “Signature Blends” (their green tripe blends are not complete foods, but can also be found in that section).

Save 15% off anything from Raw Paws Pet Food with code K9Savings:

Raw Feeding Miami calls their pre-made raw meals “grinds”.

Darwin’s offers an overview of their pre-made raw dog food here.

Homemade Raw Dog Food With Liver

Simply cut the liver up into smaller pieces and then use them come raw dog food meal prep time.

If you’re not squeamish, you can even tear liver into smaller pieces with your hands, that’s how soft it is.

However, some dogs are fussy with secreting organs and will take some time getting used to eating them. That’s particularly true for smaller dogs.

What you can do in the meantime is chop it up or purée it with a food processor, then mix it in with the rest of the raw dog food you’re feeding.

Which brings me to the next question!

Can I Cook Raw Liver For My Dog?

Yes, you can.

Cooking liver for dogs is another alternative for getting them to warm up to this secreting organ, pun intended.

Lightly cooking calf liver for Missy's dog cancer diet
Cooking calf liver for dogs

Dogs whose immune systems are compromised because of cancer or other illnesses sometimes do better with cooked food as opposed to raw food.

But it really depends on the dog – some continue to do fine with raw meat, and others don’t.

Side note: I do not cook or recommend that anyone cook raw bones. That’s because the cooking process turns them brittle and sharp.

When they’re raw, they’re super soft and pliable.

Alternative: Liver Dog Treats

If you’re not crazy about handling raw liver, you can also treat your pup with store-bought freeze-dried liver dog treats.

Make sure that they’re single-ingredient treats made with just liver!

The ones listed below are from Raw Paws Pet Food – you can save 15% on them with my affiliate discount code K9Savings (works on their raw dog food, too):

Other liver dog treats I recommend are the following:

Of course you can also make your own dehydrated liver dog treats!

All you need for that is a food dehydrator, raw liver and some patience as a batch of dehydrated liver dog treats takes around 24 hours.

Dehydrating a batch of raw chicken liver for dogs
Dehydrating raw chicken liver

Check out my blog post Spoil Your Dog With Homemade Dehydrated Dog Treats to see what else made it into that particular batch besides liver!

What you'll need to make these dehydrated dog treats
I made a batch of dehydrated dog treats consisting of beef liver and…can you guess?!
Dehydrated liver dog treat
Dehydrated beef liver dog treat

Liver For Dogs: Where Can I Buy Raw Liver?

It’s fairly easy to source raw liver locally, either in grocery stores or from local farms.

Tip: Try to buy liver from pastured animals whenever possible as they’re much richer in nutrients compared to conventionally raised animals.

Another option are hunters and wildlife processors as well as raw dog food retailers such as Raw Paws Pet Food and Raw Feeding Miami (by far my two favorite ones).

Grocery stores + Walmart

Most grocery stores carry chicken and calf or beef liver, and that includes Walmart.

Thawing raw calf liver from the grocery store
Thawing raw calf liver from the grocery store

Raw Paws Pet Food

You can also get raw beef liver and chicken liver from Raw Paws Pet Food.

Tip: Use my discount code K9Savings for 15% off all things liver from Raw Paws Pet Food:

Local Butcher Shops

You can usually find beef liver and pork liver at butcher shops. Just pop into your local butcher’s and see what’s available.

Again, try to stick with livers from pastured animals!

Beef liver and pork liver at the butcher's
Beef liver and pork liver at the butcher’s

Hunters + Wildlife Processors

You can get your hands on deer liver from hunters or wildlife processors, but do make sure that you freeze it for 3 weeks before feeding it.

As I already mentioned before, that ensures that it’s free of parasites.

Local Farms (e.g. Ostrich Farms)

Since ostrich farms are starting to become more of a thing here in the US, chances are there’s one not too far away from you. Most sell ostrich liver and ostrich heart, as well as some ground version of ostrich meat.

I found one super close to me here in Central NC who sell their ostrich meat at a local Farmer’s Market.

Raw Liver For Dogs: All Your Questions Answered
Picking up ostrich meat including ostrich liver at a Farmer’s Market

Raw Feeding Miami

It gets a lot more tricky to find raw liver from other animals like rabbit and goat locally unless there’s a specific farm nearby, which is why I personally get mine from Raw Feeding Miami.

They’re an online raw dog food supplier who offers a huge variety of different cuts of meat, including other secreting organs besides liver, from just as many different animals.

Goat liver, beef eyeballs and kangaroo chunks, anyone?!

Tip: Save 10% on your RFM orders with my referral link.

What If My Dog Doesn’t Want To Eat Liver?

Well, may I suggest you use some tough love!

Liver is essential to raw feeding and ideally shouldn’t be substituted by other foods.

However sometimes, this is necessary, for example when feeding Dalmatians raw dog food.

But that’s a different story, and if you’re interested in finding out more about that, please click here.

But back to the tough love.

The good thing about feeding liver is that your pup doesn’t require a whole lot of it.

For example, a 10 lb adult dog only needs 0.2 oz of liver per day, and even a 50 lb adult dog only needs 1 daily oz of liver!

Keeping that in mind, the easiest way of hiding liver is to purée or chop it, and then mix it in with the other cuts of meat you feed your dog.

Try mixing it with some green tripe – that should do the trick because green tripe is stinky, irresistible and super nutritious to dogs!

Tip: Use my affiliate discount code K9Savings for 15% off all things green tripe from Raw Paws Pet Food:

If you want to take it up a notch, stuff a beef trachea or lamb trachea with the green tripe/liver mix.

How Long Can I Refrigerate And Freeze Liver For Dogs?

You can keep thawed liver in the fridge for up to 4 days.

In the freezer, it lasts up to a full year, probably even a little longer.

The longest I personally have kept liver in my chest freezer is around 9 months.

Can I Refreeze Thawed Liver?

Yes, you can.

I’ve done this many times since I usually have some liver left over after raw dog food meal prep.

Liver For Dogs: What Happens When My Dog Eats Too Much Liver?

When your pup gets too much liver, he’s going to have loose bowels.

If he truly ate a ginormous meal of liver, chances are he’ll come down with Vitamin A toxicity since liver is very rich in Vitamin A.

Symptoms of Vitamin A toxicity are:

  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Tremors
  • Paralysis, and
  • Ultimately death.

That’s why you don’t want to overfeed liver!

Also be mindful of how many dehydrated or dried liver treats you hand out.

Liver For Dogs: Bottom Line

Liver for dogs is one of the essential secreting organs in raw feeding.

You don’t need a lot for your pup, but that doesn’t mean that you can overlook it, at least not on a regular basis.

And certainly not when you’re feeding your puppies raw dog food (up to 12 months of age)!

K9sOverCoffee.com | Liver for Dogs: Your Questions Answered

It’s important to know how much liver you can give your dog on a daily basis. The exact amount will depend on your pup’s (target) weight.

They’ll only need 5% of liver of their daily raw dog food allowance.

Feeding too much liver can cause diarrhea “at best” and Vitamin A toxicity at worst.

Raw Dog Food Game Changers

BEST DIY RAW DOG FOOD HELP

Get 20% off my Raw Dog Food Math & Meal Prep Bundle! Includes pre-calculated raw feeding charts, puppy and adult dog worksheets (BARF & PMR values), meal prep tips, and 2 simple recipes.

BEST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK RAW DOG FOOD

Save 15% on anything at Raw Paws Pet Food with code K9Savings. They’re located in Indiana and ship nationwide within the US.

BEST VARIETY FOR INDIVIDUAL CUTS OF RAW MEAT

Save 10% on your first order of anything at Raw Feeding Miami with this referral link.

BEST SLOW FEEDER FOR RAW FED DOGS

Mighty Paw’s Slow Feed Insert combined with Yeti’s Boomer 4 Dog Bowl. Both are top rack dishwasher safe.

BEST FOUNDATION FOR BALANCED DIY RAW MEALS

Dr. Harvey’s Paradigm Base Mix. It’s low-carb which is particularly great for dogs on a keto diet and those with health issues like diabetes and cancer.

(Visited 20,466 times, 2 visits today)

Barbara launched her blog K9sOverCoffee in 2014 and has been feeding her dogs raw dog food since 2015. As a former professional dog walker, she’s passionate about balancing species-appropriate exercise with healthy dog nutrition. Barbara is raw dog food nutrition certified from “Dogs Naturally Magazine” and the author of several e-books about minimally processed, balanced raw dog food.


Posted

in

,

by

Tags:

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *