Can I feed raw liver to my Havanese?
Well, it turns out that raw, grass-fed liver may very well be one of the most nutrient dense super-foods available for K-9 consumption.
Liver contains lots of extremely high quality protein as well as a plethora of nutrients including large amounts of vitamin A. It also contains vitamins C, D, E, K, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, that hard-to-find B12, biotin, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and is a tremendous source of iron as well as zink, selenium, and manganese. If consumed raw the liver also has active digestive enzymes which aid in food digestion and absorption.
These nutrients are important for almost all functions in the dog’s body including maintaining a strong immune system and proper brain and heart function. Havanese Dog breeders may consider liver as a supplement for its positive effects on the K-9 reproductive system and blood hemoglobin.
So what about the Havanese? Isn’t it a domesticated dog that requires kibble or canned food? Won’t raw meat mess digestion up?
My experience with Havanese has answered that question with both a yes and no. The Havanese is a domesticated dog that can have a sensitive stomach. Table scraps and unfamiliar foods can be dangerous causing vomiting and diarrhea leading to dehydration and sometimes aspiration. I have personally known Havanese that have died from eating too much of the wrong thing from the table.
That being said, Havanese are still dogs just like wolves, foxes, and coyotes and are capable of eating raw foods as well. The domesticated Havanese has developed a micro-ecology (friendly micro-organisms that aid in digestion) in the gut that is used to digesting kibble or other processed canned foods. When introducing too much of a new food in too short a period of time it effectively “shocks” the dogs digestive system with substances that the gut is not used to digesting and the dog’s body rejects the food resulting in vomiting and diarrhea.
When introducing raw, cooked, or dehydrated liver to your Havanese it is wise to start very slowly with a very small chunk about the size of a dime. If your dog does well then very slowly increase the portion over a period of a few weeks to the desired amount. Make sure to monitor for any vomiting or loose stools. If you encounter any, take a break for a day or two and try again later after the dog’s system has normalized. Going slow allows the dog’s gut micro-organisms time to evolve and adapt to digesting the new food.
What kind of liver should I get and where do I get it?
Something to take into account when feeding raw foods of any kind to your dog is the source and the quality. Beef liver that is from a cow fed with genetically modified corn and soy and kept in confinement housing will have a very different nutritional profile than one that is grass-fed with plenty of room to roam.
Whenever possible we try to purchase our organ meats from local farmers who raise grass-fed cows or sheep. Pastured chicken livers are also an excellent choice. Not only is grass-fed liver much more nutritious, it also has considerably fewer toxins, and is usually much cleaner, not having the high levels of harmful bacteria that have been associated with raw meat scares.
If raw liver makes you a bit squeamish then cooked or dehydrated liver is a close second-best. You will still want to check your source on all products to make sure it is from grass-fed or pastured animals.
How much liver should I feed to my Havanese?
The general consensus is that liver can comprise up to 5% of the dog’s diet. I give a few small chunks a day to each of my dogs. Because liver is so high in vitamin A there is some concern that dogs may get too much. The fear is that over a period of time, too much accumulating vitamin A may result in vitamin A toxicity. Sticking to the 5% rule should eliminate this concern.