Is Garlic Good or Bad for Dogs
|March 15, 2013||Posted by Lani Varga under Good Living||
In terms of health and wellness, garlic has long been used for its medicinal properties and has been purported to offer countless health benefits in humans. Wouldn’t it make sense, then, to pass on those benefits such as lowering cholesterol, improving intestinal health, and lowering the risk of cancer to our dogs? Some veterinarians say “yes, absolutely!” while others claim that garlic is a potent toxin to dogs. Some claim, as we reported in last week’s post, that garlic can severely damage red blood cell function, but others claim it’s a great treatment for fleas and boosts intestinal function. Which story is the right one? The truth is, they both are. Today, we’ll take a look at both sides of the garlic debate including why some vets advise pet-owners to give garlic to dogs and why others caution us to stay away from the potent bulb.
The Dangerous Effects of Garlic
The true danger of garlic lies in a chemical called “thiosulphate,” which in extreme doses, can indeed cause a toxic reaction of a breakdown of red blood cells in dogs, up to and including fatal anemia. Thiosulphate is present in both garlic and onions, but the reason no controversy exists with regard to onions is the amount of the compound in these foods. Onions contain much more thiosulphate whereas garlic only contains a small amount. The key to remember here is “in extreme doses,” and frequency of garlic ingestion (depending on the size of your dog, an “an extreme dose”might mean an entire garlic bulb at one time) not necessarily moderate medicinal usage or normal ingestion as part of a healthy diet.
The main toxicity of garlic lies within the type of garlic in question, the size of your dog, whether your dog has any garlic allergies and/or sensitivities, and how much garlic s/he has ingested (both in the short-term and over time). Lorelei Whitney, of Natural Pet Healthcare, reports a study that found that raw capsule garlic powder causes severe mucosal damage in dogs, and that boiled garlic powder causes inflammation and reddening of the mucosa, but that aged garlic powder causes no damage at all. Naturally, small dogs tend to be more susceptible to the effects of garlic than larger dogs, dogs who are significantly allergic to garlic will have severe reactions no matter the dosage, and in very large or extreme doses, garlic will likely produce a toxic reaction in all dogs.
In Support of Garlic’s Health Benefits
The key to getting the safest use and best health benefit from garlic for your dogs is to focus specifically on dosage.Of course, we’re talking about garlic for healthy dogs, specifically. Young puppies and those dogs who have any type of anemic condition should not be fed garlic, but in the right dosages, otherwise healthy dogs can see a benefit. No matter which dosage is right for your dog, keep in mind that 3-4 days a week is sufficient for any herbal supplement and it’s always safest to skip a week once in a while. This will allow you to notice any unexpected or negative changes in your pet’s health due to the supplement, and some say it will even allow his/her body to use the supplement more effectively. With regard to how much garlic is right for your dog, many veterinarians recommend adding small doses of garlic to your dogs’ food, but they tend to differ as far as dosages. Natural Dog Health Remedies breaks it down quite nicely, including information from several different veterinarians. For instance, Dr. Martin Goldstein (The Nature of Animal Healing) recommends using garlic in homemade pet food recipes and more specifically, Gregory Tilford (All You Ever Wanted to Know About Herbs for Pets) recommends adding 1/8 tsp of garlic powder per pound of food as a supplement, not more than 3-4 times per week. Doctor Richard H. Pitcairn (The Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats) recommends fresh garlic rather than garlic powder, in dosages according to your dog’s weight:
- 10-15 lbs : ½ clove
- 20-40 lbs : 1 clove
- 45-70 lbs : 2 cloves
- 75-90 lbs : 2½ cloves
- 100+ lbs : 3 cloves
In the right dosages, garlic can be responsible for many important health benefits, many of which are similar to those we find for ourselves.
- Strengthened Immune System: Garlic stimulates immune cell function and can be especially beneficial to those dogs who have suppressed immune systems (such as those fighting cancers, etc). Healthy dogs can see strengthened immune function and disease-prevention through healthy garlic supplementation.
- Improved Liver Function: Just as it does in humans, garlic provides powerful detoxifying properties in dogs. Garlic boosts liver function by helping the organ to eliminate toxins from the body more efficiently.
- Reduced Risk of Infection: Garlic has long been touted as having powerful anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties. As a supplement, garlic can guard against infections in the digestive and respiratory systems (including mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines) and can even be effective in fighting some types of parasites. Additionally garlic acts as a powerful expectorant, helping your dog to expel irritants and potential infections from his lungs.
- Flea and Tick Control: The precise reason for garlic’s effectiveness in this area isn’t known quite yet, but many dog owners find that garlic supplementation helps with flea and tick control. It could be that the high sulfur content of the garlic is released through the dog’s skin, helping to repel the pests, while others claim that garlic adjusts the pH of the blood, making it undesirable to these animals. Regardless of the reason, trying garlic either as an internal supplement or as an external tonic does help some pet owners to keep the fleas and ticks off of their dogs.
As you can see, the jury is still out regarding whether or not garlic is totally safe and completely worth beginning as a supplement. If you’re curious, check with your trusted veterinarian before you head to the supermarket or vitamin store, and always remember to start slow, being especially vigilant with regard to your dog’s reactions to the garlic. Monitor any unusual changes so that you can report your findings to your vet and adjust your dog’s dosages to find the safest, most effective one for you both.
Sources: Natural Pet Healthcare; The Honest Kitchen; Natural Dog Health Remedies; Precious Pets; Barker & Barker; Raising Healthy Dogs