Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Is it safe to give garlic to dogs?

Medical science says garlic is poisonous to dogs, but are they referring to the same garlic remedy that’s been used in treating dogs by holistic vets for decades? In ancient India's Sanskrit records its medicinal use dates back to about 5,000 years ago, and it has been used for at least 3,000 years in Chinese medicine. The Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, and Babylonians, were known to have harnessed the healing properties of garlic as well.

How can an herb with so much medicinal history suddenly develop such a bad reputation?

Despite its healing qualities, Garlic contains a compound named thiosulphate. In extremely high levels thiosulphate can be a dangerous toxin that can cause hemolytic anemia in dogs. In the research studies the animals were given large concentrations of the isolated substance to produce the effect. This is not a reference to normal ingestion or moderate dosing.

In yet another scientific study the effects of garlic products, including dehydrated raw garlic powder, dehydrated boiled garlic powder and aged garlic extract, on the gastric mucosa of dogs were determined using three commonly sold preparations, raw capsule garlic powder caused severe mucosal damage, including erosion. Boiled garlic powder also caused inflammation and reddening of the mucosa, whereas aged garlic powder did not cause any undesirable effects. Among the garlic preparations, Aged Garlic Extract could be the most suitable form, particularly for long-term use. Aging in particular may be the most effective method to eliminate the toxic effects of raw garlic. The safety of enteric-coated garlic products was also studied. Direct administration of pulverized enteric-coated products on the gastric mucosa caused reddening of the mucosa in test animals (dogs). When an enteric-coated tablet was administered orally, it caused loss of epithelial cells at the top of crypts in the ileum in the intestinal tract. Enteric-coated garlic products by pass the stomach and deliver garlic directly into the intestine, which is not a traditional route for garlic intake in any species!

When used in moderation, garlic can be a healthy supplement. Garlic has been used to stimulate and support immune function, trigger gastric juices for better digestion, encourage the growth of friendly bacteria, and prevent infections. Garlic reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer as well as improves blood sugar regulation and promotes detoxification.

Historic use of garlic as a condiment and herb has always been via oral ingestion and not via direct delivery into the stomach or intestines, in the form of a concentrated, standardized surprise! The safety of such delivery systems for garlic is unknown not to mention totally unnatural!

For centuries, garlic has been a primary remedy relied upon in a majority of cases. For as long as people have been using garlic, they have also been feeding it to their animal companions. Empirically, its medicinal properties have been relied upon, along with its safety of use.

In the United States for the last 50 years, garlic has remained in the forefront of holistic medicine. Every text written by the founding fathers of holistic veterinary medicine recommended it, and revere its incredible anti-parasitic and anti-bacterial properties. Research shows, garlic has also benefited animals with cancer, diabetes, liver, heart and kidney disease, skin/staph infections, ear infections and a myriad of other conditions. It has grown to be a staple in preventative protocols for pets. For years it has been safely used by thousands of companion animal owners with no reports of negative side-effects - up until now. All of a sudden; garlic is an offending "suspect," without being proven the offender. The majority of people are allowing mass hysteria to determine a holistic care program for their dog.

There are over 51,000 sites on the web devoted to warnings about the "toxicity" of garlic, even though there is little scientific data to back the claim other than the fact that thiosulphate is found in garlic. Yet, there are also upward of 4000,000 internet sites, many of which are reputable holistic veterinarians who have widely used garlic in their practice for many years! In regard to this miracle herb and its hundreds of years of "proven use" I would recommend common sense in its use.

How To Safely Give Garlic To Dogs

If your dog is healthy and has no history of anemia and your planning to give your dog garlic in its natural raw garlic (I prefer this method) the dose is 1/2 to 1 small minced/pressed clove daily, mixed into a meal and given on a schedule of 5 days on and 2 days off (this gives the body a chance to clear and work on its own). Remember always introduce anything new slowly and work up to the desired amount. This gives you the chance to monitor the animal's reaction to the substance and allows the animal's body to gently adjust.

Contraindications of Use

Do Not Give Garlic to a dog who has a blood disorder or anemia. Garlic can thin the blood so dogs who are scheduled for surgery should not be given garlic for 2 weeks before or 2 weeks after the procedure. Do Not Give Garlic to puppies.  The young don't start to reproduce new blood cells until after 6-8 weeks of age, so they should not be fed garlic.

However, there are some individual reports of dogs experiencing toxic effects at much lower doses, so while the risks are low for the home supplement level of exposure, they will never be zero since some individuals might respond differently than most others.

Overall, I don’t think it’s a big concern when garlic is used sparingly as part of the diet as a food supplement.

Ironically, garlic is approved as a flavoring, spice or seasoning for use in pet food, yet the FDA has listed garlic in its poisonous plant database. That’s because a study suggested that when garlic 'extract' is fed in excessive quantities equaling (5 grams of whole garlic per kilogram of the dog’s body weight), it has the potential to cause damage to the red blood cells of dogs (hemolytic anemia).

Considering the data presented in this study, the average 75 pound dog would need to eat five full heads of garlic or about 75 cloves of garlic in each meal before there would be any adverse effect on the red blood cells! Similarly, a dog weighing a mere 10 lbs would need to eat 25 grams of garlic – about half an entire head of garlic, or about 6 to 8 garlic cloves in every meal to experience any adverse effects. However, no dog in this test study actually developed hemolytic anemia.


Pet Remedy Charts are tools that help you easily learn to use safe herbs, homeopathy, flower remedies and acupressure for dogs, cats, horses and birds. Developed by Lorelei Whitney, M.H., D.Hom. to enable anyone to treat their pets at home. To find out more about natural healing strategies for pets go here: