The Greek physician Hippocrates is quoted as saying “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food”. Twenty-four hundred years ago, he was prescribing garlic as a treatment for some medical conditions. And modern science has now proven that garlic truly does have many health benefits. It contains numerous vitamins and minerals and used correctly as a supplement can help combat sickness, reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol and much more.
While garlic has been recognized as a beneficial herb for quite some time, how safe is it for consumption by dogs. Some may believe that garlic is harmful to dogs and would never feed it to their beloved furry friends. However, it is, in fact, safe and even beneficial in small doses.
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So why is it that so many believe that this herb is toxic? It’s time to separate fact from fiction.
Garlic: What It Is
Garlic has been used as a natural remedy for various symptoms for centuries. Because of the beneficial properties garlic continues to provide, this safe, holistic herb has made it to the forefront of both human and animal care.
Garlic is part of the Allium family which also includes onions, leeks, chives, and shallots. These all contain a compound called n-propyl disulfide as well as thiosulphate. When ingested in large amounts, oxidation can occur in red blood cells resulting in what is known as “Heinz bodies” which the body rejects from the bloodstream. If large amounts of garlic are ingested over a long period, it can cause anemia and even death. But does this mean that garlic isn’t safe for dogs?
History of Animals and Garlic
From the early 1900s, wild onions were fed to grazing animals (cattle, sheep, horses, etc.) and these animals showed toxicity symptoms. In the 1930s, testing showed that dogs who ate onions showed toxicity symptoms. In the 1980s, testing showed the same results as cats. Although onions and garlic are related, does this necessarily mean garlic produces the same toxicity symptoms?
Most of the scrutiny and negative attention surrounding dogs and garlic came when a research paper was released in 2000 by Hokkaido University. The conclusion reached by the study was, “Thus, foods containing garlic should not be fed to dogs. Eccentrocytosis appears to be a major diagnostic feature of garlic-induced hemolysis in dogs.”
But, too much of anything can turn toxic, even something like water! Overall, the procedure states, “Four dogs were given 1.25 ml of garlic extract/kg of body weight (5g of whole garlic/kg) intragastrically once a day for seven days.” For example, a dog weighing 40 pounds would have been given 20 cloves of garlic – a huge amount!
It’s important to put into perspective the large amount of garlic ingested for the purpose of testing. That amount of garlic would likely have a negative effect on anyone. But even with the large amounts of garlic ingested, not a single dog developed hemolytic anemia, and the conclusion was that using these amounts, garlic had the “potential” to cause hemolytic anemia.
Safe Garlic Doses For Dogs
This means an 85 lb. Labrador retriever would need to eat 152 cloves of garlic before it becomes toxic for them.
Let’s look at the daily recommended dosage as prescribed by Dr. Pitcairn from ‘The Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats’:
- 10 to 15 pounds: 1/2 clove
- 15 to 40 pounds: 1 clove
- 40 to 70 pounds: 2 cloves
- 70 to 90 pounds: 2 1/2 cloves
- 100 pounds +: 3 cloves
Remember that cloves can vary significantly in size ranging anywhere from 3-7 grams.
The daily recommended dosage is well below what was being administered in the Hokkaido University study in 2000. It’s also important to note that the level of those dangerous compounds found in garlic simply aren’t as high as they are in other members of the Allium family. In fact, thiosulphate is barely traceable in garlic and is easily excreted. “In the testing of onions and garlic on (the dog’s) blood cell oxidation, onions have about 15 times the ability of garlic to damage red blood cells,” states nutritionist Dr. Dave Summers.
Benefits of Garlic for Dogs
So, what exactly are all of the benefits of using garlic correctly as a supplement for your dog?
- Pest Repellant: Garlic won’t kill fleas or ticks, but the taste will deter them away from your dog.
- Improved Immune System: Garlic has helped many dogs with a suppressed immune system. It boosts blood cells that kill harmful microbes.
- Healthy Liver: Garlic has been shown to be a powerful detoxifier, helping the liver get rid of toxins from the body.
- Helps Fight Infections: Garlic has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties which makes it ideal for helping to fight viral, fungal, and bacterial infections. It can even fight off parasites.
- Cardiovascular Health: Garlic can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reduce fat build-up in the arteries and prevent blood clots.
Can All Dogs Have Garlic?
While a moderate amount of garlic is safe for most dogs, there are some exceptions for dogs that should NOT be given garlic.
Anemia: It’s advised that garlic should NOT be fed to pets that have had a pre-existing anemic condition, or if they are scheduled for surgery.
Lupus: Because garlic stimulates the immune system, people with lupus (an autoimmune disease) are advised to not consume garlic by the John Hopkins Lupus Center. While there are no specific reports directed towards dogs with lupus and consumption of garlic, it’s advised to dogs with the same precautions as humans. It is advised to refrain from giving garlic to dogs as this can stimulate the dog’s already over-active immune system.
Puppies: Because puppies do not begin reproducing new blood cells until around 6-8 weeks, puppies should not be given garlic within that time frame.
Garlic for Your Dog…Yes or No?
This mainly boils down to personal preference and research. There are many reputable sources on both sides of this argument. While there is little to be afraid of when it comes to a few cloves of garlic, consult your veterinarian if you’re considering adding garlic or other supplements to your dog’s diet. Your veterinarian can help determine correct doses, as well as other treatment and prevention plans. If adding garlic to your pup’s food doesn’t appeal to you, try a raw food diet from our store! They’re packed full of the stuff your dog needs to live his best life!