The answer is yes! Find out why garlic has received such a bad rap, and how it can actually benefit your pet’s health.
Garlic has long been regarded as a beneficial herb. Yet many people believe it’s harmful to dogs and should never be fed. The truth is, it is safe and even beneficial in small doses. So why do so many think it’s toxic?
Some background on garlic
For centuries, garlic has been used as a primary remedy for a large number of symptoms. And as long as people have been using it, they have also been feeding it to their animal companions. Some animals even enjoy foraging for it, as my dog, Lady, loved to do.
Garlic’s properties have proven far-reaching, easily assimilated, and safe. In the past 80 years, during holistic medicine’s rebirth in the United States, it has been in the forefront of both human care and animal husbandry.
Every textbook I have researched on herbal medicine that also mentions pet care recommends garlic, especially for its incredible anti-parasitic, anti-carcinogenic and antiseptic properties. In my own experience, it has also benefited animals with valley fever (Coccidioidomycosis), heartworm/fleas/ticks, IBS, diabetes, liver, heart and kidney disease, allergies, uncontrollable staph infections (that are non-responsive to all antibiotic protocols), and a host of other conditions. Garlic is also a staple in my preventative protocols.
Separating fact from fiction
For the last few decades, however, garlic has been regarded as toxic to dogs. This is primarily because it’s a “kissing cousin” of the onion, which definitely is toxic to dogs. Onions trigger Heinz body hemolytic anemia. This is because they have a high concentration of thiosulphate. Garlic, on the other hand, simply does not contain the same thiosulphate concentration as onions do. In fact, the thiosulphate in it is barely traceable and readily excreted. “Onions have about 15 times the ability of garlic to damage red blood cells,” says nutritionist Dr. Dave Summers on IndigoPetz.com.
Almost all the “evidence” against garlic for dogs comes from a 2000 study at Hokkaido University. Four dogs were each fed 1.25 ml of garlic extract each per kilogram of body weight for seven days straight. Although none of the dogs showed any outward toxicity symptoms, and none developed anemia, there was an effect on their red blood cells, leading the researchers to state that foods containing it should not be given to dogs. However, a subsequent study showed that allicin is beneficial to the health of mammals. This encouraged the scientists to reverse their earlier 2000 recommendations against garlic for dogs and actually recommend it to promote immune function and prevent cardiovascular diseases.
It’s important to note that there can be multiple causes for Heinz body hemolytic anemia. Veterinarian Dr. Wendy Wallner says that conventional medications such as acetaminophen and benzocaine-containing topical preparations can cause this disease in dogs. The latter preparations probably account for many cases of Heinz body hemolytic anemia, since ingredients in creams are absorbed through the skin, allowing toxins to build up in the bloodstream.
Using garlic and choosing a product
As with any supplement, talk to your integrative or holistic veterinarian before giving it to your dog or cat, and be sure to choose a quality product.
- “Deodorized” garlic lacks active allicin (enzymatic actions are noticeably stinky).
- Tableted supplements weaken digestive processes with potentially toxic binders (brewer’s yeast, flavoring).
- Glycerol-suspended garlic products, although tasty, form a moisture barrier inhibiting mucous membrane and cellular assimilation.
- Avoid companies that source garlic extract from China; it is often contaminated with high levels of arsenic, lead and added sulfites.
- Cold pressing garlic maximizes the benefits – for example, Azmira’s Garlic Daily Aid provides 1,000 mg of cold pressed garlic plus 500 mg of parsley oil in individual gelcaps, which also protect against oxygen exposure.
Safe raw garlic dosages for dogs
Many veterinary practitioners and authors follow the dosage recommendations in Juliette de Bairacli Levy’s book, The Complete Herbal Book for the Dog. She recommends the following raw garlic dosages according to the dog’s weight:
- 10 to 15 pounds – ½ clove
- 20 to 40 pounds — 1 clove
- 45 to 70 pounds — 2 cloves
- 75 to 90 pounds – 2½ cloves
- 100 pounds and over — 3 cloves
A 2008 report published by the National Research Council, meanwhile, is more conservative in its dosage information. While the committee that prepared the report was unable to determine the safe upper limit of garlic intake for dogs and cats, it used “available research to recommend a range of acceptable intakes according to historical safe intakes (HSI) and estimated presumed safe intakes (PSI)”.
For example, based on a clove weighing 3 g, the PSI for:
- A 50 lb dog is 1.2 g or .045 ounces/day, equivalent to approximately ½ clove per day
Remember that cloves vary greatly in size, ranging from 3 g to 7 g. As with any herbs, I believe it is always a good idea to take a week off from garlic every couple of months.
So if you want to garnish your dog’s dinner with a bit of garlic, go ahead. Again, talk to a vet before supplementing with garlic, but don’t be afraid of these healthful little cloves!