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The Shocking Truth About Dogs and Garlic

Amy Tokic, February 23, 2019

How do you feel about Dogs and Garlic? Many experts believe that it’s good for your dog’s health.

There is a lot of controversy surrounding dogs and garlic on the Internet. Many sources believe that garlic is toxic to dogs and it should never be used in dog food. But garlic has been used for centuries as a medicinal aid by humans – is it true that it’s bad canines? The answer may not seem all that cut and dry, but it’s becoming a lot clearer. This is thanks to the research efforts of experts that say that garlic is actually good for dogs. Of course, you can’t just let your dog chew on a clove of garlic. It’s all about the amount you give your dog. Read on to learn more about dogs and garlic, and how to make it a part of your pup’s healthy diet.

Garlic has been used for centuries as a medicinal aid by humans – is it true that its bad for canines?

Garlic: A Family Tree

Garlic comes from the Allium family, and counts onions, leeks, chives, and shallots as relatives. Onions, and to a much lesser degree garlic, contains a compound called n-propyldisulfide, as well as small amounts of thiosulphate. When taken in large amounts, oxidative damage can occur in the red blood cells. The effect creates Heinz bodies and the body will reject these cells from the bloodstream. After ingesting large amounts over a long period of time, it can lead to anemia and even death. Does this mean that garlic is unsafe for dogs? That’s where the debate gets heated.

History of Dogs and Garlic

It all started over 100 years ago, when wild onions (in the same family of garlic) were fed to cattle, sheep, and horses and these animals showed toxicity symptoms. In the 1930s, studies showed that dogs that ate onions showed toxicity symptoms. Fast forward to the 1980s: cats that ate onions exhibited the same toxicity symptoms as dogs did. It’s important to note that cats are six to eight times more sensitive to onion than dogs.

Garlic got a bad rap in 2000, when a research paper was published that was based on garlic’s effect on dogs. Even though the dogs tested didn’t show any outward appearance of toxicity symptoms, there was an effect on the red blood cells. The researchers stated: “we believe that foods containing garlic should be avoided for use in dogs.”

Let’s take a closer look into the study itself, not just one quote. This study, which was undertaken at Hokkaido University, was conducted on four dogs, each one given 1.25 ml of garlic extract per kg of body weight for seven straight days. As an example, if the dog weighed 40 pounds, it would be given about 20 cloves of garlic – a staggering amount! Calculate how much garlic you’d be eating using that formula – it’s enough to make anyone ill. Using this amount of garlic, the study concluded that garlic had the “potential” to cause hemolytic anemia (damage to the red blood cells), and so garlic should not be fed to dogs. It’s important to note that even at these highly elevated doses, no dogs on the study developed hemolytic anemia. On top of that, the study included four dogs, so how do you consider this an appropriate sample? At the very least, it goes to the importance of looking at all the facts of any given study.

Related: Flea Repellent Dog Treat Recipe

It’s All About Dosage

Too much of anything is bad for you. Even minerals that you assume make you and your dog healthy can be detrimental in large daily amounts. Things such as salt, vitamin D, or Zinc are all good for you… as long as you’re not overdoing it. The same goes with garlic and dogs. At some level, these things all have the potential to be toxic.

Here’s a guide on the garlic levels safe for dogs per day, based on a dog’s weight (1/2 clove per ten pounds of body weight):

Fresh Garlic (from The Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats by Dr. Pitcairn)

10 to 15 pounds: .5 clove

20 to 40 pounds: 1 clove

45 to 70 pounds: 2 cloves

75 to 90 pounds: 2.5 cloves

100 pounds +: 3 cloves

Many people choose to stop at the 2 clove mark, even if their dogs were large (75 pounds+). I believe in going with a smaller dose myself and choose fresh over powder or jarred when possible. Also, I rotate my garlic cycle – 1 week on, 1 week off. Some pet parents only use it seasonally, while others feed it every day.

If your dog has a pre-existing anemic condition or is set to go into surgery, don’t give him any garlic. As well, puppies from six to eight weeks of age don’t start to reproduce new blood cells until after 6-8 weeks, so they should not be fed any garlic.

Benefits Of Feeding Your Dog Garlic

The reason why garlic is added to dog food and treats is because it has many health benefits. Even if you’re not sure about dogs and garlic, and decide to start with a low amount, your dog will still reap the health rewards. Its main claim to fame is the benefit it has on a dog’s digestive tract. But there are lots of other wonderful health reasons why dogs and garlic work together:

Tick/Flea Repellent: It won’t kill the fleas and ticks, but those little buggers don’t like the taste of it. One sniff and they’ll be making their way off your dog.Immune System Boost: Garlic has proven to do wonders with dogs with suppressed immune systems and as well has those fighting cancer. It gives a boost to bloodstream cells that kill bad microbes and cancer cells. (Check out The Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and CatsThe Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, who talks about the benefits of garlic to fight cancer in dogs).Liver Boost: Garlic is known to have detoxifying effects, which can help the liver get rid of toxins from the body.Fights Bacterial, Viral, and Fungal Infections: Bacteria, virus and fungi are no match for garlic! With its potent antimicrobial and antibiotic properties, it fights parasites and protozoan organisms as well.Lowers Blood Cholesterol and Triglyceride: Mix the proper dose of uncooked garlic with your dog’s food and it can help lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.Cardiovascular Boost: Wonderful in older and overweight dogs, garlic can prevent blood clots, and reduce cholesterol levels and fat build up in the arteries.

How to Start Giving Your Dog Garlic

If you have never given your dog garlic before, there is no way to know if he will like it or not. So, how can you start giving your pooch some health-promoting garlic while making sure that he will love it? Well, fresh garlic will provide the most potency, and it is also inexpensive. But, again, it is all about giving your dog the appropriate dose for safety and effectiveness, so you do need to spend the time chopping up the garlic and measuring out the right amount before giving it to your furry companion to try.

Not all dogs enjoy eating fresh garlic. In fact, your dog might not be too keen on eating the garlic on its own or in his food if you just suddenly put it in there. Keep in mind that every dog is an individual, so a bit of trial and error might be necessary to figure out how your dog prefers to eat garlic. A good rule to follow, though, is to start with the smallest amount possible, and gradually increase the amount of garlic that you give your dog over the course of a week or longer until you have reached the optimal dose. This can help your pooch adjust to the flavor of the garlic, and once he is accustomed to it, it will be a lot easier to give him the right amount on a regular basis.

Note: Some canine breeds are more sensitive to garlic than others, so take your dog’s breed into consideration as well when you are working on figuring out the right dose. For example, Japanese breeds, such as the Shiba Inu and the Akita, tend to be more sensitive to garlic. In this case, consulting with your vet might be your best bet.

Talk to Your Vet About Giving Your Dog Garlic

Remember, you should always work with your veterinarian when you are planning on introducing a new supplement to your dog’s diet, even if it is totally natural garlic. You want to be sure that you are going to give the right amount for your dog’s size and weight, as well as his overall health.

It’s important to realize, too, that garlic is capable of interacting with a lot of medications. A few examples include heart medications, blood thinners, chemotherapy drugs, antacids, insulin, high blood pressure medications, and immune suppressants. So, if your dog is taking a prescription, talk to your veterinarian first to check if it’s safe to give your pooch the garlic supplement.

Also, if you start giving your dog garlic for the first time, watch for any signs that it might not be agreeing with your pet, as well as any signs that you have given him too much. For example, if you start to notice symptoms like pale gums, nausea, vomiting, drooling, oral irritation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, lethargy, elevated respiratory rate, elevated heart rate, exercise intolerance, weakness, or collapse, contact your vet right away, as these are signs that you might’ve overdone it with your garlic dose for your dog.

I Think Garlic is Good!

I feed Oscar garlic and supplement it into his diet throughout the week. As pet parents, we need to remember that there is no “normal” consumption level – based on my dog’s weight, I feed my dog safe and beneficial levels of garlic. As with any change in diet or addition of supplement, please speak with your vet. My vet knows about the garlic in Oscar’s diet, and we have blood taken every year to ensure he’s in peak form.

We’d like to hear from you. Do you feed your dog any garlic, whether it’s in food, treats or supplements? Or do you stay away from it, as it’s “better to be safe than sorry”? We want to hear from both camps. Leave your thoughts about dogs and garlic in the comments section below.

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