There is plenty of information and misinformation available on the internet about
the use of garlic in food and supplements for dogs and cats. Garlic has many health
enhancing effects such as aiding digestion, eliminating internal and external parasites,
stimulating immune functions and increasing killer cell activity, lowering blood
cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and acting as a a tonic for the cardiovascular
system. Fresh garlic also has powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties.
It has been used for thousands of years in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Holistic
veterinarians have been recommending garlic for many years for its multiple health
Garlic's impact on health has come into question recently due to its properties
as a member of the lily family, along with onions and shallots. A compound found
in onions, n-propyldisulfide, can – in large doses – cause oxidative damage
to red blood cells, creating Heinz bodies and triggering the body to reject these
cells from the bloodstream. If large doses of this compound are ingested frequently
enough, the process can lead to anemia and even death. The dosage level
and frequency of consuming the offending compound are the key here. Typically an
animal would need to ingest over 0.5 % of it’s body weight in onions (a 5 ounce
onion for a 60 lb. dog) to even begin the oxidative process. Since red blood cells
are constantly regenerated from the bone marrow, a dog would likely need to ingest
this much onion on a repeated basis to cause permanent harm. Garlic contains less
of the n-propyldisulfide compound than onions do.
The Nature of Animal Healing, Dr. Martin Goldstein recommends adding garlic
to home-made pet food and, in fact, feeds garlic to his own cats and dogs on a regular
basis. According to Gregory Tilford in
Herbs for Pets: The Natural Way to Enhance Your Pet's Life, dogs can quite safely consume
1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder per pound of food 3-4 times per week. Cats probably
should be given a bit less, as they are more sensitive to the compounds in garlic.
Tilford cautions cat guardians to watch for behavioral changes or digestive upset,
and to listen to the cat if she rejects food or supplements containing garlic. Fresh
garlic is less concentrated than dried garlic. In
Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats, Dr. Richard Pitcairn
recommends up to ¼ clove of garlic per day for cats and ½ to 3 cloves for dogs.
As with most herbs, at least one day off per week or a periodic week off from garlic
is a good idea.
The key in feeding or supplementing with garlic is moderation and common sense.
Using garlic and brewer’s yeast tablets during flea season has long been a common
practice among savvy pet owners to help make pets less attractive to fleas. Using
garlic in the diet or as a supplement for any of its health benefits is not likely
to cause problems for healthy dogs and cats. Obviously, any animal that has a pre-existing
anemic condition should not receive garlic. Puppies under 8 weeks of age should
also not be given garlic, as they do not begin reproducing new blood cells until
after 6-8 weeks of age.
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is the best resource for any animal poison-related emergency, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and here is what one of their Certified Vet Tech’s told us: “Garlic is commonly found in pet food and is okay for consumption in small, limited doses. Ingestion of garlic and onions, whether raw or cooked, may be potentially toxic causing signs ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to circulatory issues. The toxicity is based on the amount ingested and the size of the pet. Cats are more sensitive to dogs, so if you have feline don't let them eat from your dog's food bowl.”
Check out Only Natural Pet Store's selection of garlic supplements.
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The articles and information in the Holistic Healthcare Library are presented for
informational purposes only and are not intended as an endorsement of any product.
The information is not intended to be a substitute for visits to your local veterinarian.
Instead, the content offers the reader information and opinions written by our staff,
guest authors, and/or veterinarians concerning animal health issues and animal care