Garlic - Good for You, Bad for Dogs
Garlic’s (Allium sativum) medicinal purposes have been valued for thousands of years. Five thousand year old Sanskrit and Chinese medical texts describe the benefits of garlic. Today, garlic for humans (and garlic for dogs) is grown all over the world. And it’s making a strong comeback as a potent, effective, natural remedy.
Garlic is a member of the lily family, similar to the onion. It’s been used for thousands of years as a medicinal herb; in fact, Hippocrates used garlic for infections, cancer and digestive disorders. The great Roman naturalist, Pliny the Elder, also recommended garlic for a variety of ailments, ranging from the common cold to epilepsy and cancer.
Modern science established that garlic boosts immunity, gets rid of bacterial, viral and fungal infections, enhances liver function, detoxifies the cells in the body, lowers cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood and even fights cancer.
Raw garlic cloves contain a high amount of a compound called alliin, as well as the enzyme alliinase. The alliin comes into contact with the alliinase enzyme when garlic is crushed or diced and forms the compound allicin. Cooked garlic is not nearly as therapeutic as freshly crushed or finely diced raw garlic.
A Victim Of Poor Press
Recently, the safety of garlic for dogs has come into question. That’s because one research study used a huge amount of garlic in their test dogs.
When garlic is fed in very large amounts to dogs, it can cause oxidative damage to red blood cells, leading to a medical situation called Heinz body anemia.
Knowledge is a powerful thing, but astute pet owners should gather all the data about garlic before shunning this celebrated bulb.
Ironically, garlic is an approved flavoring, spice or seasoning in pet food, yet the FDA lists garlic in its poisonous plant database. That’s because a study suggested that garlic fed in excessive quantities (5 grams of whole garlic per kilogram of the dog’s body weight) might damage the red blood cells of dogs. (See the study here)
Based on this study, the average 75 pound Golden Retriever needs to eat five full heads of garlic (or about 75 cloves) each meal before showing any adverse effect on the red blood cells.
Similarly, a dog weighing 10 lbs needs to eat 25 grams of garlic – about half an entire head of garlic (or about 6 to 8 cloves) every meal to experience any adverse effects.
How many dogs do you know eat that many cloves of garlic?
Drinking too much water can kill you, but we all drink water. In fact, we all know drinking water is healthy.
So what’s healthy and what’s too much? All this “garlic is bad for your dog” hype is taken totally out of context.
The total reported adverse affects from garlic for dogs add up to a non-event over the past 22 years. The National Animal Supplement Council responsibly records both Adverse Events and Serious Adverse Events resulting from the use of natural products.
A Serious Adverse Event is defined as: “An Adverse Event with a transient incapacitating effect (i.e. rendering the animal unable to function normally for a short period of time, such as with a seizure) or non-transient (i.e. permanent) health effect.”
900 million doses of garlic over a 22 year time span resulted in only two Serious Adverse Events. These episodes could very well have been due not to garlic, but to another ingredient in the mix. This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt the risk of using garlic is incredibly low.
It’s Time To Reconsider Garlic For Dogs
What is significant is all the positive research supporting the medicinal powers of garlic.
Among garlic’s benefits, perhaps the best known is its natural antibiotic activity. In fact, Pasteur noted garlic’s antibacterial benefits in 1858. Modern researchers compare the effectiveness of garlic with that of antibiotics, and found that garlic has a broad antibacterial effect.
Additionally, bacteria don’t seem to build resistance to garlic as they do to many modern antibiotics.
But that’s not all. Garlic increases the immune activity of Killer Cells (cells that seek out and kill invading bacteria and cancer cells). Uncooked garlic for dogs lowers blood triglycerides and cholesterol, which is useful for certain breeds (Schnauzers and Beagles) which are predisposed to this problem.
A 1988 study found that diallyl sulfide, a compound in garlic, prevented tumor formation in rats. Other studies have shown that garlic inhibits various forms of cancer growth in the body. Garlic also enhances overall liver function and triggers enzyme responses to help break down waste materials before they go into the bloodstream. In other words, garlic helps the liver out. And in today’s toxic world, our dogs’ livers need all the help they can get.
Additionally, garlic has been fed to dogs to help prevent flea infestations. There are many products on the market containing garlic for this very purpose. Both powdered and raw garlic are effective, though raw garlic has significantly more health benefits.
When using garlic for flea prevention, it’s important to use a castile soap or detergent free shampoo. Dogs don’t sweat as humans do and the garlic smell comes out on their coat.
It takes several weeks for the garlic compounds to build up in the oil and a detergent shampoo removes the oil, so you’ll be back to square one again.
How To Prepare Garlic
To release its healing properties, garlic first goes through a chemical process to create the allicin.
It’s best to finely chop or crush the garlic clove, then wait a few minutes to allow the chemical reaction to occur.
The allicin becomes unstable once exposed to air and heat. Don’t wait more than 20 minutes before topping your dog’s meal with healthy raw garlic.
Lots of studies provide evidence that the allicin in garlic works to inhibit cancer formation. Cancer is the number one cause of death in dogs in the United States, so let’s all get going with garlic! Buy a garlic press or simply chop some up. You can then mix it in with your dog’s meal.
While cooking garlic destroys allicin, other elements in cooked or powdered garlic continue to provide some benefits to your dog’s health. The cooked garlic will still function as an antioxidant and flush toxins out. If you cook meals for your dog, it’s totally fine to add garlic as a flavoring and for improved health.