Is Garlic Good or Bad for Dogs?

One of our readers asked the question “is garlic good or bad for dogs?”  While animals of all types have been given garlic for centuries, the debate as to whether it is good or bad for animals continues.   So lets look at the arguments for and against garlic.

The Stink on Garlic and Dogs

Myths and Realities

Garlic and dogs have a long relationship. Garlic is one of the oldest medicines in the world. It has been in use as a medicinal herb for close to 5,000 years. Many cultures throughout time have relied on garlic for its healing properties. Garlic is revered for both its antifungal and antibacterial properties. It also helps the body to build white blood cells, acting as a means to build up the immunity. Garlic has many of the same effects on dogs that it does on their human counterparts.  In his book The Nature of Animal Healing: The Definitive Holistic Medicine Guide to Caring for Your Dog and Cat, Martin Goldstein, DVM one of the foremost holistic vets recommends adding garlic to homemade dog food and claims to feed it to his owns dogs.  Dr. Richard Pitcairn, author of Dr. Pitcairn’s New Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats also recommends garlic for dogs for its therapeutic benefits.  Yet, some claim that garlic is toxic to dogs.  This issue is surrounded by both myths and realities.

Arguments For the Use of Garlic

Garlic is used in many commercial dog foods and is believed to possess antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties.  It may also improve liver function and is even believed to prevent heart disease.  But one of the most popular reasons for giving garlic to dogs is to help control fleas. There are many different opinions as to why this works (or doesn’t). Some of these theories include that garlic raises or lowers the pH of the blood, making it undesirable to those little bloodsuckers. Others claim that it simply masks the smell of the dog, making them invisible to pests. I do not know which of these is actually true, but personally, I have seen it work wonderfully with some dogs and not with others. It might be a matter of getting the dosage right. It might also have to do with the individual dog’s body chemistry as well.

Arguments Against the Use of Garlic

The wide use of garlic in commercial dog foods and the sale of garlic tablets for dogs would make garlic appear to be safe for dogs. However, garlic and dogs do not always mix. Garlic has many healing properties, but it also contains a chemical compound called thiosulphate. This compound can be toxic in extremely high levels, causing hemolytic anemia in dogs. This is a serious, life-threatening condition for your dog. So, yes garlic can be toxic to dogs.

But, this too is a matter of dosage. The garlic found in dog treats, dog food, and garlic tablets designed for dogs is not likely to cause this toxic reaction. They would have to eat something like 50 cloves (not bulbs, cloves) for a medium-sized dog to get enough to cause a toxic reaction. A clove is one of the little sections. You would know it if your dog ate enough to cause a toxic reaction, you would be missing a lot of garlic! That would equally approximately 10-20 bulbs, depending on the variety.

This stinky weed can have many positive effects for both humans and dogs. But in the end, the decision of whether to give garlic to your dog is a personal choice.  Some dogs are extremely sensitive to various types of food so before giving garlic to your dog for the first time, speak with your veterinarian about dosage and any concerns you may have.  As for me, I will continue to give garlic to my dogs.


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