Can I Give My Dog Garlic?
Nothing makes mouths water quite like the smell of garlic and onions sizzling in a pan on the stove. You, the chef, are drooling, the party guests are drooling, and the kids are drooling (more than usual)… and when you look down, you see your beloved pet dog is drooling, too. All over your bare feet.
Garlic is delicious, so you have to forgive him for leaving ropes of slobber everywhere, but you’re not sure if you can give in to his begging. You have heard time and time again that garlic is a super food for us humans, but what about our pets? Can dogs have garlic?
When it comes to canine safety, this pungent vegetable is one of the most controversial foods. While it often makes the list of forbidden foods for Fido, evidence suggests that, as with most things, the dose makes the poison. Though no dog should eat large amounts of garlic, some pet owners and veterinarians are of the opinion that it may have powerful benefits in moderation. So, while it may be safe (and possibly even helpful) to feed your dog small amounts of garlic, it should be approached very carefully and consciously. Despite the fact that many of the health risks are overblown, this is one food you may not want to toss your dog absentmindedly.
The most unique benefits of garlic are its powerful anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-parasitic, and anti-fungal effects. Some dog owners swear that their pets are less frequently plagued by fleas and ticks when they are eating garlic regularly. While this vegetable has often been used topically to treat skin infections all throughout history, these benefits can come with taking it orally, too—incorporating garlic into your dog’s diet may help fight various infections in their mouth, esophagus, stomach, and colon. This is because it does an excellent job at killing the ‘bad’ bacteria while allowing the ‘good’ bacteria in your dog’s gut to thrive. This is different from many commonly prescribed antibiotics, which often kill high numbers of ‘good’ gut bacteria.
Garlic is also great for boosting your dog’s immune system, which can prevent all sorts of illnesses—from minor bugs to potentially life-threatening infections. While garlic is not enough to prevent or cure any type of serious illness, it can complement other forms of treatment by supporting your dog’s immune system in the fight against the infection. Some of its immunity-boosting powers are a result of its wonderful nutritional assets: garlic is loaded with potassium, zinc, vitamin C, vitamin A, magnesium, B vitamins, and even calcium. The chemicals in garlic are thought to increase the body’s production of killer cells, which destroy foreign materials (like disease-causing invaders) and mutated cells (which could, if left alive, become cancerous).
This pungent, powerful vegetable can even help support your dog’s cardiovascular health. Garlic helps open up blood vessels, improving circulation throughout the body. Better circulation benefits every organ system and nearly every illness, reducing pain and fatigue and accelerating healing and growth.
Though dogs are not as likely to suffer from high cholesterol as humans (assuming they’re eating a healthy, balanced, dog-friendly diet!), garlic may protect against cardiovascular problems by reducing plaque buildup in the arteries. It can also help prevent heart attacks and strokes by reducing your dog’s risk of developing blood clots—though, again, if your dog has a chronic health problem, seek veterinary treatment. Do not attempt to treat any serious health problem with garlic or any other medicinal foods without consulting a veterinarian.
Things to Keep in Mind
So, what are the risks of feeding your dog garlic? Much of the fear comes from the fact that garlic is related to onions—which you absolutely should not feed your dog. However, garlic does not have nearly the same concentration of the toxic compounds found in onions. Many of the studies that suggest garlic is harmful involved extremely high, concentrated doses of these toxic compounds in the form of extracts and pills. Your dog would have to consume up to one hundred cloves of garlic in a single day in order to reach the dosage used in these studies.
That being said, garlic is a medicinal food, and should be used sparingly. Garlic poisoning, which is very rare, may result in vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, coma, and a condition called Heinz Anemia, which can be deadly. Puppies, pregnant or lactating dogs, and dogs who are taking medications should not consume garlic without consulting a veterinarian first.
While you shouldn’t give your dog pan-fried garlic and onions, it is considered safe—and maybe even beneficial—to feed your dog small amounts of raw garlic mixed in with their food. Garlic may reduce the risk of heart disease, cancers, and bacterial infections. The important thing to remember is that garlic is a medicinal food and should be used sparingly. The dose makes the poison!