The Truth About Garlic For Pets

You read lots of advice about adding garlic to pet’s food. It’s supposed to do everything from discouraging fleas and ticks to stimulating a weak immune system. Holistic veterinarians, as well as alternatives practices, such as Chinese medicine, recommend it. However, this is not a case of “if a little is good, more is better”. This simple herb can endanger your pet’s life. That said, I’m not a veterinarian and this is not meant to be medical advice, just a bit of information to consider.

pumpkin looking at cameraRecently, the fact that garlic is part of the lily family–as are shallots and onions–caused additional concerns among those who know that a compound found in onions can cause anemia, and possibly death, in large and/or frequent enough doses. The dose is the key. (That doesn’t mean you should let Rocky have onions once a week when you have roast beef. It does mean that he’ll probably recover from eating the hamburger with an onion on it that your guest left sitting on the coffee table.)

But, what about an animal that is elderly or one with an immune system disorder or anemia? Most vets will say not to give garlic to your animal if any of these conditions are suspected. This is where it becomes important to consult a qualified practitioner. I don’t use it at all. I have been told, even by a vet, that a little is ok. However, keep in mind, that veterinarians have a lot to keep up with–like any doctor. News and changing information about things like onions, grapes, avocados, and more, take time to get around. Often it depends on whether they’ve had a reason to look it up.

Allergies, for example, are the result of an overactive immune system. As is rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other immune system disorders. Stimulating the immune system in humans or animals that have this type of disease can cause a flare-up and create additional problems. In aging animals, it can be difficult to recognize these diseases, just as it can be when they are in the early stages. Err to the side of caution, don’t give your pet anything without talking to your vet. Animals have very different systems than humans. I’ve also been told the benzene rings in cinnamon are toxic to cats. Still, I’m not a scientist and can’t verify that to my satisfaction. I find cinnamon in some foods recommended for cats. I choose not to use those foods. Animals aren’t furry humans. They are different species.

Before I get a lot of complaints saying a vet recommended garlic, I know many holistic veterinarians recommend adding garlic to homemade pet foods or giving it as a supplement. They say there are a number of benefits to using this herb correctly, such as it can aid digestion, stimulate immune functions, eliminate internal and external parasites, and lower cholesterol. Fresh garlic is less concentrated than garlic powder, but garlic cloves vary in size which means the dose varies too. I can’t disagree with a licensed veterinarian. That’s between you and your vet.

Personally, I don’t use it, and I would never give it to cats. Cats have special problems with these types of herbs. I’ve worked with some of the best vets in the country over the years. I’ve also run into some very incompetent people who should not be practicing, which is just my personal opinion. My suggestion is to get a second opinion on any medication or treatment that is controversial. Never force your pet to eat food or medicine that it rejects unless your veterinarian instructs you to do so. Don’t risk your pet’s health because you are afraid you’ll make your vet mad by getting another opinion or that your mother-in-law will never petsit for you again.

Brewer’s yeast is often used in tandem with garlic, and it can have benefits. However, I recommend adding one supplement at a time and using it for at least a week before adding another. One of my dogs is allergic to brewer’s yeast. It’s also in an amazing variety of foods and treats. You won’t know what’s causing a problem when you add multiple supplements or medications all at one time. The same applies to vaccinations. It takes more time and costs a bit more to implement one thing at a time. Nevertheless, it’s worthwhile to do one at a time because you won’t have to try to guess which one caused a reaction.

Any type of allergic reaction has the potential to become worse every time a person or animal is exposed to that substance. It is especially important to try to do vaccinations one at a time. I can tell you from experience that even an animal that has never had a reaction may develop new sensitivities.

Finally, you may want to take an occasional break from vitamins and supplements. Some experts recommend a week off every month. Others have various preferences. One vet I know recommends only giving vitamin supplements on weekdays, which offers more frequent breaks of short duration. Sometimes a vitamin or supplement is critical for specific conditions though. Don’t take a break without asking your doctor.

If you wish to read more on this subject, please use recently published books or articles by veterinarians. Old resources are likely to be inaccurate on many things. Medicine progresses quickly for humans and animals.

Just a reminder: I’m not a veterinarian and nothing in this blog is meant to replace the advice of your veterinarian. It is also not to be construed as medical advice for people or animals. My purpose in sharing this information is to help you learn more about this subject. A knowledgeable pet guardian becomes a competent partner with their pet’s health care providers.