Milk thistle or silybum marianum, is a flowering plant of the Aster family and considered a natural herb. It has been used by humans for centuries as tonic for liver problems and other ailments. Recently, it has been tested for use in animals and milk thistle for dogs has been shown in some studies to be an excellent natural medicine for canines. The active medicinal ingredient is a flavonoid called silymarin (or silybin), which is an extract taken from the milk thistle seed. Most extract products commercially available today contain about 80 percent silymarin and can be purchased as in capsule or pill form or in powder and liquids and are often used to boost health.
Some veterinarians recommend milk thistle for dogs as a boost to the immune system , to aid in preventing gallstones, as a liver supplement and much more. It also has excellent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Milk thistle has been used to treat these and other diseases such as canine diabetes, but should not be used as a preventive medicine in a healthy dogs body. It is often recommended in lieu or in conjunction with other medications or herbs. Learn about how it can be helpful to your pet.
Milk Thistle Dog Benefits
There are many potential positive effects of milk thistle use that are currently being studied:
- Boosting the immune system or cleansing the body to avoid chronic problems
- Liver cirrhosis protection
- Eliminating free radicals
- Glutathione preservation
- Gallstone treatment
- Helping inflammatory bower disease
- Aiding kidney problems
It’s been shown that milk thistle can help boost the immune system in a number of ways, including eliminating free radicals, as an antioxidant, and to preserve another similar compound called glutathione. This is stored in the liver and as glutathione decreases, the obvious signs of aging begin to appear more frequently in dogs. However, it is important to note that milk thistle is not a magic potion though and as noted above, should not be given as daily supplements to young, healthy canines.
Additionally, Milk Thistle for dogs has been shown to treat gallstones by thinning the bile and reducing inflammation in the bile ducts. Both actions help gallstones pass through the system more easily and then help to prevent buildup of toxins and keep gallstones from forming in the future. These same benefits also help dogs who may have inflammatory bowel disease or IBD by reducing the irritation caused by inflamed tissues.
Studies have found that milk thistle for dogs protects the liver by preventing the buildup of heavy metals and reducing the effect of toxins as they pass through. Milk thistle extract also activates protein synthesis; this is the process by which the liver stimulates new cell growth to replace old, damaged or dead cells. Its capacity to destroy free radicals also helps keep a dog’s liver functioning in a healthy manner, which is why some vets have started recommending milk thistle as a helpful supplement to avoid potential liver cirrhosis damage.
This amazing, natural extract may be able to augment a dog’s natural rate of healing after drug therapy for infections like Parvovirus and Heartworm and may even serve as a treatment for cancer and diabetes. Preliminary canine studies have shown the positive impact milk thistle may have on helping to slow the growth of malignant and benign tumors. In terms of diabetic treatment, it may help to prevent the degeneration of the nerves in a dog’s hind legs. This is diabetic neuropathy which causes afflicted canines to walk with a weakened or abnormal gait and eventual paralysis.
Milk Thistle for Dogs Dosage
If you will be using milk thistle, make sure to read about the general milk thistle dosage guidelines which are based on the weight of your dog. Although milk thistle for dogs is considered safe and doesn’t have many harmful side effects, there are some vets and doctors concerned that long term use may interfere or suppress normal liver function, so do consult with your vet about whether it’s right for your dog.
How to Give Your Dog Milk Thistle
The best way to administer milk thistle is in small amounts, three to four times daily:
- Powder is usually the easiest way, as it can be mixed with water and added to dry or wet food, afternoon snacks or another type of treat.
- You can also squirt liquid milk thistle directly into your dogs mouth.
- Liquid extracts may contain alcohol which should never be given to canines, so if a liquid extract is chosen, it must be one made specifically for animals. You can discuss this further with your veterinarian or animal hospital.
Milk thistle has a long history of being a helpful herbal remedy for humans and their canine partners since the days of the Roman Empire and there aren’t many cons that have been noted. In fact more evidence comes out regularly that highlights the benefits of this powerful herb. If taken under the direction of a vet, milk thistle for dogs might help avoid serious illnesses or to prevent gallstones, especially in older pets. Do the best you can for your dog and look into this all natural, incredible and inexpensive product. Like most pet owners, we are sure you want the best for your pet. And while there are many pros to milk thistle, you should always consult your vet before using it or any other treatment (especially for emergencies or if your pet is pregnant). Milk thistle for cats has also shown to have many positive effects and we encourage you to read about it here.