detox for dogs

The food your dog eats, the air he breathes, and the water he drinks all contain a common ingredient

… toxins.

Every day, your dog is exposed to heavy metals (lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum and nickel), petrochemicals, and other external toxins including solvents, volatile organic compounds (VOC’s found in paints), pesticides, herbicides, phthalates, food additives and medicinal drugs.

The list of chemical toxins is never-ending so it’s become increasingly important to learn how to detox your dog.

A Toxic Environment

It’s estimated that there are 85,000 chemicals in our environment.

Ninety percent (90%!!) have never been tested for safety.

It’s estimated that the average newborn today will have 287 toxins already in its body, and human breast milk is now considered the most toxic beverage in the world!

If I haven’t depressed you enough, let me remind you that many of these toxic substances have cumulative effects.

For example: mercury and aluminum are toxins included in most vaccines. Individually they wreak havoc; but in combination they are like a nuclear bomb hitting the nervous system. And what about phthalates plus pesticides plus bisphenol? They take BPA’s out of our plastic bottles, and then substitute BPS’s. So what are BPS’s anyway? And why are they any better? Geez, Louise!

And then there’s GMO’S – God Move Over – OMG!

The subject is huge, the studies are vague at best; and sadly, the FDA has turned a blind eye. GMO’s add nothing to the nutritional value of the plant, nor do they serve the plants nutritionally. By tricking the plant into creating herbicide tolerance, and into producing its own pesticide, yields and profit increase – but not our health.

GMO foods in livestock have been shown to damage virtually every organ (see Genetic Roulette-The Gamble of Our Lives, by The Institute For Responsible Technology). The risks to humans and our pets is still unclear; but isn’t it likely that it’s the same as it is for the livestock?

Studies have shown that our animals are exposed to hundreds more toxins and at higher rates than humans. In general, drugs are metabolized more slowly in animals, the fetus, infants, and the elderly.

Do you have a dog who is overweight and hypothyroid? Well, you probably know by now that starch based diets aren’t very digestible for our carnivore kids. Giving a daily dose of a thyroid supplement may not succeed in nourishing the thyroid or improving its health and function … but detoxing can substantially help.

If your dog has the FLC Syndrome (Dr Mark Hyman coined this: the “Feel Like Crap” Syndrome) then his or her thyroid hormones might be blocked.

What are they blocked by, you wonder? Toxins, of course!

It’s possible your canine is experiencing the hypothyroid state and FLC Syndrome because his metabolism is slowed w-a-y down, which in turn makes it difficult to burn fat.  And if he does burn calories from fat, well, sorry to say, you’ve released the toxins stored, sometimes making the FLC syndrome worse. Help!

Adding gas to the fire above (oh, I forgot to mention that all these toxins create inflammation everywhere in the body!), they also damage hormones that regulate appetite control. Leptin, a hormone that tells your brain you are full can be blocked by heavy metals.

How To Detox Your Dog: Four Major Systems

In practical terms, how do we help the body so hypothyroidism symptoms and FLC Syndrome are a thing of the past?

First, stop the toxic load – eliminate or decrease any environmental toxins in the food, air, water, ground (grass, asphalt) and food bowls.

Secondly, support the body to naturally detox via liver, kidneys, gut and skin. These organs already know how to keep us clean. With a little help from their friends, life can be good.

The body uses four of its systems to detoxify itself.  The four systems are:

  • Liver – most complex detox organ, able to detox thousands of substances
  • Gastrointestinal Tract – best at removing solid waste
  • Skin – largest detox organ
  • Kidney – best at removing water soluble toxins

Liver Detox

A healthy liver might be able to detoxify many toxins but considering the volume and types, it’s better if your pet can get a little help from their friends. Helping the liver do what it already is programed to do can reduce symptoms of allergies, weight gain, fatigue, skin disease, chronic constipation, arthritis, chronic infections, gastrointestinal issues, headaches, depression, anxiety, autoimmune disease, and – quite likely – the free radical damage leading to cancer.

The liver can use nutrients readily available in a balanced, fresh diet, but in these toxic times, this may not be enough.

Adding a “liver formula” to the diet can make the work easier. Simple B vitamins like folinic acid (or folate), B12, Niacin (B3), Riboflavin (B2), start the process. Other team members include: amino acids, antioxidants (vitamins A, C and E), trace minerals (selenium, copper, zinc, manganese), bioflavonoids, silymarin (milk thistle), garlic, onions (yes, you are reading this correctly, in small amounts!), cruciferous vegetables and others, all help keep the process moving.

Use a liver formula that includes these nutrients, combined with a fresh clean diet, and the liver can rock!

It might help to understand a little liver science so you can support the precious liver of your precious pet. Don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz.

First, the liver takes fat soluble toxins like prescription drugs, chemicals from agriculture, food additives, household pollutants, and normal metabolic wastes in the first phase of detoxification (Phase I), called the Activation Phase. The following diagram shows how toxins enter the liver, go through chemical reactions using the nutrients listed, to become more water soluble and  then excreted through the urine or feces.

natural treatment for hypothyroidism in dogs

If there are plenty of nutrients to support the second phase (Phase II), called Detoxification, the process moves along smoothly, and those fat soluble chemicals we have stored so nicely in our fat tissues become water soluble and are excreted.

Yeah, way to go liver!

If there are not enough nutrients (amino acids – glycine, taurine, cysteine, methionine, n-acetylcysteine, and glutamine) to support Phase II, the detox pathway is blocked and toxic “intermediates” clog up the system.

If Phase I toxic intermediates don’t move down the line, the situation is even more toxic than from the original exposure. There must be a balance of Phase I and Phase II nutrients for detox to be smooth and efficient.

Just think of this like a major highway in winter: ice packed, accidents, no one moving, chaos everywhere. It isn’t until the tow trucks, police, snow removal equipment and the sun come out to remove the obstacles, that order can occur once again. The same is the same with the liver. If we provide some extra help, in the form of nutrients, the liver can create order out of madness.

Pretty amazing organ!

You are probably wondering if your pet is already on a wholesome raw food diet, why use supplements?

As many nutritionists are asking, if our soils are depleted of nutrients, really, how well nourished are we? We might be calorie rich, but nutrient poor. If we are nutrient poor, our detox functions don’t make the grade. It’s no different for Fido. Providing good groceries and clean supplements can go a long way to nurturing optimal liver function.

Use these products for about one month, off for a few weeks, then on again for about one month. If your animal has any symptoms that worry you stop the detox. Some discharges may occur naturally (nasal, eyes, ears) but the animal should feel fine. More serious detox reactions (Herxheimer type – think flu-like symptoms) can result from inflammation due to the release of endotoxins as bacteria die off. Back off on the detox and things should correct. A dose or two of homeopathic Nux vomica 30C should help.


Vitamin C could be the most important antioxidant for the liver. Even though dogs and cats produce their own, a little extra help during a toxic exposure or a cleanse is prudent and easy. Mixed ascorbates are buffered, very absorbable and economical. Whole food Vitamin C from plant sources such as camu camu and acerola berries are very absorbable.

Milk Thistle

The most well known darling of liver support is silymarin (milk thistle) for both humans and canines. It’s said that ancient Rome used plenty of this flowering Aster plant – it was a party city after all! Silymarin protects the liver cells against toxins and their oxidative effects, helps regenerate liver cells and stimulate protein synthesis. Many herbalists suggest it not be used unless there is an acute exposure, and for short periods only.  Many formulas also contain this herb with Vitamin C for added antioxidant help.

Glutathione Precursors

Glutathione, the most potent antioxidant made by the body, important for both phases of liver detox. Cats cannot make glutathione in large amounts, leaving them vulnerable to acetaminophen (Tylenol) toxicity and death. It’s estimated that up to 45 percent of liver disease in dogs is caused by low glutathione levels. Because of it’s expense to produce, N-acetylcysteine (NAC) and alpha lipoic acid serve as precursors for it’s production in the body. N-acetylcysteine can also fight infections and alpha lipoic acid can help regulate blood sugar and insulin levels.

Amino Acids

A high protein diet usually insures the body of these protein building blocks; but a little more will insure adequate detox flow. If your formula has taurine and glycine, even better.

S-adenosyl-L-methionine, also known as SAMe, is produced naturally in the body by amino acids and is another precursor to glutathione. SAMe improves detoxification, reduces inflammation and serves as an antioxidant.

The B’s

The B-complex vitamins are needed to produce energy, a lot of energy, for the detox process. Specific B vitamins, particularly B6, B12, folate/folinic acid (not folic acid) are involved in methylation (see Phase I detox). Use a B-complex unless they are in your detox formula.


Bioflavonoids such as from citrus, pycnogenol/pine bark, grape seed extract, green tea, quercitin, and rutin are important food based nutrients best used as part of a detox combo formula.

The Gastrointestinal System

Thank goodness we have multiple pathways for detoxing. The intelligence of the body would never leave us without extra layers of back-up! The prime real estate for helping remove solid waste products is the poop chute!

Like the liver, the gastrointestinal system (GI) is involved in a multitude of critical functions such as: the storage and breakdown of foods (you know this), the production of hormones and bile for digestion, and the absorption of nutrients and vitamins.

The GI system provides immune protection against bacteria with antibodies and against parasite invasion with acid production. In addition, it’s the primary producer of serotonin, helping to maintain psycho/emotional well being.

The microbiome, also known as the intestinal flora, is a complex, fascinating organism. In humans it can have up to 100 trillion organisms. How many animal microbes is not known; but these microbes outnumber the cells in our bodies, and are vital for vitality!

A healthy microbiome is responsible for the production of B and K vitamins, and for the metabolism of toxins released from unfriendly gut bacteria. Here we are again at detox!

Friendly Microbes

Adding a healthy mix of friendly probiotics and their lunch (called prebiotics) either daily or weekly can nourish the family microbiome. You should include various families of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and, if possible, the friendly yeast Saccharomyces boulardii.

The Skin

Because of the skin’s enormous surface area, exposure to toxins is great.

While the skin is constantly turning over cells – sloughing layers of dead skin, bacteria, oils, toxins and grime – it’s important to help this process.

Using a loofa sponge on a dog or cat isn’t practical or very user friendly, nor is putting your dog or cat in an infrared sauna. Just remember that your pets only perspire through the soles of their feet, while humans have sweat glands over most of the body. Nevertheless, they can detox through their pores, without sweat. A stimulating and soothing detox bath will do wonders.

Many people ask me: how often do I have to bathe my pet?

For indoor/outdoor pets a minimum of 4 times a year (quarterly, seasonally) – possibly more depending on toxin exposure, age, health, and diet. Once a month is probably necessary for metro pets who walk the asphalt and play at heavily used parks or country dogs who are always into something unspeakable.

Always bathe every spring to open the pores and release the dead hair during shedding time, and every fall to ease the second shed of the year. Too frequent bathing can destroy the natural oils; but too infrequent puts stress on the skin and body.

The Kidneys

They kidneys are very efficient at keeping everything that needs to stay in the body – like red blood cells, platelets, amino acids, glucose, minerals, and some water – while toxins are allowed to pass through. This filtration system can happen up to 70 times a day so really little needs to be done to improve kidney detox unless there are problems with the kidneys or bladder.

If your animal has kidney dysfunction, a detox bath is a requirement, not an option. When the kidneys cannot filter out protein waste products, but filter out too much water, dehydration combined with toxic waste build up make for a very ill animal. Here are a few ideas:

Make sure your animal is drinking adequate water, but don’t go overboard adding a lot of water to a raw food diet. Cats are originally from the deserts of Persia (now Iran) and are, by nature, not big water drinkers unless they are on dry, processed (salty/sugary) foods or have kidney disease, but adding small amounts of water to any animal’s food during the driest times of the year and during a detox will insure the kidneys are flushing. Diluting some organic milk or meat broth can encourage drinking when detoxing.

Small Changes, Huge Benefits

Whatever you do – don’t worry! This is a process, not a one time event!

Small changes continued over a long period will create enormous benefits for your pets. Unfortunately, the environmental exposures to chemical toxins cannot cue completely avoided. Fortunately, it is possible to reduce your pet’s exposure, especially by the choices you, the animal parent make. Feeding as much organic, clean, natural foods as you can will enhance the body’s amazing ability to detox safely.

Yours, in the best health possible,

Dr Detox (oh, I mean, Dr Dee)