Which one of these things is not like the others?
To feed garlic or not to feed garlic? That is the question.
Garlic, like many foods in life, can be good for you and your dog in moderation!
Like many garden herbs, garlic is full of nutrients: protein, fiber, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, sodium, vitamin A, thiamin, niacin, taurine, zinc, riboflavin, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and selenium, a heart-healthy mineral. A single clove of fresh garlic may contain as much as 100 sulfur compounds, all of which have been shown to possess medicinal qualities.
You Can Grow it yourself
Garlic is easy to grow in your backyard! Dad always plants his in the fall. He tucks rows of bulbs a few inches deep into sandy soil and we watch for sprouts in the spring. My dogs and I are rewarded for our patience with a late summer harvest. You’ll recognize garlic by its long flat leaves, as opposed to the tubular ones of onions or chives, and the garlicky smell when your crush the leaves.
How and why to use garlic
Like fellow herbs of Italian cuisine, basil and oregano, garlic is a great culinary addition. Just chop it and stir it into doggy dinners, a slurry of veggies or sprinkle on top. Beyond its nutrients, garlic is a super herb valued for its antibacterial, immuno-stimulant, anti-cancer, nutritive, antioxidant, expectorant, hypotensive, anti-tumor, anti-viral, anti-fungal and tonic qualities. It’s used in matters of the liver and cardiovascular and immune systems and is a great multi-system booster for older dogs. That’s a lot of responsibility for this little bulb. It can be used in many forms: fresh, dried, tincture or oil infusion.
If you’re concerned about the dog flu that’s been in the news, boost your dog’s immune system with the simple addition of garlic to his meals.
The jury is both in and out when it comes to garlic’s effectiveness as a flea or mosquito repellent, but many dog owners swear by it. Fleas are attracted to unhealthy hosts so feeding your dog a whole food diet supplemented by garlic and other herbs should keep your dog off their menu. Add it to your dog’s dinner starting in early spring and you be the judge.
Dr Randy Kidd chooses garlic for its ability to enhance the immune system but reminds us to use caution and moderation. He recommends adding assorted herbs to your dog’s diet on a daily basis. Then, if you ever need them for medicinal needs, “you’ll have much better luck getting a sick pooch to agree to herbal medicines if she has been acclimated to them over the years.” Use fresh-chopped garlic. If subjected to heat, you’ll lose medicinal qualities and nutrients.
Veterinary herbalist Greg Tilford offers this method of preparation for use as a topical antibiotic. Blend raw garlic juice at least 1:2 with olive oil, vegetable glycerin, or water. Alternatively, crush two or three cloves of garlic, wet them with vodka to help release the oils, and cover the mixture with four ounces of olive oil. Shake and let it stand in the refrigerator for an hour before using. Never use the essential oil directly and never use garlic preparations near the eyes.
Allicin is very unstable so once it’s released, it dissipates in a few hours losing its antimicrobial effect. But that’s only one use. Garlic is still valuable for its plethora of other qualities including its nutrients. The oil can be added by one-half to one level teaspoon per pound of food to your dog’s meal. Store in the refrigerator for no more than a month. Contrary to what many believe, garlic will not act as its own preservative, and old garlic oil may develop botulism.
Why do so many people say garlic is toxic?
If you’re feeling uncertain about giving your dog garlic, you might want to know how it became the villain of the garden. Garlic is approved for use in pet food, but ironically, the FDA has also listed garlic in its poisonous plant database. This can be traced back 15 years to a university class of five Japanese veterinary students who conducted a small experiment in 2000. This 11-day study at Hokkaido University concluded that when just four dogs were given the equivalent of a clove of garlic per kilogram of body weight (i.e., 20 cloves of garlic or 2-3 heads of garlic for a 40-pound dog – a massive quantity!), garlic had the “potential” to cause hemolytic anemia – damage to the red blood cells. Although the dogs in the study may have had bad breath and their red blood cell values were affected, they did not develop hemolytic anemia. It was a miniscule sampling that has led to this fear of garlic. Do avoid garlic if you suspect anemia in your dog, or if you have a puppy who’s still developing.
Dr Jean Dodds notes that it is the disulfides in garlic that can be toxic to animals by causing damage to the red blood cells through over-consumption over long periods of time. Since red blood cells carry oxygen to the tissues, a reduction in their numbers can result in a diagnosis of hemolytic anemia. Symptoms are diarrhea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, dehydration. As it progresses and there’s a greater loss of red blood cells, the animal will exhibit weakness, lethargy, pale mucous membranes, rapid respiration and heart rate, jaundice and dark urine. But Dr Dodds still recommends many foods and supplements that contain garlic.
Garlic does much more good than harm. Allicin gives garlic its antimicrobial properties. By chopping fresh garlic, you’ll have one of the most impressive, antimicrobial substances available in nature, and there are dozens of scientific studies to support this claim. It’s a great (and cheaper!) natural alternative to the antibiotic tetracycline. Plus, garlic works against many forms of viruses and won’t compromise the beneficial flora in the digestive tract when ingested in appropriate amounts. Once again, Mother Nature knows best.
Greg Tilford says it all boils down to common sense, moderation, and respect for garlic as more than just a table condiment. Of course, for chronic issues and ailments, it’s important to consult with a skilled herbalist to help determine the herbs, quantities and means of application to treat your pet.