How to Protect Your Dog’s Liver With Milk Thistle

milk thistle in dogs
Post At A Glance

Dogs, like humans, have to deal with exposure to toxins on a daily basis.

There are toxins in the foods we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe.

We can’t escape them.

And, like us, your dog’s liver filters toxins from their blood. Because the liver works so hard to eliminate all of these toxic substances … it’s highly susceptible to serious damage.

Detoxification is such an important process for our dogs. We can feed our furry loved ones the best foods in the world … but pores clogged with toxins won’t allow essential nutrients to pass. That causes a weakened immune system.

And a weakened immune system leads to a multitude of problems!

Liver Damage In Dogs

There are several causes for liver damage …

  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Drugs
  • Toxins
  • Free radicals
  • Inflammation

Signs of liver damage or disease include …

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Jaundice
  • Dark urine
  • Pale gums
  • Sudden unexplained weight loss

Liver disease is more common in pets than you might expect. Certain breeds of dogs are more susceptible to liver disease.

  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Dalmatians
  • Great Danes

This is due to a genetic difficulty to excrete copper.

Pharmaceutical companies create products with healing and preventative properties …

But sometimes … all we have to do is look around and we can find cures for ailments and ways to prevent disease in a more natural form. And often, they’re right under our feet and in our very own backyards.

One of the most astounding things that Mother Nature does … is produce plants with healing properties.

What Is Milk Thistle?

Milk thistle is a flower in the Aster family. It’s native to the Mediterranean regions of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.

Humans have used milk thistle for medicinal purposes for over 2000 years … particularly its roots and seeds.

Conventional medicine accepts milk thistle as one of the few herbs with medicinal value. It’s called “milk thistle” because of the leaves, which have white spots splashed on them.

There are three important chemicals isolated from the milk thistle:

  • Silychristine
  • Silydianin
  • Silybin

The mixture of these three substances is called silymarin.

Humans usually use milk thistle as a liver tonic.

But, silymarin was recently approved for use in pets. That’s because the benefits that help humans have also proved beneficial for pets. It can be used in dogs, cats, horses, goats, ferrets, and rodents to aid in …

  • Liver or kidney damage
  • Hepatitis
  • Jaundice
  • Leptospirosis
  • Parvovirus recovery

Protect Your Dog’s Liver With Milk Thistle

Research suggests that milk thistle extract can help prevent and repair liver damage.

First, milk thistle is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants protect us from chemicals in our bodies called free radicals.

Exposure to environmental toxins can increase free radicals in the body. And free radicals can do a lot of damage to our cells. This is called oxidation and can lead to …

  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Arthritis

Milk thistle protects the liver against harmful oxidation.

Secondly, while we don’t necessarily think of medications as toxins … many over-the-counter drugs and prescription medications can hurt the liver if taken in large enough doses or for long periods of time.

Researchers found that milk thistle can prevent or reduce medication-induced liver damage.

If you’ve been giving your dog medication and are concerned about the aftermath of chemicals residing in the body … milk thistle will help flush those out.

Thirdly, if your dog’s liver is weakened, it’s unable to break down toxins.

To combat allergens, the body produces histamine. The liver plays a role in this process … it removes the histamine from the body.

If the liver’s weakened and congested with toxins … the liver struggles and histamine build up in the body. This leads to more allergic reactions.

Allergies And The Liver
According to Mark. E. Richardson in his article entitled The True Cause of Allergies – It’s In The Liver

“The liver has to process toxins and when it can’t do its job it stores them. If it stores them it also produces additional histamines to protect itself. If an allergen is present the brain sends a message; ‘Send out a few histamines! I think there’s an invader!!’ and the liver proceeds. It releases too many, and you have the allergic response – hives, asthma, sneezing, etc. Cleanse the liver and maybe … you’ll become allergy/asthma free.”

4 Other Uses For Milk Thistle

Milk thistle not only helps treat and prevent liver disease … it has so many other uses! Below is a list of treatment claims linked to the plant …

1. Kidney Disease

If an infection has damaged your dog’s kidney … milk thistle has shown to decrease the amount of time it takes your dog to heal.

2. Pancreatitis

Although rare in cats, pancreatitis is very common in dogs. You can give milk thistle to your dog to help ease the symptoms.

3. Cancer

Milk thistle has shown to decrease the effects of cancer in a pet’s body. While there haven’t been many studies done … there have been enough to show that it helps protect against the potential for cancer in your pet.

4. Diabetes

When given milk thistle at least once per week … dogs who suffer from diabetes need less insulin than they otherwise would have.

Clearly, milk thistle has an array of positive effects throughout the body.

Milk Thistle Is Not A Preventative
This herb is not a preventative, or “just in case.” You should use it to cleanse the liver after exposure to toxins or as a remedy for liver damage.

Milk thistle stimulates the growth of new liver cells to replace those that are dead or dying. And it helps protect against toxins which could cause further damage.

Remember, you shouldn’t use medicinal herbs for extended periods of time.

Gregory L. Tilford and Mary L. Wulff explain in their book entitled Herbs for Pets: The Natural Way to Enhance your Pet’s Life.

“Despite much of the publicity that has been generated about this ‘wonder herb’, milk thistle should not be used as a daily food supplement. Milk thistle is a medicine that is best reserved for situations in which the liver is already under abnormal stress.”

Most holistic doctors feel milk thistle should be administered for 3-6 weeks with a 1-3 week break.

Also, pregnant and lactating pets shouldn’t have milk thistle. The research is still inconclusive.

You can find milk thistle in most health food stores or health sections of your local grocery store. It comes in capsule, tablet and tincture forms.

How Do I Give Milk Thistle To My Dog?

The usual recommended extract of milk thistle contains 70 to 80 percent silymarin. Each extract should have a label with the silymarin percentage.

You can administer tincture at a starting dose of 1/4 tsp per 20 lbs of body weight per day. Give the daily dosage in 2 to 4 equal doses.

With the powder, administer 2-5 mg per 1 lb of body weight, 2 to 3 times per day.

Read labels carefully, discuss dosages and always consult with your holistic veterinarian.


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