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Can dogs eat garlic?

Bulbs of garlic

Dogs may love to eat with you, but that doesn’t mean they can eat everything on your plate. Sure, some foods are just great for him—but some are not!

Feeding your dog the right foods requires a bit of research. While it may seem that he’s quite happy to wolf down anything, the reality is that certain foods can be quite dangerous. But don’t panic yet. There are foods well beyond processed dog treats and canned meals that harbor amazing benefits for your pooch.  

When it comes to the healthiest foods on earth, one of the first that spring to mind is garlic. Garlic is part of the onion family, allium. It’s closely related to shallot, leek, chive, and Chinese onion. Garlic has long been used as a seasoning around the world and harbors a huge range of health benefits. It’s a proven anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antiparasitic, and antiviral agent. But when it comes to 'human' foods dogs can and can't eat—can dogs eat garlic? 

Is garlic good for dogs to eat?

This is a highly controversial topic, and you’ll find all sorts of conflicting answers online. Unfortunately, there are many claims that garlic is a big no-no for dogs and that even just a small amount can cause serious illness or even death. 

So, it may surprise you to learn that garlic isn’t an evil poison after all. In fact, dogs have been fed garlic for centuries—and have lived to tell the tale! New research shows that garlic can actually be just as beneficial for dogs, despite the many claims about its toxic effects. 

In a nutshell? Yes, dogs can eat garlic, but only if it’s prepared properly. You can’t just toss your dog a raw clove of garlic. It must be fresh (not processed or cooked) and given in very small amounts. Let’s explain why.

Can garlic be bad for dogs?

Garlic and other members of the allium family contain a compound called thiosulfate. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, thiosulfate is fine for humans but can be toxic for dogs. In fact, both onions and garlic in any form can lead to a life-threatening form of anemia in dogs if given in large amounts. This is because dogs cannot digest thiosulphate, so it builds up in the gut. This causes hemoglobin to clump together and can potentially lead to blood cells rupturing and anemia. Symptoms can include weakness or lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, pale or bluish gums, and/or an increased heart rate. 

Of course, this is a worst-case scenario! Some dogs may be more susceptible to the toxic effects of garlic than others and react after eating very small amounts. Others may not react at all. 

The benefits of giving your dog garlic

Garlic is often added to dog food and treats because it harbors a huge range of health benefits, especially in the digestive tract. 

  • Highly nutritious: Garlic is like a multivitamin all on its own. It’s low in calories but a great source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, and manganese. It also contains trace amounts of various other nutrients that contribute to your dog’s overall health.

  • Repels ticks and fleas: Garlic might not kill ticks and fleas, but it’ll keep them away! Ticks and fleas hate the smell of garlic, so they’ll be far less likely to set up residence in your dog’s coat.

  • Powerful anti-inflammatory: As one of Mother Nature’s greatest anti-inflammatory plants on earth, garlic is as medicinal for dogs as it is for humans. Garlic contains diallyl disulfide, a powerful anti-inflammatory compound that limits the effects of pro-inflammatory cytokines. This means it can help fight inflammation in the body and may even help prevent cartilage damage from arthritis, and many other chronic illnesses.

  • Immune system support: Garlic is a natural antiviral and anti-parasitic, and has proven benefits in boosting the immune system. It also increases the levels of cells that kill harmful pathogens and viruses. This makes it a great preventative and convalescent.

  • Detoxifier: Garlic supports the liver, helping it to flush toxins from the body. The sulfur compounds in garlic have also been shown to protect the body against organ damage from heavy metal toxicity.

  • Cardiovascular support: Dogs that are older or overweight are more prone to blood clots and higher cholesterol. Garlic has been shown to reduce both unhealthy blood cholesterol and triglycerides, which can help prevent blood clots and the buildup of fat in the arteries. 

How much garlic to give your dog

One thing that should be pointed out is that dogs won’t actually wolf down a lot of garlic on its own because of the strong taste, so the chances of him eating too much are pretty slim. 

According to The Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats by Dr. Pitcairn, the safe amount of garlic for dogs is half a clove per ten pounds of body weight.That means a dog weighing 10 to 15 pounds would be safe with half a clove, while a dog weighing 20 to 40 pounds could eat one clove. 

Fresh garlic is the most potent and therapeutic form, but remember: caution must be taken in giving your dog the right dose for his own safety. You’ll need to carefully chop the garlic and measure it out before adding it to his main meal. Of course, not all dogs will take to the strong taste of garlic right away, so you may need to start with the very smallest amount and build up. Be sure to use only fresh garlic, not the processed kind that’s sold in jars or packets, and mix it into his food thoroughly so that it’s evenly dispersed.

You can gradually increase the amount of garlic that you add to your dog’s food over the course of several days (or longer) until you reach the ideal dose for his weight. This will allow your doggo to adjust to the flavor. 

If you have any concerns about your dog’s reaction to garlic, talk to your vet. The benefits of garlic far outweigh the risk of toxicity, it’s just a matter of knowing how to use it properly!

Learn more about foods dogs can and can't eat

The article was written by Katie Stone on September 21, 2020.

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