Milk Thistle for Dogs: Protecting Your Dog's Liver

Health & Wellness | Dog

Keeping your dog healthy is your top priority, but some things are beyond your control – or are they? Though the efficacy of many herbal medicines are hotly debated, Milk thistle for dogs is one homeopathic remedy that lives up to the hype.

Toxins are all around us. They are in the air, water, food, and medications. You can't prevent your dog from ingesting toxins and bacteria, but you can help to prevent it from building up in your dog's system and damaging his liver.

What Does the Liver Do?

Your dog's liver is a powerhouse. It filters harmful toxins and bacteria out of your dog's blood, supports the breakdown, distribution, and absorption of nutrients, and stores and releases blood sugar to provide energy to the body.

And that's not all. The liver is responsible for over 500 different functions, from blood clotting to assisting in your dog's immune functions. Needless to say, a healthy liver is important to a healthy dog.

What can you do to protect your dog's liver as he ages? Over time, the build-up of harmful bacteria can damage the liver and reduce its function. A routine liver detox can reduce inflammation and flush out toxins, preventing damage and ensuring proper hepatic function.

Not many homeopathic treatments are highly regarded in conventional veterinary medicine circles, but milk thistle for dogs is widely recommended for liver support from both traditional and integrative vets.

What is Milk Thistle?

ground-milk-thistle

Milk thistle comes from the seeds of the milk thistle plant. The medicinal properties of milk thistle come from a blend of three different chemicals that form a substance called Silymarin, named from the plants Latin nomenclature, Silybum Marianum.

Milk thistle has been used as medicine as far back as the Roman Empire. With such a long history of effectiveness in supporting health and preventing disease, it's no wonder milk thistle is still used for the same medical reasons today.

Benefits of Milk Thistle for Dogs

Even though milk thistle is one of the lesser-known supplements for dogs, it's proven to be a powerful and effective health aid. When dealing with the health of individual organs, we often don't look to support our pets until there is already a problem, but that can change.

There are many reasons that liver damage can occur. Some dogs are predisposed, like Labrador Retrievers, while others may develop liver damage from external factors like:

  • toxins
  • pollutants
  • viruses
  • bacteria
  • prescription medications

Assess your dogs surrounding to reduce toxins and pollutants in your dog's environment. On of the culprits that often get overlooked is household and garden plants. 

Dangerous Garden Plants for Dogs

If you suspect your dog has been in contact with a pollutant or toxin, it's best to contact your vet. Some toxins are more harmful than others so it's best to get professional advice before treating at home. 

If you are interested in trying out milk thistle for dogs, then check out some of our favourite brands:

Sign of Liver Damage

Liver damage and disease are very serious. Untreated, it can be fatal. Take a look at some common signs of liver damage so that you can act quickly, connect with your vet, and start treating:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Dark or brown urine
  • Pale Gums
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Lethargy

The active compound in milk thistle, Silymarin, works to detoxify the liver. This means that it flushes out built up in the liver that contributes to inflammation, poor cell cycle, and reduced liver function. In addition to its detoxifying powers, milk thistle also:

  • Stimulates the repair of damaged liver cells and the growth of new, healthy cells
  • Preserves levels of the naturally occurring antioxidant Glutathione, which deteriorates over time and triggers age-related decline in your dog's body (it's not a fountain of youth, but it can help to slow the signs of ageing)
  • Milk thistle itself is a powerful antioxidant that can help to defend against disease-causing free radical cells and prevents the oxidization of healthy cells
  • The anti-inflammatory properties of milk thistle for dogs can reduce inflammation in the liver
  • Helps to remove histamine that has built up from immune system responses (which can cause overreactions and can worsen allergy symptoms)

Milk Thistle Dosage for Dogs

Milk thistle is regarded as safe for use in dogs, but different dosages might be recommended for treating an issue versus preventing liver damage. The general recommendation for detoxing your dog is low.

2-5 mg per pound is suitable for preventing harmful build-up and supporting liver function. This detox can be 1-2 times per year for 3-6 weeks to properly flush out any toxic build up and help to maintain liver health. 

Dogs with chronic disease or poor liver function will require a higher dose to help repair some of the damage that is already done. Dosing your dog up to 20 mg per pound can help but check in with your vet before offering high doses like this.

Is Milk Thistle Safe for Dogs?

Earlier, we said milk thistle is generally regarded as safe for dogs, but some dogs shouldn't have milk thistle. Thorough studies have not been conducted to ensure that milk thistle is safe for use in pregnant or lactating dogs. It's best to avoid using milk thistle for these dogs unless directed by your vet.

Milk thistle is also not designed for everyday use. Unless directed by your vet, milk thistle shouldn't be given to your dog for more than 3-6 weeks at a time. If further treatment is needed, then wait 2-3 weeks before re-dosing.

Lastly, milk thistle is not a cure-all. It's meant to treat problems diagnosed by your vet and to detox a few times per year to prevent toxin build-up but isn't a complete treatment for all liver-related health problems.

Make sure you speak with your vet to ensure you are properly treating your dog's ailment.

How to Give Your Dog Milk Thistle

dog-peanut-butter-milk-thistle

Milk thistle supplements are most often offered in either a powder or a liquid tincture. Both are easy to add to your dog's regular meal, but if your dog is picky, he might notice the taste. Outsmart your pooch by trying some of these sneaky tricks to offer milk thistle without your dog catching on:

1. Wet Food

If you feed kibble, your dog may easily spot the flavour change, so mixing milk thistle into wet food will mask the taste much better.

For maximum sneakiness, try canned tripe. It's strong scent and taste may be off-putting to you, but your dog will love it. Tripett offers multiple flavours of tripe to accommodate your dog's preferences.

2. Peanut Butter and Milk Thistle

Dogs go bonkers for peanut butter. Stir the milk thistle into a tablespoon of pet-safe peanut butter, like Hero Peanut Buddy. Feed-in a toy, with food, or right off the spoon. Your dog will never know his lip-smacking good snack is actually medicine. 

3. Bone Broth

For the ultimate detox, check out our Bone Broth Recipe using kale and milk thistle to protect and repair liver cells. This recipe can be made a few times per year to flush out build up in the liver safely.

You can use store-bought bone broth for a quick and easy option. Just stir in your milk thistle just before you serve. Here are a few of our favourite store-bought bone broths:

In addition to this recipe's liver-protecting effects, bone broth is loaded with healthy collagen, which helps to protect the liver from toxins and supports repair and regrowth of damaged liver cells.

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Have you tried a milk thistle detox for your dog? Let us know your experience in the comments below!


Posted by Krystn Janisse

Krystn Janisse

Krystn is a passionate pet nutrition enthusiast. She has worked in the pet industry for over a decade and loves to share her passion for animal welfare with others. She loves all animals but is currently channelling some crazy cat lady vibes with her five lovable, but rebellious cats.


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