If you have a dog with liver disease, you may have heard about milk thistle as a possible treatment. But you probably have some questions about this herbal remedy — Is it safe? Is it effective? Are there any side effects? What are the benefits of milk thistle for dogs, and how can it help with their liver issues?
Milk thistle’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties can help treat a dog’s liver problems, including cirrhosis and chronic hepatitis. It is generally safe to give milk thistle to your dog, and it usually produces minimal side effects. Milk thistle is not a cure for liver disease, but it can be helpful in its treatment.
This article is focused on milk thistle as a possible treatment for liver issues in dogs. We will also look at its other health benefits, proper guidelines for using it, and any potential side effects that might occur.
What Is Milk Thistle?
Milk Thistle is a plant that consists of purple flowers and green leaves that are linked with white veins. This plant’s special medicinal feature is the flavonoid compound silymarin which is found in its seeds. It is known to offer many health-beneficial properties and has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy to treat both people and pets.
According to several studies, silymarin can help protect the liver of dogs from toxins that can cause significant health issues. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and can help in the regeneration of the liver cells once they have been damaged, i.e., it can help with the healing process of the liver.
Milk thistle is also given to dogs for medical issues other than liver disease and sometimes given as a regular supplement to a dog’s diet.
Milk thistle is usually sold in powder form. However, you can also find it as capsules or in liquid form as well.
Is Milk Thistle Safe For Dogs?
Milk thistle has been used for centuries on both people and animals; it is considered to be very safe without any serious side effects.
Although some report that milk thistle has produced negative effects in their dog, these issues are almost always related to dosing and overuse — the dog is either given too much of it or is given it too often.
Just as with humans, milk thistle shouldn’t be given to dogs who are pregnant.
Milk Thistle For Dog’s Liver Disease
According to many studies, milk thistle can help dogs that struggle with liver disease. Its strong antioxidant properties can possibly help dogs with liver issues such as jaundice and hepatitis, fatty liver disease, and cirrhosis.
Before you start giving milk thistle to your dog, confirm that your pet actually has liver disease and is showing signs of inflammation. To be on the safe side, it is best to check with your vet before giving your dog milk thistle (and for that matter, any other supplement or remedy).
Sometimes, dogs can show symptoms that might look like they are related to liver issues, but are actually symptoms of something else. If you decide to give milk thistle to your dog without checking with the vet, you may end up creating new issues.
Most vets don’t have a problem with using milk thistle for liver disease because the risks of using it are so low. Be sure to get their advice on proper dosing as well.
If liver disease is confirmed in your dog, silymarin found in milk thistle may help. Silymarin, together with silybin, can stabilize liver membranes and increase the functional liver enzyme levels. They also neutralize free radicals and regenerate new liver cells, meaning that they can replace the damaged cells with new ones.
Other Benefits Of Milk Thistle For Dogs
Milk thistle is considered to have medicinal properties good for many health issues in dogs. Because of its general anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, it can produce benefits for a wide range of dog ailments.
Below are various ailments in dogs that are sometimes treated with milk thistle.
Milk Thistle For Dog’s Kidney Failure
If your dog is suffering from kidney failure, then milk thistle might be an appropriate treatment for healing or improving this condition. It can promote kidney function and convert vitamin D to its active form, which helps dogs that struggle with incontinence. Also, milk thistle can help balance fluid regulation that can be a common problem in dogs.
In addition, if your dog shows symptoms of pancreatitis or dysfunctions of the gallbladder, then milk thistle might be a possible solution to consider. It has proven to help and improve conditions like these in some cases. Again, check with your vet first.
Milk Thistle For Dog Allergies
Allergies of many types are common in dogs — whether seasonal, food-related, or other. Milk thistle is often used to lessen the reactions and control symptoms of allergies in dogs.
Milk Thistle for Dogs with Cancer
Milk thistle is also sometimes recommended for dogs suffering from liver cancer and who are undergoing chemotherapy. It helps the recovery process and supports the liver when enduring such major medical treatments.
Milk Thistle for Mushroom Poisoning
Milk thistle has been used effectively as an emergency antidote to mushroom poisoning. When administered within 24 hours of ingestion of the poisonous mushrooms, it can significantly reduce the risk of liver damage as well as death.
How To Give Your Dog Milk Thistle?
Milk thistle is not a medicine, so you don’t need a prescription for it. However, you need to know the proper dosages and guidelines recommended for each type of dog and each kind of disease you intend to treat or prevent. It is always the safest option to first consult with your vet before giving it to your dog.
As previously mentioned, milk thistle can come in several forms – capsules, liquid, or powder. This supplement is usually given to dogs orally, meaning that you can give it to your pet with food or just with water.
Generally, milk thistle can be given to dogs two or three times daily. There are formulas marketed specifically for dogs as well as ones for human use. However, if you intend to give milk thistle to your dog that is formulated for people’s use, you need to be extremely careful. If the human formulated milk thistle is your choice, do not give it to your dog before speaking to your vet.
Milk thistle that is intended for people might include many additives that are not suitable for dogs or any other animals. If these additives do not align with your dog’s needs, they might cause serious complications with your dog’s immune system. Also, the dosage you give to your dog usually depends on your dog’s weight, so you need to pay close attention to that as well.
Possible Side Effects Of Milk Thistle
Usually, there are no side effects from giving your dog milk thistle. The side effect reported most is diarrhea.
If you see signs of diarrhea, you should first speak with the vet to see whether it is safe to continue with the supplement. The vet will evaluate whether it is just a mild side effect and whether you should give smaller dosages or stop giving it altogether.
As you can see, milk thistle has many benefits for your dog, especially if they are suffering from liver issues. If your vet recommends it, it may be worth a try to help your dog’s condition or prevent new ones from arising.