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Can Dogs Eat Garlic? A Canine Nutritionist Weighs In

Nothing else entirely turns the internet upside down than when I show myself giving my dogs Garlic. I can feed fish eggs, raw bones, duck heads, rabbit heads, whole quail, goat feet, you name it, and I still won’t get the shock and horror than when I show my dogs eating half a teaspoon of Garlic.  

I’ve had several posts on my nutrition account @dailydogfoodrecipes and my dog’s account @maggielovesorbit and the comments get so heated I just eventually either turn commenting off or archive the post. 

But I do want to address the questions which is better answered in longer form because people know that I am a dog nutritionist and want to know my opinion.

So if you are curious about Garlic, this post is for you. 

Why Is Garlic Listed As Poisonous?

  1.  It’s listed as poisonous on pet poison’s list of poisons.
  2. It’s listed as poisonous by large hospitals like Banfield:
  3. It’s often on the hand out of food dogs can’t eat. And even on ASPCA’s list. Ps coconut oil and raw meat are on that list too.

Now if this is your sole source of information, and you don’t question things you read on the internet. You can stop right here. And never ever feed Garlic to your dogs. Ever.  

But if you don’t believe that the world is flat and you like to search for new findings and are genuinely curious, read on. 

The Overdose Story

As of the time this article was written, almost twenty-two years ago, a group did a study on eight mixed breed dogs. Four of them were given 5g/kg of Garlic for 7 days and the others were given water. 

Let’s say that dog was a golden retriever they would have been fed the equivalent of

  • 35 cloves per day
  • 245 clovers per week

This video shows a great visual of what that amount of garlic looks like:

  • Go to the 4 minute mark to see the 35 and 245 clove representation.

The results? Their blood parameters went south, but not a single dog developed hemolytic anemia, and yet they published it with the conclusion that it “might” cause hemolytic anemia.  

The study can be found HERE

My personal opinion: This amount of Garlic 5g/kg would be unsafe for rats, giraffes, beavers, elephants, horses, and hippos. No animal should be fed any food to overdose and overload. Most clinical studies look for minimum and safe upper limits but not to the point where the study is doomed to fail.  

If I were a dog and they fed me this much Garlic, I would have to eat 78 cloves of Garlic a day, for seven days.  

Garlic Is Lumped Into The Same Family as Onions

Garlic is part of the Allium family (shallots, leeks, onions) which contains thiosulfate (toxic for dogs but not for humans). When ingested in large amounts, this thiosulfate causes oxidative damage in red blood cells resulting in Heinz Bodies which your dog’s body rejects and expels through the bloodstream and in the very worst cases, dogs will get Hemolytic Anemia and may even cause death.  

And while onions have a high amount of thiosulfate, garlic has trace levels.

Newer Studies Show Garlic is Safe For Dogs

This earlier study was questioned by the pet food industry due to the amount of garlic that was used.

And years later, the same scientists reversed their study.

Garlic is Safe For Your Practice

In 2017 Dr. Lisa Newman wrote about garlic safety as follows: 

For the last few decades, primarily as a result of the onion’s reputation for triggering Heinz body hemolytic anemia because of its higher concentration of thiosulphate, Garlic (the onion’s “kissing cousin”) was also said to be toxic. Garlic simply does not contain the same thiosulphate concentration as the onion does. In fact, it is barely traceable and readily excreted. “In the testing of onions and garlic on (the dog’s) blood cell oxidation, onions have about 15 times the ability of garlic to damage red blood cells,” states nutritionist Dr. Dave Summers on IndigoPetz.com.1

https://ivcjournal.com/garlic/

In her article, which you can read HERE, she further elaborates the safe dosage as follows: 

Safe raw garlic dosages for dogs and cats

In her article, she further states:

“Many veterinary practitioners and authors follow the dosage recommendations in Juliette de Bairacli Levy’s book, The Complete Herbal Book for the Dog. She recommends:

  • 10 to 15 pounds – ½ clove
  • 20 to 40 pounds – 1 clove
  • 45 to 70 pounds – 2 cloves
  • 75 to 90 pounds – 2½ cloves
  • 100 pounds and over – 3 cloves

A 2008 report published by the National Research Council is more conservative in its dosage information. While the committee that prepared the report was unable to determine the safe upper limit of garlic intake for dogs, cats and horses, it could “use available research to recommend a range of acceptable intakes according to historical safe intakes (HSI) and estimated presumed safe intakes (PSI)”.4

Based on a clove weighing 3 g, the PSI for:

  • A 50 lb. dog is 1.2 g or .045 ounces/day, which is equivalent to approx. ½ clove per day
  • A 15 lb. cat is .12 g or .004 ounce/day, which is equivalent to approx. 1/25 clove per day
  • An 850 lb. horse is 34.8 g or 1.2 ounces/day, which is equivalent to approx. 11 cloves.

Remember that garlic cloves vary greatly in size, with one clove garlic = 3 g to 7 g. As with any herbs, I believe it is always a good idea to take a week off from Garlic every couple of months.”

How I Feed Garlic?

I feed my own dogs 1/2 teaspoon 2 to 3 times a week during the flea season. In the winter months, it may only be once or twice a month.  

Preparation: Peel and crush Garlic and let it sit out for 10 minutes because that is how long it takes for alliinase to activate and convert the alliin to allicin.   

Allicin is especially beneficial for gut health because it kills bad bacteria while allowing good kinds to thrive.  

I then place the Garlic in the dog’s bowl without mixing it with the food and letting my dog self select if they want to eat it or not.  

Did You Know Garlic Is Used In Dog Food?

Garlic is also known to provide the following benefits:

  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-carcinogen
  • Regulates blood pressure
  • Heart health
  • Great against allergies
  • Great against liver and kidney disease
  • Wormer
  • Flea, tick, mosquito repellent

And now you can find it in dog food like Purina, Blue Buffalo and Wellness

Additionally, if you do a search in Amazon you’ll find a host of supplements that use Garlic as the main ingredient mostly to prevent fleas.  

Talking About Fleas

I live in San Diego and thankfully our flea problem is mostly seasonal. And it’s not that bad. 

Two summers ago, my dog had a bad reaction to Simparica and she started to regurgitate her food. The vet even thought she had a mega-esophagus, which was ruled out after further testing.  

Opinion: There are more studies of dogs suffering from prescription flea preventatives than garlic and so as a dog owner that focuses on natural methods, I’d rather feed Garlic than give my dog flea medication.  

When Is Garlic Not Advised For Dogs?

Caution is recommended when feeding Garlic for:

  • Puppies
  • Lactating mothers
  • Japanese and Korean Breeds: i.e. Akitas, Jindos and Shiba-Inus

Garlic Is Used By Raw Feeders

Most raw feeders already feed garlic regularly. Raw feeders have turned away from kibble to feed a more natural diet and most raw feeders like me reject flea medication because we think the harm in it isn’t worth it. 

Garlic Safety Is Dose Dependant and Your Dog’s Reaction To It

Garlic’s safety is based on the dose, the form you feed it, and your dog’s reaction to it.  

You can do your own research and ask yourself why you are even considering feeding dogs garlic.  

Final Takeaway:

Garlic was initially thought to be toxic for dogs but this study was reversed by the same scientists who published the first study. 

When you see online that garlic is toxic, it references the first study but not the more recent studies.  

Dog companies are now including garlic in their food and supplements.  

Personally, as a Certified Canine Nutritionist and dog mom, I have observed garlic to provide many healing properties when it comes to dogs and food. I also have found it to be a safer option than flea medication when it comes to repelling fleas. 

Remember you also have your veterinarian as a resource. Ask your own vet and ask them about the studies that were used. to form their opinion. Some vets will not support garlic while others will.

At the end of the day, the decision lies in your hands and you must feed the dog in front of you with the information you have and what you are comfortable doing.

Eat well. Feed well.

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