Monday, January 20, 2014

Garlic: Friend or Foe?

Fleas are on everyone's mind all year 'round here in San Diego, which means garlic comes up in conversation. More and more websites are saying that garlic is "toxic" and "dangerous" for dogs, and even warn people to "never" feed any amount of garlic in any form.  

I get frustrated with many of these lists for being sloppy and alarmist, but perhaps this is because too many people lack common sense. 

I know none you reading this fall into that group. You are all sensible folks who would consider generations of sensible use to be a good indicator of safety on what natural foods to feed dogs (cats are different on this topic, as in many that involve foods and herbs). 

I believe that garlic is a friend, not a foe of dogs. 

Let's cut to the chase here and round up a few details later....

  • Small amounts are beneficial for almost all dogs. 
  • It's very likely to make your dog less attractive to fleas, mosquitos, flies, and ticks. 
  • It's an antimicrobial, enhances the immune system, and stimulates digestion.
  • It should not be fed to anemic dogs.
  • It's prudent to avoid it for breeds indigenous to Japan (Shiba, Akita).
  • It may not be a good fit for dogs with hot, irritated GI tracts.

OK, let's go through some details.

dried garlic
Often the difference between a medicine and a poison is the dose (pharmaceuticals anyone?); this doesn't stop you from taking medicine, you just follow directions. This goes for many natural foods too. More is NOT better when it comes to garlic for dogs. 1 small clove raw or a 1/4 teaspoon dry per day for a medium dog is fine. Adjust  this amount accordingly for your dog's size. Some folks feed more than this, I'm giving a basic prudent amount that I feel totally comfortable recommending.

Why is everyone afraid of garlic? Because large amounts of it may induce hemolytic anemia."Large amounts" means more than your dog really wants to eat (Would your dog eat 50 cloves? Would you?).  It can also refer to foolish amounts fed over time (don't feed your dog 10 cloves of garlic a day, ok). These warnings are based on tests that have no relationship to real-world feeding. And guess what's just as "bad" that you don't hear about... onions! Yep, onions are more likely to cause this, so don't feed your dog a bunch of raw onions.

So who shouldn't get much garlic? It seems that Japanese breeds may be more sensitive to this (like cats), so feed even less. Because the worry is for a form of anemia it would follow that to be cautious you don't feed it to a dog with anemia. Dogs that are experiencing frequent diarrhea, acid reflux, etc. would be aggravated by garlic, and frankly need to have other plants fed to help balance and repair their digestive tract first and foremost.

 I'm adding granulated garlic to Vida's food right now (my re-purposed jam jar has very little in it, as you can see in the photo above), and I plan to to continue through the summer. It's not the only thing I do to make bugs less interested in her, but this year I'm really paying attention to it as an addition. The fact that it has other benefits is a bonus - gotta love plants for their complexity.
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