Sometimes called the “house cleaner” of herbs, milk thistle is a powerful detoxifier that can help strengthen your dog or cat’s liver.
Milk thistle is a flowering plant native to Europe, and which also grows in the western and southwestern US. It has a long history as an herbal remedy, dating back 2,000 years when it was used in ancient Greece as a natural liver tonic. Milk thistle is still in popular use today as the go-to for liver toxicity as well as all other liver conditions. And it can be just as helpful for our dogs and cats as it is for humans.
HOW DOES MILK THISTLE HELP ANIMALS?
The liver may be the most important organ in the body. Inflammation of the liver is a very serious condition, but milk thistle can help the organ work more efficiently. Active substances in milk thistle may also have anti-cancer effects.
Holistic vets commonly use milk thistle to flush out toxins from drugs, including preventive flea and tick medications. Some herbalists add milk thistle to almost every herbal prescription because no matter what the disease, the liver is involved in detoxification.
SILYMARIN — THE ACTIVE INGREDIENT
The active biochemical in milk thistle is known as silymarin and is extracted from the plant’s seeds. Silymarin’s major active compound is silybin. A recent study done by BMC Vet Research about the effects of silybin supplementation on liver function states: “Silybin supplementation can serve as an effective therapeutical tool in dogs with hepatopathies.” Milk thistle also contains flavolognans and essential oils.
OTHER BENEFITS OF MILK THISTLE
In addition to benefiting liver conditions, silymarin inhibited the growth of certain types of cancer in some studies.
Milk thistle can be used in animals to help with kidney damage, hepatitis, jaundice, leptospirosis, and parvovirus recovery.
Integrative vets use milk thistle for gallbladder complications and diabetes.
Animals who have been on heartworm medication or dewormers, or have been given vaccines or chemotherapy, might benefit. Milk thistle is also known to block the potential liver-damaging effects of anesthesia.
Milk thistle has been found to be a free radical scavenger, and acts as an antioxidant.
Milk thistle works as an emergency antidote to mushroom poisoning. This herb prevents the mushroom’s poisonous amatoxins from reaching and damaging liver cells. (Editor’s note: if you ever suspect your animal has eaten a poisonous mushroom, it’s still important to get him to an emergency vet as fast as possible.)
BUYING THE RIGHT PRODUCT FOR YOUR ANIMAL
There are all kinds of milk thistle supplements on the market, and some are better than others. So it’s best to work with a holistic or integrative vet for advice on which brands are appropriate for your dog or cat. Some products are specifically designed for animals, but over-the counter human supplements may also be used. Look for a minimum of 70% silymarin on the label.
WHAT’S AN APPROPRIATE DOSE?
Veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker, the author of Forever Dog, recommends 1/8 of a teaspoon of loose milk thistle per ten pounds of body weight.
If you’re using a human over-the-counter drug, you can follow these dosages:
Cats and dogs weighing under 15 pounds : ¼ the human dose
Dogs weighing 15 to 30 pounds: ½ the human dose
Dogs weighing 31 to 50 pounds: ¾ the human dose
Large dogs: full human dose
To sum up, milk thistle benefits the liver in several ways. It acts as an antioxidant and helps prevent further damage to liver cells. It’s important for cells exposed to toxins, and it stimulates protein synthesis and rebuilds cells damaged by any type of liver disease. The seeds are where the magic is found, and contain the medicinal properties used for tinctures. Milk thistle is safe to use in all dogs and cats; just keep in mind that animals with liver disease benefit more from a tincture rather than a pinch of seeds on their meals.
The post Milk Thistle — A Natural Detox Herb for Dogs and Cats appeared first on Animal Wellness Magazine.