The Benefits of Milk Thistle for Dogs

Milk thistle for dogs has powerful antioxidant effects that could help reduce symptoms of liver disease, diabetes and inflammatory bowel syndrome. Its use is still experimental, but many veterinarians have seen positive effects in their patients.

Benefits of Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is a flowering plant from the Aster family, which includes daisies. Of European origin, milk thistle was once used as liver tonic by Roman emperors. It is one of the few herbs used in conjunction with conventional Western medicine for humans. The active ingredient is silymarin, which makes up about 80 percent of milk thistle extracts and powders.

The uses for dogs are similar to those for humans. Milk thistle has demonstrated effectiveness in protecting the liver against toxins and stimulating growth of cells to replace those that are killed or damaged. Milk thistle is also a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

In humans, milk thistle is used primarily for treating liver diseases, such as cirrosis of the liver, but in dogs, it is also being successfully used in the treatment of diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It reduces inflammation of the liver and bile ducts that occur during IBD, and stabilizes red blood cells affected by diabetes.

Uses of Milk Thistle

Currently, veterinarians are prescribing milk thistle to combat liver disease, diabetes and IBD, but many others believe that there are other beneficial uses.

Many different types of medication, such as phenobarbital, which is used in the treatment of seizures, and soloxine, which is used to treat thyroid disease, can cause liver damage after long term use. Because these conditions often aren't curable, dogs are required to stay on these medications for life, which may eventually cause irreparable liver or kidney damage.

Many veterinarians are suggesting regular doses of milk thistle during such drug therapy to improve the liver condition and prevent problems that can occur later. However, some herbalists believe that long term use of milk thistle may disrupt liver function and recommend it only in treatment of an existing disease.

Milk thistle could also promote faster recovery from adverse reactions to vaccinations and illnesses such as parvovirus, which can do serious damage to your dog's body. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of milk thistle could help dogs recover more quickly.

Research at Case Western University even suggests that milk thistle might assist in the treatment of cancer. Their research showed that the effects of milk thistle protected the body from tumor promotion. This research provides hope that milk thistle could be used along with chemotherapy and radiation to treat cancer and help the body recover more quickly from such treatment.

Milk thistle can be easily acquired at health food stores, but consult an herbalist or veterinarian before beginning treatment with your dog. Improper dosage may lead to disruption of liver function. However, there are significant health benefits to using milk thistle with your sick dog.