Milk Thistle for Dogs: Protection Against Liver Damage

Milk Thistle Protects Against Liver Damage

Every day, we are surrounded by toxins. Like us, our dogs aren’t immune to them. Toxins can be found in their food, drink, the grass outside, and even the air they breathe. There is no way to get away from them. Their (and our) liver play a critical role in ensuring toxins are filtered from our body effectively.

The liver is in charge of filtering poisons from the bloodstream. It’s no surprise that the liver is very susceptible to disease and injury because it’s the organ responsible for detoxification.

milk thistle for dogs
Milk Thistle

Every organ in the body is linked to another in some way. Although there are many organs and organ systems, they all operate together in harmony. This means that if one is injured, the others will almost certainly follow.

“Western medicine is a little short on therapy choices for chronic liver conditions,” says Dr. Gary Richter. Because all medications, including flea, tick, and heartworm products, must eventually be metabolized by the liver, the first step in treatment should be to avoid any drugs that are not absolutely essential. Anti-inflammatory medicines used to treat arthritis, such as NSAIDs, should be avoided. The liver can be aided via food and supplements.

 Milk thistle is one of the greatest natural choices available in assisting your dog’s liver in removing toxins from the body (both ours and our dog’s). 

What is Milk Thistle?

Milk thistle is a Mediterranean flower native to Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. For thousands of years, humans have benefited from its healing properties. Even mainstream medicine promotes milk thistle as one of the few herbs that can be used medicinally. 

milk thistle for dogs
Milk Thistle

The FDA recommending an alternative therapy is unusual because conventional medicine normally promotes western-style, pharmaceutical therapies over alternative and holistic (herbal medicine, natural remedies). This is a testament to the plant’s remarkable abilities.

Compounds in Milk Thistle

Milk thistle has three compounds of interest: silychristine, silydianin, and silybin. You’ve probably heard of silymarin, which is a combination of these three components. Silymarin is commonly used as a liver tonic by humans.

However, milk thistle’s benefits in pets have only recently been discovered. Researchers have looked into the ability to heal liver and kidney function, as well as jaundice, leptospirosis, parvo, and hepatitis.

Research on Milk Thistle for Dogs with Cancer

A research study published in Antioxidants stated “SM [silymarin] has been the gold standard drug to treat liver disorders of different etiologies and milk thistle extracts have been used as traditional herbal remedies (“liver tonics”) for almost 2000 years. Therefore, SM is most well known for its antioxidant and chemoprotective effects on the liver and it is often prescribed and self-prescribed as a complementary and alternative hepatoprotective medicine.”

Did you say hepatoprotective? What does Hepatoprotective mean?

When something is hepatoprotective, it reduces stress and exhaustion while also preventing future injury in a liver that has been overworked.

purple flower in tilt shift lens
Milk Thistle

The research article continues to explain:

“SM is being studied as a Hepato -(Liver), Neuro- (Brain), Nephro- (Kidney) and Cardio-(Heart) protective ingredient due to its strong antioxidant and tissue regenerative properties.”

Dr. Gary Richter, DVM stated “extracts of milk thistle seeds have been shown to both protect liver cells and promote growth of new liver cells. The whole seeds themselves are not biologically active if ingested; only the extracted compounds such as silymarin are effective.”

Preventing and Repairing Liver Damage

Research shows milk thistle can help prevent and repair liver damage. A study published by Phytotherapy Research stated “ In animals, silymarin reduces liver injury caused by acetaminophen, carbon tetrachloride, radiation, iron overload, phenylhydrazine, alcohol, cold ischaemia and Amanita phalloides. Silymarin has been used to treat alcoholic liver disease, acute and chronic viral hepatitis and toxin-induced liver diseases.”

Milk thistle is a well-known antioxidant.  Antioxidants defend the body from free radicals. Free radicals are what are responsible for instability in the body- like cancer for example . A balance between free radicals and antioxidants is important for healthy physiological function, according to research. When the body’s ability to control free radicals is overwhelmed, the result is oxidative stress.  This can lead to cancer, arthritis, and heart disease, among other problems.

Prescription and over-the-counter medicines both have the potential to create free radicals in the body. Milk thistle has been shown to protect the liver against medication-induced damage.

When your dog’s liver is weak, it has a difficult time cleaning poisons out on its own. Milk thistle aids in the removal of toxins from the body and the restoration of liver function.

Milk Thistle’s Magic

Who’d have guessed milk thistle could be such a potent herb for our dogs? As scientists, we are continually looking for new ways to improve the health of our loved ones while causing less harm to the body. Using milk thistle as a natural liver detoxifier can be extremely beneficial to our pets (and ourselves). Because the liver is largely responsible for filtering out all of the “bad,” we can now give the liver a favor by assisting it in naturally cleaning itself up.

Published by AmberLDrake

Dr. Drake is an award-winning author and well-known cancer specialist in her field. She is best known for her extensive research on canine cancer prevention and nutrition, her dedication to help dogs live a long, happy life, and for teaching veterinary medicine. As the CEO of Canine Companions Co., the Founder of Drake Dog Cancer Foundation and Academy, and the Co-Founder of Preferable Pups, in addition to being a respected figure in the dog world, she has earned the respect of thousands of dog lovers worldwide.

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