Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pet Food Ingredients de-mystified: Garlic, trust history or hysteria?

When it comes to your animal’s health you want to follow facts and not fears. It is easy for rumors and misinformation to arise. On the Internet such rumors can grow and spread fast. One of the topics, which has been under attack more recently is garlic as in feeding to animals. You too have probably heard on the one hand that garlic is safe and a healthy herb for your pets. At the same time you may also got confused when you found out the next day that it may be dangerously toxic and should be avoided. So what are the facts here?

Quite possibly the confusion surrounding garlic may come from its close ties to the onion family. Onions have a high concentration of thiosulfate, a substance that can trigger hemolytic or Heinz body anemia in dogs, a condition where circulating blood cells burst. Just one generous single serving of onions can cause this reaction. By the way, such reactions can also be caused by serving acetaminophen, as it is contained in Tylenol or benzocaine, which is present in many creams recommended for allergy suffering animals. Benzocaine is absorbed through the skin and builds up in the blood stream. In many cases it has been proven to be involved when originally garlic was suspected to cause hemolytic problems.

But garlic itself simply does not contain the same concentration of thiosulfate as onions do. It is barely traceable in garlic and is readily excreted from the body. Despite this fact, garlic still is falling victim to the net’s mass hysteria. Google for “garlic toxicity dogs” and you get a list of 206,000 sites presenting to you warnings. Yet there is little scientific data to back those claims, except those small amounts of thiosulfate. The good thing though is that if you change your Google search from “toxicity” to “benefits” the result of 5.8 Million sites probably outweighs the negatives. Included in that number are those favorable sites by reputable holistic vets having widely used garlic in their practice for many years.

Garlic has been a primary remedy for as longs as humans have been using herbs. And as long as people have been using garlic they also have fed it to their animals. Its healing properties have proven far reaching and safe to use. During the rebirth of holistic medicine in the past fifty years garlic has been on the forefront of remedies. Pretty much every article and comment on herbal health recommends garlic for animals. This is especially true for its incredible anti parasitic and antiseptic properties. Garlic also has benefited animals suffering from cancer, diabetes, liver, heart and kidney disease, uncontrollable staph infections and a wide host of other conditions.

Feeding garlic raw on a daily absis may be hard on the GI tract and cause digestive upset or diarrhea. If that happens, it means your animal cannot really eat enough to get true therapeutic doses. Forget about dehydrated powder or cooked garlic because it has gone through heat processing, which destroys many of its benefits. Therefore the best form to use it is a purified extract, often found in form of gel caps. This way it can get easily into the intestines in concentrated amounts benefiting the animal without causing digestive upset.

Garlic is a staple in recommended preventative protocols and has been used in hundreds of thousands of animals with no reported negative side effects except on breath. I would say it is fine to use garlic in reasonable doses. When giving it to your pet, use common sense and trust history over hysteria.

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