Milk thistle, also known as Silybum marianum or Silymarin, is an effective herb used predominantly for natural liver treatment. It is a bioflavonoid and a flowering member of the aster family. It is originally found in Europe and parts of the United States. The seeds and roots of this herb have been used for medicinal purposes since ancient Roman times, and hence, it is primarily used for detoxifying and regenerating the liver. The liver helps in breaking down and removing toxins and chemicals from the body. Milk thistle's detoxifying properties prevent the liver from getting damaged due to exposure to these toxins and chemicals in dogs as well as in humans. The active ingredient silymarin which is present in it, gets selectively accumulated in the liver. It not only cures liver diseases in dogs, but also helps protect against tumor growth.
- Milk thistle protects the liver against drugs and heavy metals and is highly effective in treating a variety of liver diseases. It activates protein synthesis and stimulates growth of new liver cells to replace those that are damaged or dead.
- It is helpful for dogs with liver problems like hepatitis, fatty liver, cholangitis, pericholangitis, and hepatic lipidosis. It helps to cure these problems by increasing the intracellular levels of glutathione, a substance necessary for detoxifying reactions.
- It also has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which help in destroying oxygen free radicals that cause degenerative diseases including cancer, and treating gallstones and inflammatory bowel disease respectively.
- When administered to the pet after a drug regime, it can protect the liver against damage or ill-effects of the chemicals. This may comprise chemicals taken for treatment of any kind of illness or even vaccinations, or heartworm, tick, and flea preventive applications.
- Ingestion of the Amanita phalloides mushrooms can cause severe liver damage in dogs. These mushrooms comprise the two most toxic liver poisons--phalloidin and amanitin, which can cause liver imbalance and eventual death in dogs. Silymarin, if administered before ingestion of these mushrooms, is nearly 100% effective in preventing liver damage or death in dogs.
- Leptospirosis (a bacterial infection) and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) are some common canine liver problems and related diseases that can be treated with milk thistle.
Although no toxic effects of milk thistle have been reported so far, in some cases, it may cause loose stools in dogs as a result of increased bile flow and secretion. Therefore, the standard dosage contains 70 to 80 percent silymarin, and most supplements contain about 100 to 200 mg of the herb. Since it is safe for dogs, those with advanced liver disease are recommended a dosage as high as 200 mg per 10 pounds of body weight, and for other liver problems, the recommended dosage is 75 to 100 mg per 10 pounds of body weight per day. However, if it causes an upset stomach, gas, or mild diarrhea in the dog, simply reduce the dosage or consult a veterinarian as long term usage can eventually suppress liver function.
Milk thistle comes in a powder, capsule, or liquid form. However, the liquid form is not recommended for dogs as it may contain alcohol. Therefore, consult a veterinarian before giving this herb to your pet and read the ingredients carefully before purchasing.