What are the Uses of Milk Thistle for Dogs?

Amanda R. Bell

Milk thistle helps to support the liver while it is recovering from disease by stimulating cell production and increasing immunity. Whether practicing traditional or holistic dog care, veterinarians frequently use the herb milk thistle to treat certain liver diseases. They will also often recommend milk thistle for dogs who were recently on medication or who are recovering from parvovirus. The dosage of milk thistle for dogs generally ranges from 100 mg to 200 mg per 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) of weight, though long term use is not recommended.

A dog owner should consult a veterinarian before treating the pet with milk thistle or any other herbal supplement.
A dog owner should consult a veterinarian before treating the pet with milk thistle or any other herbal supplement.

Milk thistle benefits dogs who are suffering from hepatitis, liver cancer, swamp fever, and an inflamed pancreas. It not only helps to protect the liver from toxins that could increase inflammation but also stimulates liver cell growth, helping to repair the damage that these diseases can cause. It can also be used to treat diabetes and help to bolster the immune system, which can be greatly beneficial to dogs suffering from cancer.

Milk thistle is used to treat liver diseases in dogs.
Milk thistle is used to treat liver diseases in dogs.

Veterinarians also prescribe milk thistle to dogs that have recently completed a medicine regime or undergone chemotherapy. It is also prescribed to dogs that have been recently dewormed, undergone treatment for heart worm, or received a vaccine. The milk thistle helps to detoxify the dog's body, assisting it to process the rest of the medication and return to its normal function. It also helps to repair any damage that the medication may have caused to the dog’s body during treatment, especially in the case of chemotherapy. For dogs that have contracted and recovered from parvovirus, milk thistle can help repair the cell damage caused by the disease.

The dosage of milk thistle for dogs depends not only on weight but also the illness. Dogs that have experienced severe liver damage may be typically prescribed 200 mg per 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) of weight. When milk thistle is used for detoxification or recovery purposes, the most common dosage is generally 100 mg per 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) of weight.

Milk thistle appears to be very safe for dogs. The only apparent side effects associated with taking this herb are upset stomach, mild diarrhea and excess gas. If these side effects occur, the dosage can be reduced and still provide the same outcome. While milk thistle benefits dogs in many ways, it is only meant to be consumed for a short period rather than as a daily supplement. Long term use of milk thistle for dogs that are otherwise healthy can suppress liver function, leading to health problems down the road.

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Discussion Comments


@Mor - If a dog has been fed a good diet and hasn't got any genetic problems (like the ones that often come from inbreeding) then there shouldn't be many incidents of the sniffles or other small illnesses.

And if a person can't afford to take their dog to the vet if they need it, then they can't afford a dog. It's just not fair to keep an animal if you aren't going to be able to look after it when it's sick.

That said, giving your dog milk thistle capsules when it's recovering from something, or when the vet thinks it's a good idea isn't going to hurt your dog. This isn't some quack remedy, vets will prescribe it and you can also get it in pet stores as a supplement.


@indigomoth - It's rarely a "bit of money" though. Vet bills can be extremely expensive and you don't know what they are going to be until you get there.

If you are very careful about identifying and preparing the milk thistle, or if you buy milk thistle, and if it can't harm your dog in small doses, then what's the harm in trying it first? As long as you don't give it to your dog daily, it seems to be relatively harmless and might do your dog some good.

Often animals get sick but manage to get over it themselves without any help from the vet. Taking them in for every little sniffle is a waste of money.


I would be very cautious about giving my dog anything like this that hasn't been prescribed by a doctor.

While it's not supposed to have any adverse effects, the average person is not going to be able to judge what a correct dose might be. They won't know how much to give their dog, and they won't know how to prepare the dosage to the right strength even if they did.

If the dog has never been to a vet, then the owner might not even fully know what's wrong with him. Giving him milk thistle might help or it might disguise what's really wrong. If your dog has cancer, for example and milk thistle helps him feel better temporarily, that's not going to fix the underlying problem.

It's always better to take your dog to the vet to make sure you know what's wrong and how to fix it. Don't make your animal suffer because you don't want to pay a bit of money to a professional.

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