Milk Thistle for Dogs: Is it Safe?


As a dog owner, you may be looking to treat various health conditions in your dog with more natural options. Herbal supplements can be a good option in certain situations. 

Like fish oil for dogs, milk thistle is an example of a natural supplement that may be effective in helping to treat liver conditions in dogs under the guidance of your veterinarian.  

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Milk thistle is a flowering herb related to the daisy and ragweed family. Its seeds contain silymarin, a flavonoid compound chock-full of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Used by humans for more than 2,000 years for liver and gall bladder disorders, milk thistle may also be beneficial for dogs with liver problems or other diseases.  

Benefits of Milk Thistle for Dogs:

It’s important to note that studies on milk thistle for dogs are very limited, but the results of some existing research suggest it may help with the following conditions:

  • Acute or chronic hepatitis 
  • Diabetes
  • Pancreatitis 
  • Cushing’s disease 

The silymarin in milk thistle may inhibit inflammatory pathways, increase protein production in the liver, reduce free radicals, and promote bile flow; all of which can ease liver inflammation caused by pancreatitis. 

In the case of Cushing’s disease, milk thistle will not treat the disease, but it can help protect the dog’s liver from the effects of increased cortisol levels. 

In diabetic dogs, some studies have shown milk thistle may reduce insulin levels slightly. However, it’s important to work with your veterinarian to determine if milk thistle might a good supplement to your dog’s current medical care.

weiner dog

How Much Milk Thistle Should Dogs Have?

Since milk thistle is an herbal supplement, you do not need a prescription for it. However, you should still check with your veterinarian before incorporating it into your dog’s care. 

Milk thistle comes in liquid, powder, or capsule form and there are formulations specifically for dogs. Avoid using any human-grade milk thistle as it may contain additives that are not safe for your dog. 

The amount you give to your dog will depend on the concentration of the milk thistle you choose. This is another area where your veterinarian can guide you in choosing the right brand and assisting with the dosage. 

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Side Effects of Milk Thistle for Dogs

If your vet determines that milk thistle will be a beneficial addition to your dog's treatment plan, it’s important to note the following side effects:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Lethargy 

If you notice these or any other symptoms, contact your veterinarian right away. Learn about some natural pain relief options for dogs here.  

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