Why Use Milk Thistle for Dogs

Why Use Milk Thistle for Dogs

  • Kirsten Thornhill - 30.11.2020

Milk thistle is derived from exactly where you think it’s from - the milk thistle plant. For years and years this plant has been used for medicinal and holistic purposes. Milk thistle for dogs may even be the next best supplement for your four-legged friend you didn’t know you needed!

What is Canine Milk Thistle?

This plant goes back to ancient times, being a source of medicinal healing. 2,000 years ago, milk thistle was used to treat cases of kidney and liver disease. However, in recent years, scientists and researchers have suggested that milk thistle may also act as a powerful anti-inflammatory plant.



Milk thistle extract comes from the seeds of the milk thistle plant, kinda like a cute thistle mom having a thistle baby! The active ingredient of this derived chemical is silymarin, which is the eyebrow raising topic researchers are glued to lately.

How Does Silymarin Work? What is it?

Before we rabbit hole into the details of milk thistle for your puppers, we’ll touch on the importance of the biochemistry behind silymarin and how this chemical works. 

Silymarin is commonly referred to as a hepatoprotective compound. 



When a human or animal consumes toxins or food, the metabolic breakdown of that food results in the production of free radicals in the body. This accumulation of free radicals can be considered “bad” -  as they may lead to cellular membrane damage and lipoperoxidation. 

The great thing about silymarin is that it has been demonstrated to stop or slow the activity of free radicals. Silymarin also increases liver antioxidant activity and hepatic glutathione (a compound that helps the liver detox). 

What Conditions Can Milk Thistle Help?

In theory, milk thistle can help treat various conditions in us humans. For the most part, the same can be said about our four-legged paw friends! Milk thistle can help treat conditions including: 

  • Jaundice, chronic inflammatory liver disease, chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis
  • Kidney disease and kidney damage
  • Liver damage that may be cause of toxin ingestion, such as chemotherapy or alcohol

1. Kidney Disease and Milk Thistle

Our kidneys work closely with our liver, cleaning out harsh toxins from our body. So, hypothetically, it’s entirely possible that milk thistle for dogs can work to detoxify the kidney through reducing the overall number of toxins that the kidney may need to filter out. 



In addition, the active compound in milk thistle that we mentioned above, silymarin, has major protective abilities. This means that when taken on a chronic basis, silymarin can help reduce functional kidney damage. This proves to be extremely beneficial for dogs with kidney failure or other forms of kidney disease. 

2. Cushing’s Disease and Milk Thistle

Cushing’s disease can be defined as a disease that increases the concentration of adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), a hormone. When there is too much ACTH in the body, the pituitary located in the brain, reacts by secreting excess cortisol hormones. 

When a human or animal has too much cortisol in their body they can begin to experience symptoms of Cushing’s disease. This occurs due to tumor growths pushing onto the pituitary gland. In us humans, the most common method of treatment involves brain surgery. 


Nonetheless, through the use of animal models, researchers are diving deeper into the use of milk thistle extract, silibinin, as an alternative treatment option to Cushing’s disease. Evidently, scientists firmly believe that milk thistle extract can be manipulated into treating various kinds of conditions and diseases including multiple myeloma, lymphoblastic leukemia, Cushing’s disease, and lung tumors. 

The Benefits of Milk Thistle for Dogs

Milk thistle for doggos is most frequently used as a remedy for healing and may even help reverse liver damage, promoting liver health. Interestingly enough, milk thistle has also been associated with improvements in cardiac overall health and helping with type 2 diabetes. 

As a powerful detoxifier, milk thistle can improve the overall health of those who are suffering with liver damage caused by industrial toxins, cirrhosis, and hepatitis. It plays such an important role in the liver purification process, including blood purification. 

This plant helps to improve insulin resistance too! It may help lower the overall level of sugar in the blood in type 2 diabetics. Finally, milk thistle can promote healthy cardiac systems due to its great ability to lower LDLs, low-density lipoproteins, commonly referred to as “bad cholesterol”.



Milk thistle helps animals and humans by reducing their allergy impact, thus, making life more enjoyable and possibly easier come allergy season. 

Similar to us humans, milk thistle for dogs can help with kidney disease in your canines. Whether these liver problems were caused by inadequate use of medication(s), or more so simply by genetic reasons out of your control, milk thistle can improve kidney function and health. 

How to Detox with Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is a powerful antioxidant, protecting the body from harmful and harsh chemicals that may otherwise attack cells and destroy them. It’s especially good at making sure liver cells aren’t continuously being oxidized by these free radical chemicals.

When medication is taken over a long period of time, it is possible that it can induce liver damage. Milk thistle’s healing properties help revert any damage done previously whilst also preventing future destruction of the liver. 



Milk thistle also helps rid the body of toxins. If your liver is under too much stress to be able to break down these toxins, the chemicals of milk thistle will do it instead. This almost fully ensures that no toxins will build up in the bloodstream. Histamines, which are often related to allergies, are just some of the toxins that milk thistle can help clean up, ensuring that major allergies and allergic reactions aren’t as apparent. 


What are the Potential Side Effects of Milk Thistle?

The good news? There are very few side effects of milk thistle, and not everyone who consumes this extract will experience them. 

Side effects can include: 


  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Gas production
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea

Since these side effects are not seen in most cases, vets are inclined to believe that some of these symptoms could be possible allergic reactions to the milk thistle. Because of the possible laxative effect the plant may have on doggos, vets recommend starting out with small doses, which slower increases towards the maximum daily amount allotted. As your pup gets more used to this plant, the least likely that they will experience any of these potential side effects. 

When consumed. Harmful toxins can significantly “mess up” your pet’s overall health. Some dogs, such as Labrador Retrievers, Great Danes, and Dalmatians, are at a higher risk for liver-related diseases. They have a genetic inability to rid excess copper from their systems, causing major problems in their overall health. Other breeds can also have a hard time eliminating heavy metals and pesticides, thus, this is where milk thistle comes into play!



Some doggos are especially difficult when it comes to taking medications. Thankfully, there are several ways you can give your pup milk thistle without it being a whole event. Since plant extract comes in many forms, you can choose which open may be best for you and your pup. 

Importance of Milk Thistle Extract

The best versions of the product for your dog’s overall health are the ones that contain 70 - 80% silymarin, one of the chemical compounds in milk thistle. You can find this product in stores in capsule form, tablet form, powder form, or as a liquid extract. These forms are all safe for consumption and are effective in fighting diabetes, liver disease, and heart problems. 

What Milk Thistle Dosage for Dogs?

The best form of this compound for your dog is one that contains 70-80% of silymarin, like we mentioned above. 

When first starting dosing, it’s recommended that you give your dog a quarter of a teaspoon per 20 pounds of their body weight per day. For instance, if your four-legged friend is 40 lbs, you should give them half a teaspoon of milk thistle every day. 

If you are using a powdered form of the extract, you should give them 2 - 5 mg per pound of their body weight. Again, if your dog weighs 40 lbs, you should give them anywhere between 80 - 200 mg of powdered extract.



When using the liquid form of milk thistle extract, first start by adding ¼ tablespoon per 20 lbs of your dog’s body weight. Milk thistle works best when given in small doses, throughout the entire day. We recommend dividing the recommended dosage into small fourths. For example, if the recommended amount is 1 tablespoon, you should give fido ¼ tablespoon, four times per day. 

Milk Thistle for Dogs: Final Thoughts

While most all-natural, herbal remedies seem a bit far-fetched to work and heal, milk thistle is certainly a unique plant and extract! There has been continued and ongoing research with evidence displaying milk thistle extract as an extremely beneficial compound. From reducing overall liver damage to encouraging liver cells to maintain healthy liver function, milk thistle is making waves to paw parents and their pups!

So, here at Petly CBD, we definitely support milk thistle. With little to no side effects and benefits all around, we do believe that this herb can work wonders! Does your pup have liver damage or liver failure? At your next visit, consider talking with your vet about milk thistle and if it’s a viable option for your pup!

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