One of nature’s most potent antioxidants, milk thistle is a plant – its proper Latin name is Silybum Marianum – that supports healthy liver function (it’s good for the kidneys too). Maintaining optimal liver health is especially important in senior dogs, who’ve had long lifetimes of exposure to a variety of damaging chemical substances. Medications such as antibiotics, conventional parasite prevention, whether administered orally or topically, undergoing anesthesia for anything from emergency surgery to routine dentistry, all take a toll on the liver, the organ that acts as a filter for the entire body, ridding it of toxins.
Now add to that liver load the extra stress of inhaling the polluted air of a City. Dogs are especially vulnerable to automobile emissions; as they walk along on the street, their snouts are directly at exhaust-pipe level.
The liver is an amazing organ, but it could use some backup, especially after years of hard work. Living strong depends on having a strong liver.
Hepatoprotection – the ten-dollar word for liver support – is especially important for anyone who has undergone chemotherapy, which can take a huge toll on the liver. Oncologists frequently recommend milk thistle to human cancer patients for this reason, and it’s equally important for dogs undergoing chemotherapy.
Incidentally, homeopaths believe that you can also support this vital organ by…eating liver. With that in mind, I sometimes treat my dogs to liver-flavored canned food or freeze-dried liver treats. Hey, it can’t hurt – and the dogs certainly don’t complain.
According to Buck Mountain’s Dr. Terence Fox, liver and eye health are closely linked, so taking milk thistle daily can actually help prevent and, in some cases, even reverse cloudy eyes in senior dogs.
Sneak 2 capsules of milk thistle into each meals if they are large dogs, so if you have a small dog, 1 capsule will do. Just push the capsule into canned food, which disguises it nicely, or deliver it in a piece of cheese.
Be warned that very finicky dogs might not eat their food if the capsule is broken open and placed in food, as milk thistle tastes bitter, and you wouldn’t want it going to waste.
Less-discriminating dogs have been fine with the taste of sprinkled milk thistle, so long as it’s “sweetened” with a dash of cinnamon.
Double their milk thistle dose for a week afterward, if your dog undergos anesthesia for any surgical procedure, to be sure their liver and kidneys won’t be unduly compromised.
It’s more cost-effective to purchase milk thistle seeds that you grind yourself in a nut grinder dedicated for that purpose. The amount of one capsule is a scant half-teaspoon.