Can dogs eat garlic? Is garlic toxic or safe for dogs? Scientific evidence of garlic for dog's health, canine diet, nutrition, worming / (C) Perfect cocker spaniel, breed and puppy guide book, puppy tips, canine nutritionist, dog diet, cocker spaniel grooming / Natalia Ashton

Can my dog eat… garlic?

You are walking down the street in the evening or just about to approach an Italian restaurant and suddenly there is a delicious aroma hitting your nostrils and making your hungry instantly. When somebody cooks with garlic, the rest of the world is there to dream of roasted chicken, lamb, pasta, pizza or garlic bread… Because nobody can resist it. And hardly any kitchen can be complete without a few fat bulbs, bursting with goodness beneath the delicate tissue-paper like skin…

Garlic is so good for us, not only because it’s full of vitamins and minerals, but because this humble allium vegetable is a mighty source of sulphur compounds known to be beneficial for our hearts, the immune, digestive and endocrine systems, supporting detoxification and reducing inflammation.


The short answer is NO….

Especially if they are English cocker spaniels.

Even though you might have heard otherwise, garlic is toxic to dogs. It is true that it was used by the breeders back in the 19th and early 20th century, but purely due to the fact that conventional and reliable worming medicine did not exist at the time. As the years went by, the very same breeders not only documented the side-effects of the garlic, but also recommended replacing the natural remedies with veterinary products due to their reliability and lasting results.

Why is garlic unsuitable for dogs?

The vegetable contains sodium 2-propenyl thiosulfate, which is toxic for the canines because their bodies cannot digest it efficiently. The build-up of the substance leads to formation of Heinz bodies, or clumps of haemoglobin, causing the rupture of red blood cells, oxygen deficiency and life-threatening haemolytic anaemia (IMHA).

The dogs may develop the condition after eating a large quantity of garlic as a single dose or consuming small quantities on a regular basis over a period of time.  In most cases IMHA will seem to appear suddenly and be fatal.

Why is garlic still used for dogs?

The advocates of garlic recommend it as a natural worming treatment or simply because “it’s beneficial and safe”. The latter is accompanied by a study of beagles that were given garlic extract for 12 weeks and didn’t develop Heinz bodies.

However, it is worth bearing in mind that…

The group of scientists who conducted the research were employed by the manufacturer of the garlic extract used in experiments.

The researched themselves concluded that garlic quantity must be monitored to avoid harm.

The garlic extract provided sulphur-containing amino acids S-allylcysteine (SAC) and S-1-propenylcysteine (S1PC). It was not mentioned if the extract contained sodium 2-propenyl thiosulfate.

The typical lifespan of red blood cells is between 100 and 120 days, so 12 weeks weren’t long enough to fully examine the body’s reaction to the substance.

Beagles are not genetically predisposed to the condition and we do not know enough information of their age, gender or health status at the time of the study.

The statement on garlic safety also contradicts independent studies and records spanning 30 years, discussed in interviews, books, scientific articles (1, 2, 3), veterinary manuals and journals (4, 5, 6, 7, 8) lists of poisonous substances  for dogs (9, 10) and included in FEDIAF guidelines and  top 10 animal toxins by ASPCA.

Why some dogs don’t develop Heinz bodies or haemolytic anaemia?

It can be related to genetics, breed predisposition (and cockers are among the breeds predisposed to the disease), hereditary defects, dog’s health, medical history, gender, age, and nutritional status (for example, selenium deficiency can increase the risk).

What about the worming effects of garlic?

There were no English language based clinical studies to support the use of garlic as an effective anti-worming medicine for dogs. Only two limited clinical trials conducted in 1969 and 2011 and described in Veterinary Evidence paper partially focused on the use of garlic alongside other herbs and plants such as pumpkin seeds. The quantities of the garlic were not included. There was no information about dogs except the number of dogs used and the names of parasites they had. The studies did show that garlic temporarily reduce the eggs and larvae, but only in specific species of worms. It did not seem to have effect of adult worms or certain species of worms. The questionable efficiency also meant that dogs would have to receive garlic at least every 2 days because the parasite levels returned to pre-treatment volume within 48 hours once the garlic was discontinued.  This means that all dogs remained at risk of either suffering from worms or potentially building up thiosulphate levels and developing haemolytic anaemia.

Interestingly, one of the known pioneers of using garlic as a worming treatment for dogs does not even have a veterinary degree or any form of academic education in canine or small animal nutrition.

The bottom line is to leave the garlic out of your dog’s diet, especially if the dog is a cocker spaniel. It really is not worth the risk.


Photo credit: image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Dogs can process speech just like humans / dog brain response to emotional and verbal cues and words new study / Perfect cocker spaniel / dog blog, guide to English cocker spaniel breed and puppy tips / grooming, training, health, nutrition, diet / (C) Natalia Ashton

When it comes to speech, dogs are exactly like us

I talk to my dogs so much I even wrote a post about it, just to remember those special moments and chit-chats we had. The irony of our daily conversations is in the fact that, with a few exceptions, I hardly ever talk to people, but I always talk to dogs… my dogs, any dogs… And somewhere in my head I always remember reading about the benefits of not talking to dogs because they would find us practically annoying. Yet I can’t help it, I simply can not keep quiet in a presence of a dog I adore.

To my relief, a new study popped up the other day. A group of Hungarian researches took 12 dogs aged between 2-10 years, 8 males and 4 females including 6 border collies, 5 golden retrievers,  and a German shepherd (at this point I started singing “….and a partridge in a pear tree…) and nicely asked them to lie quietly in fMRI machine whilst listening to a few spoken words delivered in various combinations by the same person.

Some of these words were praise words and others – neutral. The scientist discovered that the dogs did not simply respond to human speech – they reacted differently to the emotional tone of the words and the words they recognised meaning that their brains processed the information in exactly same way as humans’. Interestingly, the emotional tone of the voice played an important role, especially in older participants.

“To dogs, communicating effectively with humans and associating meanings to words is highly relevant”, wrote the scientists. Even though more research is needed, it was clear that certain words were more than just a tone for the dogs, meaning that the dogs can somehow process the speech separately from acoustic pitch, following the original ancient path of speech evolution in humans.

They may not be able to engage in a proper discussion with us, but dogs most definitely listen, understand and respond to our ramble – both physically and emotionally. Just like humans.

I guess this gives me a free path to continue talking to my pups, any time, anywhere…


Photo credit: image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Cooper, English sable cocker spaniel in a raincoat / story about dog nose and dog's ability to smell, detect disease, cancer, diabetes, seizures, trivia about dogs / Perfect cocker spaniel dog blog & guide to breed and puppy tips / grooming, nutrition, training, health (C)

The magic of the dog’s nose

First there was the sock… and the sock was in the mouth of a cocker spaniel… Destined to become his new favourite possession. You stood there wondering how on Earth your dog found yet another sock despite the fact that your entire collection was out of your dog’s sight or reach, or both actually… Yet, he still found it… the yesterday’s sock… the unearthed treasure on every dog’s wish list. Once a whole, now all “hole’y”… Because no matter what you do, there is the dog’s nose and no human can compete with its magical powers.

The scent…. It means so much to any dog. We watch the world around us – he smells it. We step into the street and see the trees and the grass, the crowds of little sparrows and a  cat lazying in the dust of sunlight… The dog, oh the dog… he inhales the visuals through his wonderful nose, he learns about and records each scent into the memory the way we assign names to objects. To him, the world isn’t a pretty picture, but a vast cloud of scents and aromas. He doesn’t need to see the street to be aware of that cat or the birds. As soon as the air hits his nostrils (each one gets a separate sniff moving the flow of air in and out simultaneously!), he is already aware of everything and everyone around. Even more, he can tell you which direction a certain scent is coming from – all within milliseconds!

For me, it is the nose that makes a dog so extraordinary. There is no other creature who can sniff like a dog, perceive the world the way a dog does… His 250 million scent receptors make our furry companions so much superior to us, humans, who possess measly 5 million if that.

We can recognise about 10000 different odours – a dog is said to be 100000 better than us! No wonder they can identify different family members through the scent alone, know adults from children, able to sniff our psychological state, detect a single finger print left on a glass up to six weeks ago, find drugs, acknowledge illnesses and even alert a person suffering from low blood sugar (through sniffing the changes in levels of isoprene substance in their owner’s breath) or seizures. They can even find someone who’s been missing for days tracking the steps that may only contain 1/1800 of the remaining scent. Or detect an equivalent of a teaspoon of sugar dissolved in 5 million litters of water (enough to fill two Olympic-sized swimming pools).

I love the study from 1982 that compared our abilities to identify a butyric acid, one of the substances found in human perspiration. If a gram of this acid was present in a 10-storey building, we would only be able to smell it at the time of release. A typical dog could smell it anywhere around the entire city for some time! Since any used socks always contain butyric acid, it is no wonder your spaniel can find them in any drawer or buried a pile of laundry even if it’s a height of Everest.

But what is the point of having such an advanced olfactory? Surely, it’s not such about an old sock…

The dogs need their noses to learn and explore. The young puppies use theirs to identify litter mates and locate milk (though the ability to detect heat comes into play here, too). Adults sniff to find a mate or rival, hone their social skills, find food and identify toxins.

Not all dogs are equal, of course. It’s a matter of individuality, genetic predisposition,  breed and even their nutritional status and physical state. But regardless of their scenting abilities, all of these dogs would find a sock or sniff out a bag of biscuits in your pocket.

Simply because they are dogs and they all have their amazing big wet kissable noses.


Image credit: Cooper photographed by me