It’s the season for trick or treating – a custom characterised by pumpkins, vampires, zombies and witches. While we all know that pumpkin is good for diabetics, traditionally garlic comes in handy as a witch repellent. Much like the ladies that ride on broomsticks, garlic and its uses for animals is cast in a shadow of controversies.

While on the subject of tradition, let’s see what role garlic, Allium Sativum, has played over the years in human and animal medicine.

In France priests used to use it to treat bubonic plague and in world war I soldiers used to apply it to wounds. Thanks to its ability to fight infection, it got known as Russian penicillin. The Chinese used it to treat influenza, toxicities and to kill parasites. In Ireland it was used to treat downer cows after calving and for coughing horses.

Traditionally it was suggested as a treatment for coccidiosis in poultry, coughing and bronchitis in dogs, insect bites, mammary tumours in dogs, distemper, jaundice, rheumatism and thyroid problems. In India it has been used for fungal infections, oral blisters, wounds, abortion, tetanus, abdominal pain, asthma, polyuria, fractures and epilepsy.

Research, in fact, confirms the following properties: lowering cholesterol, inhibiting platelet aggregation, immune enhancing, reducing blood pressure, antithrombotic and antioxidant activity.  So it has been used with some success in the treatment of cardiovascular problems and malignancies. It seems to have some effect on sarcoptic mange but none on demodectic mange. The effect on ecto and endoparasites has had some significance in the poultry industry but its uses in domestic animals are inconclusive and unreliable.  

The darker side of garlic: there have been confirmed reports of acute haemolytic anaemia and gastrointestinal problems following the ingestion of it. Cats are more susceptible to haemolytic anaemia. Certain breeds similarly are more sensitive; Akitas and Shibas, and a safer alternative should be sought out.

How can the adverse effects be avoided? If an animal is subjected to therapeutic dosages regular haematology is indicative. Generally if garlic is used as a feed supplement, the amount used is well below safe therapeutic dosage and poses no danger to a healthy dog; provided the food company is knowledgeable and responsible. It should be avoided completely in cats.

I hope this clarifies the garlic saga up so that people can make full use of its fantastic properties in a safe manner.


Manual of natural veterinary medicine, science and tradition. S Wynn, S Marsden

Veterinary herbal medicine. S Wynn, B Fougere