Garlic for Ticks: Is It Safe?
Controversy surrounds the practice of giving dogs garlic to repel ticks.
Jon Geller, DVM
Q. We have been battling ticks in our South Texas neighborhood since early February of this year. We’ve tried everything in the past from the spot-ons on our dog’s back to the collars, sprays, etc. Our Springer Spaniel still gets ticks on her legs.
Recently I read online that garlic helps. We started splitting a 1,250 mg garlic tablet between our Labrador Retriever and spaniel, essentially 625 mg per day per dog. Neither one has had a tick since we started three weeks ago.
I’m seeing things online though that say garlic is toxic to dogs’ digestive systems. I’ve also read that garlic is good for them.
So the question is: Who’s right and how much is too much? And if it’s OK to use, should we rotate them off of it for certain time periods to give their systems a break? What are signs of garlic poisoning if there is such a thing?
A. You bring up an interesting topic. There is much debate among the veterinary community about the effectiveness and safety of natural products like garlic and onions for parasite treatment or prevention. As trained scientists, most veterinarians are skeptical of any product that has not been tested in a clinical study in which, for example, 100 dogs in a tick-infested area were treated with garlic, and 100 were not. After 30 days, one would then count the total number of ticks in both groups of dogs.
Unfortunately, the only scientific studies that have been done have been on products such as Frontline and Revolution. Both of these, and numerous other products, have been shown to be effective in killing ticks and fleas. These are prescription-strength products which must be purchased through your veterinarian.
Many veterinarians consider the success of garlic in treating or preventing skin parasites in dogs something of an urban legend. If it works, they contend, it is usually because it makes the dogs smell so bad that even ticks won’t go near them. I can relate to this, as sometimes my dog Raindog will roll incessantly in the most putrid, foul-smelling carrion that she can find, and I am sure no ticks would even come close.
I am among the group that keeps an open mind. I do know that garlic can be harmful if given in high quantities, but the amounts you are giving are probably not toxic. If given at too high of a dose, you might see some weakness or pale gums as a result of anemia – destruction of red blood cells.
If it works, I see no problem in continuing the garlic treatment. I only hope your dogs still smell good enough to be welcome members of your household.
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