Milk thistle for dogs: uses, indications and precautions for use

How can this plant be useful in our dogs? In what form should they be administered and with what precautions for use?

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Milk thistle, the liver function plant

Milk thistle, also known as Notre-Dame thistle, is a herbaceous plant that grows on dry and acid soils around the Mediterranean. It bears spiky leaves and spiky purple flowers.

Did you know?

The botanical name of milk thistle is Silybum marianum L The qualifier marianium actually refers to the Virgin Mary. A medieval legend says that a few drops of her mother's milk would have fallen on the leaves of the plant, giving it their white veins.

In phytotherapy, its fruit has been used for almost 2000 years to relieve liver problems. In addition to antioxidant flavonoids, the latter contains an active ingredient called silymarin which acts by 3 mechanisms on liver function:

  • by limiting the absorption of toxins by hepatic cells,
  • by acting as an antioxidant in the liver,
  • and by stimulating the synthesis of proteins and enzymes within liver cells and therefore their regeneration.

In addition to its hepatoprotective properties, milk thistle is also a cholagogue. In other words, it is known to promote the emptying of the gallbladder, which makes it useful in the symptomatic treatment of digestive disorders attributed to a hepatic origin.

Some studies also suggest that milk thistle extracts may have anticancer effects by slowing the growth of certain cancer cells or shortening their lifespan.

What are its indications for dogs?

With its hepato-protective properties, milk thistle can therefore be useful in the treatment of all liver diseases in dogs.

It can also be used as a liver protector in case of long-term drug treatment or cancer chemotherapy. If necessary, it will obviously be necessary to seek the advice of a veterinarian before administering the plant to your animal in order to make sure that there is no contraindication or risk of drug interaction.

Milk thistle may also be indicated in the treatment of insulin-resistant diabetes mellitus, in the treatment of inflammatory conditions and skin allergies with a hepatic component as well as in certain digestive disorders of hepatic and biliary origin such as dyspepsia.


Always seek advice from a specialized veterinarian before using milk thistle in your dog.Even with herbal medicines, always avoid self-medication. The use of milk thistle is not recommended in humans during pregnancy and lactation, and this same precaution must therefore be observed in our pets.

How to use milk thistle in dogs?

Specialized veterinarians generally use milk thistle:

  • in the form of a dried plant, to be prepared in the form of a long decoction (but in this form, administration in dogs is however not very easy),
  • in powder capsules (standardized plant dry extract)
  • in the form of a standardized fluid extract (EPS).

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