It’s supposed to repel vampires, but what about fleas and ticks? There’s a lot of lore (and holistic advice) online saying that giving your dog garlic can help keep nasty biting bugs at bay.

“There are plenty of people who still believe it can keep ticks and mosquitoes away,” said Caleb Backe, certified health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics. “The belief is that if you feed your dog enough garlic before bug season, the dog will begin to emit an odor that will repel bugs.”

But is there any science behind this?

Veterinarian Lori Teller, who is on the American Veterinary Medical Association board of directors, says: “Scientific studies with garlic have not shown that supplementing with garlic will kill fleas and ticks. There are no studies in animals to document its efficacy.”

Teller also has a warning to pet owners about garlic: Ingestion in dogs and cats can cause changes in the animals’ red blood cells that can cause anemia. Signs of garlic poisoning can take days to appear. According to an article by the American Kennel Club, “Studies have found it takes approximately 15 to 30 grams of garlic per kilograms of body weight to produce harmful changes in a dog’s blood. To put that into perspective, the average clove of supermarket garlic weighs between 3 and 7 grams, so your dog would have to eat a lot to get really sick.”

Thiosulfate, an ingredient in garlic, can be metabolized by humans, but not by dogs, and that’s what can cause problems. “In many cases it might take a high dose,” Teller said. “But some dogs are more sensitive to the effects of garlic.”

So if you’re depending on garlic as an insect preventative for your pooch, Backe said, with no scientific proof it works, your dog could be at risk of catching a tick-borne illnesses. “It can even make dogs more vulnerable to Lyme disease,” Backe said.

Bottom line, according to the experts, you may want to stick to using garlic for cooking, not for repelling insects.

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