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Detoxing Dogs Naturally: An Expert Guide to Restoring Canine Health

Alison Frost, Canine Nutritionist at ProDog Raw, shares her expert advice on detoxing dogs. With a successful history of helping clients detox their dogs naturally, her knowledge and experience is reflected in this article.

Alison Frost

Author: Alison Frost

Edited By: Anna Bain

Detoxing Dogs Naturally: An Expert Guide to Restoring Canine Health

With all the pollution, chemicals, and other nasties floating around these days, I often find myself recommending dog detox to our customers. This process can make a world of difference in how dogs feel, especially if they’ve been exposed to unnecessary toxins; whether acutely or chronically.

In an effort to improve their dogs’ health, customers often ask me what dog detox is how to know if their dog needs detoxing and how to do it naturally. My response to these questions is the basis of this article. I’ll address potential signs your dog may need a detox, causes of toxicity in dogs, and how to detox your dog naturally.

Signs your dog may need a detox

Unexplained lethargy

Whilst dogs are naturally known to sleep in shifts throughout the day, they should also have enough energy to go for walks, run, play, and participate in their normal daily activities. If they’re appearing more lethargic than what’s normal for them, it may be a sign that something’s off with their health. 

Though multiple health issues can be responsible for unexplained lethargy in dogs, it may also be a clue that they have built-up levels of toxins in their system. If you’re unable to find another reason for your dog’s lack of energy, a dog detox might be the solution.

Persistent digestive issues

Frequent or recurring issues with dogs’ digestion can also signal various health issues, toxicity being among them. Dogs’ gut health determines how the rest of their systems function, whether positively or negatively. The impact of toxins on the gut can be detrimental to their overall health, which is why a dog detox can be helpful. 

Whilst I often advise customers on diet changes to help their dogs’ various digestive issues, there are times when detoxing a dog is the best course of action. Frequent or recurring gut health concerns are amongst the reasons I might suggest this, and detoxing dogs naturally often helps to resolve the problem.

Skin issues

The skin is the largest organ on a dog’s body, and can be a good source of information as to what’s going on internally. Toxins often find their way to the skin’s surface when they build up in the bloodstream, as the immune system is attempting to push them out of the body. If your dog has unexplained skin issues that can’t be attributed to allergies, bacterial infections, yeast overgrowth, or other common causes, it may be a sign of toxin buildup. A dog detox can help the body eliminate the presence of these toxins, and will often result in the resolution of unexplained skin issues.

Skin issues can be a sign of the body trying to detox itself.

Ways to detox your dog’s system naturally

A balanced, wholesome diet

Nutrition is the foundation of all health, as the essential nutrients required by each species promote healthy bodily functions. Kibble has long been fed to dogs by well-meaning owners in an attempt to provide healthy, convenient meal options; many of them unaware that their pet’s food is full of fillers, preservatives, sugars, and pesticides [1].

These contribute to the build up of toxins in dogs’ bodies instead of providing the nutritional support that dogs need. Dogs thrive when fed fresh, species-appropriate, whole food diets, just as they did for centuries before commercial dog food was invented. These include only the foods that dogs require for their health, and can be a helpful aid in detoxing dogs naturally.

Adding more natural ingredients to any dog’s diet is always going to be beneficial, however, I advocate, when possible, to switch dogs over to an entirely natural or raw diet. The Benefits of Raw Dog Food are highly impactful and can often help to resolve many unwanted symptoms. To learn more read our guide on How to Switch to Raw Dog Food or contact us for free tailored advice from our nutritionist team.

A word on fasting

It may seem cruel to withhold food from your dog, even for a short time. However, fasting can be very therapeutic for the gut, and is sometimes necessary to allow the digestive system to restore itself. Though it may seem counterintuitive, the gut does need a “rest” every so often, especially when a buildup of toxins is present. 

Allowing the body to focus on healing itself rather than processing food constantly can be very helpful in the detox process. Read Hunger, Fasting, and Once a Day Feeding by Dr. Nick Thompson for more information on why fasting can be a good thing. 

Increasing hydration

All creatures rely on water for their very survival, which of course includes dogs. Dehydration causes buildup of toxins in the bloodstream, making it difficult for the liver, kidneys, and other organs to function properly. As the liver and kidneys are the body’s chief organs for expelling toxins, it’s essential that dogs are well hydrated. 

Many of our dogs aren’t particularly interested in water, which is why it’s a good idea to add moisture to their diets in other ways. Whilst access to fresh water is paramount, other sources of hydration such as bone broth can be particularly helpful for dogs that don’t drink much. Raw, species-appropriate diets are also rich in moisture, which is one reason I recommend feeding dogs this way.

Check out Dr Nick Thompson’s short video Dehydration: signs, symptoms and what you can do about it, to discover more about dehydration in dogs.

Encouraging regular exercise

Regular exercise is another helpful element for detoxing your dog naturally. Dogs are designed to move; in the wild they travel miles everyday for food, shelter, and exploration purposes. Sedentary lifestyles discourage regular digestive functioning, whereas regular activity helps the gut move things along appropriately.

Access to fresh air everyday also allows for optimal lung function. Combined with physical activity, dogs will naturally breathe more deeply, which encourages proper circulation of the blood. Finally, regular exercise minimises stress in dogs, which contributes to their overall health as well [2].

Dietary support for detox

Foods that aid in detoxification

Liver 

A well-known principle of herbal medicine is that feeding an organ helps support that same organ in your dog. Therefore, feeding liver can boost your dog’s liver function. 

The liver of any animal, such as cow, lamb, pork, goat, chicken, turkey, or duck will do the job; they’re all packed with nutrients and should ideally make up about 10% of your dog’s diet. The same applies to other organ meats, such as kidneys, etc.

Greens 

Green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale etc. are very high in antioxidants. These work to eliminate free radicals and oxidation, as well as boost dogs’ immune systems and promote overall health.

Parsley 

Parsley is easy to get at any grocery store, and is easily grown in your garden. Its gentle diuretic properties help keep the kidneys operating smoothly. It can also help prevent urinary tract infections and may help ease arthritis symptoms. It’s a very safe herb that’s easy to include in your dog’s diet. 

Dandelion leaves 

Dandelion leaves are another natural diuretic that helps with kidney function. If you don’t use pesticides in your garden, you can easily use the ones found outside your home. Otherwise, most whole food grocery stores sell them. You can give your dog dandelion leaves in his food: just gently steam or saute them in olive oil. You can also steep them in boiling water to make a simple tea.

Ground brazil nuts

Ground brazil nuts are high in selenium, which is a mineral with remarkable antioxidant benefits. It aids in protecting the brain, heart, and kidneys against environmental toxins, and is an important part of the canine diet.

Garlic 

Garlic is a super detox food. It supports the production of liver enzymes and glutathione, and also contains other factors critical for detoxification such as sulphur compounds and bio-active selenium. It should be given fresh and in small amounts.

Berries 

Berries also have high antioxidant content and are extremely healthy for dogs. Some canine-safe options include blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. The most potent of all are cranberries, though these should not be the sweetened variety.

Need help with your dog’s diet?

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The role of nutritional supplements

Nutritional supplements are nutrient dense blends of various ingredients, designed to target a specific area of health. Within the context of dog detox, these provide additional nutrients to support the body’s natural detoxification processes. This is very helpful in cases where dogs need a little more assistance in expelling toxins naturally.

In tandem with species-appropriate, whole foods, nutritional detox supplements such as ProDog’s Digest, Revive and Protect  work to assist the natural ability of the body’s innate detox functions. Their ingredients are geared toward promoting optimal gut health and liver support, and are high in antioxidants to combat free radicals and cellular mutations. Together, these promote an appropriate immune response, calm any inflammation present, and encourage proper functioning of all systems.

For free, personalised guidance on which supplements and natural ingredients to incorporate into your dog’s diet, contact us and chat with our canine nutritionist team.

The benefits of a raw diet for dog detox

I often recommend a raw diet dog detox for customers whose dogs are experiencing toxicity symptoms. This is because the essential nutrients found in raw dog meals promote natural healing abilities within the body, including the proper functioning of the liver and kidneys, or the two main organs responsible for filtering toxins. 

Not only does a biologically-appropriate diet promote wellbeing throughout dogs’ various organs and systems, but it also won’t include the potential toxins found in many commercial dog foods. Removing something harmful and replacing it with something beneficial encourages the body to rid itself of volatile substances; a simple, yet effective way to detox your dog naturally

Discover tips on changing your dog’s diet in our comprehensive guide on Switching your Dog to Raw.

Pollution of all kinds can be responsible for toxicity in dogs.

Reasons to consider detox

Exposure to medications, chemicals, or toxins

If your dog has recently (or regularly) been exposed to chemicals, pharmaceutical drugs, or other toxins, a dog detox will help them expel any buildup they might have in their bloodstream. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of ways dogs can pick up toxins, so it’s likely that they’ve been exposed to one thing or another throughout their lifetime. Here are some common culprits that can cause toxicity in dogs:

  • House cleaning supplies
  • Mould
  • Garden pesticides
  • Anti-parasitic drugs such as flea preventives and wormers 
  • Heavy metals
  • Volatile organic compounds (in house paint)
  • Vehicle pollution (in air or water)
  • Pharmaceutical drugs
  • Vaccines
  • Preservatives in commercial dog foods
  • Air fresheners

This list is not an exhaustive one, but should give you a pretty good idea of how easy it is for dogs to consume toxins one way or another. Whilst we can’t prevent every toxin from affecting our dogs, we can minimise their impact with a natural dog detox

The risks associated with chemical parasite control

Although chemical parasite control is an effective way to keep pests at bay, it’s also a prime source of toxicity in dogs. Exposing dogs to chemicals on a regular basis not only impacts their gut and overall health in negative ways [3], but also contributes to buildup of these chemicals in the bloodstream over time. Though the doses of chemicals in these preventive treatments may be small, the cumulative effects are still apparent.

Natural parasite control like ProDog’s Repel are far safer for dogs, and contribute to their natural defences rather than wiping out important organisms along with the parasites. For more information on how to protect dogs naturally, read our articles Worms in DogsNatural Flea Prevention and Ticks on Dogs.

Discover ProDog Repel 

Prevent ticks, fleas, worms, and mites the natural way

Impact of food additives, cleaning products, and grooming products

Dogs’ bodies are designed to assimilate the nutrients in natural, whole foods, which is why food additives and other synthetic substances found in dog foods are intolerable to their digestion. Though these are necessary additions for keeping commercial pet food shelf stable, it doesn’t make them any better for dogs, and can cause cumulative toxin buildup.

The same can be said for cleaning and grooming products, though these are absorbed in different ways. Toxins in dog shampoos and other grooming supplies can be absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream, whilst cleaning products are generally airborne and absorbed through the mucous membranes of the respiratory system (and occasionally, eaten). 

I recommend using non-toxic cleaning supplies and canine-safe dog grooming products like Dermadog’s natural shampoos if possible.

Why dogs’ liver and kidneys might need support

How toxins affect liver and kidney health

As the liver and kidneys are the main organs responsible for detoxing dogs’ systems, it’s imperative that they function optimally. These organs are typically well-equipped to handle their roles in healthy dogs, but over-exposure to toxins makes it more difficult for them to perform adequately. 

Supporting dogs’ liver and kidneys starts with nutrition; a balanced, fresh, whole food diet rich in essential canine nutrients helps to promote healthy organ function, allowing the body to naturally rid itself of toxins. Nutritional supplements such as milk thistle, NAC, chlorella, glutathione, and green tea can provide a detoxing boost as well. 

ProDogs’ Revive and Digest supplements contain many of these naturally detoxifying ingredients.

Contact ProDog’s expert team today for tailored guidance from our canine nutritionists on which supplements and natural ingredients to incorporate into your dog’s diet.

Supporting these organs proactively

As is often said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The same is true when it comes to caring for dogs’ health; more specifically the organs responsible for filtering toxins. The liver and kidneys have enough work to do without adding in unnecessary toxins, so minimising exposure to these is the first way to care for them proactively. 

Here are some suggestions on how you might accomplish this:

  • Removing all chemicals in the home/garden and replacing them with non-toxic versions 
  • Choosing natural parasite prevention methods and holistic veterinary treatments
  • Wiping/rinsing paws off after walks to minimise toxin exposure
  • Titre testing before administering vaccines
  • Avoiding chemical-based air fresheners
  • Keeping an eye out for mould in the home
  • Utilising VOC-free paints (and restricting dogs’ access until dried)

All of these are helpful and can go a long way towards keeping your dog’s toxin levels down. However, my strongest recommendation of all is to avoid toxins in what dogs eat, as their exposure to these is ongoing and directly impacts their internal environment on a regular basis. 

Fresh, whole foods designed to stimulate optimal canine health, such as ProDog’s raw dog food meals,  support dogs’ natural detox functions to expel anything that doesn’t belong within the body. Nutritional supplements can also provide a boost to these processes, giving dogs a better chance of defending themselves naturally.

Natural dog detox: A pathway to optimal canine health

Dogs are exposed to various levels of toxins in their daily lives, with some being more vulnerable than others. Those with strong immune systems and balanced gut health stand a better chance of detoxing naturally on their own, though additional support can go a long way.

Natural, biologically appropriate foods and nutritional supplements aid the body’s natural defences, as do adequate hydration and exercise. Though we can’t possibly keep them away from all toxins, it’s also helpful to minimise their exposure whenever possible, and detox dogs naturally when exposure does happen.

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Dog detox FAQs

How do I detox my dog naturally?

Promoting dogs’ ability to detox naturally can be achieved through feeding species-appropriate, raw foods, utilising appropriate nutritional supplements, adequate hydration, and appropriate exercise.

What are the signs my dog needs a detox?

Dogs may need a detox if they’re displaying frequent digestive issues, unexplained lethargy, or ongoing skin issues.

Are there specific foods for dog detox?

Liver, green vegetables, berries, and garlic are among several foods that are helpful in the detox process. See the “Dietary support for detox” section for my full list of recommendations.

When/why is detox important for pets?

Detox is necessary if/when dogs are exposed to various toxins. To learn more about the types of toxins your dog could be exposed to, read the ‘Reasons to consider detox’ section in the article above. Detoxification is the natural process that clears their systems of buildup and prevents the adverse effects this can cause.

What are common toxins affecting dogs?

There are various toxins that can affect dogs, such as household cleaners, food additives, and many others. Consult the “Reasons to consider detox” section in the article above for more examples.

Can I detox my dog with a raw diet?

Absolutely! In fact, I highly recommend a raw diet dog detox if/when appropriate. Raw diets provide all essential nutrients that contribute to dogs’ optimal health, while omitting toxins often found in highly processed foods.

What are the symptoms of a healing crisis in dogs?

A healing crisis, or Herxheimer reaction, can happen as a result of a dog detox, and can result in various symptoms. Some of these might be vomiting, diarrhoea, eye/ear discharge, itchy skin, and others, though they’re generally a temporary flare up. When this occurs, stop any supplements and provide lots of fluid, like bone broth, to help flush through and cleanse the body of these temporary released toxins. 

How often should I detox my dog?

Detox your dog naturally if they’re exhibiting the symptoms listed in the “Signs your dog may need a detox” section, or if they’ve been exposed to toxins.

What role does the liver play in dog detox?

The liver is one of the main detoxifying organs, and works alongside the kidneys to expel toxins from the body. If excessive toxins are present, it works extra hard, so it’s important to support it naturally throughout the detox process and beyond.

References

  1. Jean Hofve, DVM. Dogs Naturally Magazine. Pesticides in Dog Foods. Accessed Feb 2024.
  2. Tiira, K., Lohi, H. Nov 2015. Early Life Experiences and Exercise Associate with Canine Anxieties. PLoS ONE;, 10(11):e0141907. Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0141907
  3. Rosenfeld, C. Sep 2017. Gut Dysbiosis in Animals Due to Environmental Chemical Exposures. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology;, 7:396. Doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2017.00396

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