The liver is the ultimate multi-tasker, involved in almost all body processes that keep our pets (and us!) alive. By producing bile acids, it aids the digestion of food into nutrients and then acts to regulate their levels once absorbed into the blood. It is a powerhouse when it comes to toxins, removing and neutralising harmful substances from the circulation. The liver is a factory for hormones, enzymes and other important proteins that are shipped all over the body to play their role in systems that make our pet’s bodies function. It’s a storage centre for compounds like iron and vitamins and it houses 80% of an important type of immune cell called macrophages.


It is therefore easy to understand that when the liver is compromised – by anything from inflammation to drugs, infectious agents to cancer – it has far reaching and varied effects. Jaundice (yellowing of the skin, eyes and gums), abdominal swelling, nausea and vomiting, lethargy and even itching are all potential signs that a pet’s liver is struggling.

Another super power of this organ is its amazing ability to heal and regenerate itself. The downside of this, is that liver disease can be quite advanced before physical signs are seen in pets but there is often an early clue to be found in the blood. Damaged liver cells leak their contents into the blood, including enzymes. Blood tests pick up these chemical traces, identifying liver compromise before physical symptoms have developed or confirming it as a cause of them.


The Milk Thistle plant (Silybum marianum) has been used for millennia as a medicinal product but it was in the Middle Ages that its beneficial protective effect on the liver was first properly recognised.

One of Milk Thistle’s major actions is as an antioxidant. Antioxidants are required to neutralise highly damaging, unstable molecules called ‘free radicals’, which are produced during metabolic activity – something the liver does a lot of. A liver under pressure is more vulnerable to the damaging effects of free radicals, at a time when it is likely producing more of them.

Milk Thistle also strengthens liver cells against damage by stabilising the cell membrane and making it harder to damage and infiltrate by toxins and infectious agents.

The body’s soldiers – the immune cells – are vitally important in fighting infectious attacks. Milk Thistle has been shown to have a strong stimulatory effect on specific immune cells called lymphocytes.

As well as providing direct defence against assaults on the liver, Milk Thistle also helps the liver to heal itself. It calms inflammation by inhibiting some of the chemicals involved in the inflammatory pathway and also speeds regeneration of liver tissue. 


Milk Thistle has been shown to be very safe and its beneficial effects are largely down to the active compound found in the seeds and fruit called Silymarin. Choosing a supplement with a high Silymarin concentration is a good place to start to ensure the best effect for your pet.

There are however other compounds present in the fruit that also have a potential role to play in supporting the liver, and wider body. Healthy oils such as linoleic acid, flavenoids, and Vitamin E are all known for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune supportive action – all are present in the Milk Thistle fruit.

Dorwest Milk Thistle Tablets for Dogs and Cats contains whole fruit extract, to preserve the benefits of these other compounds, and provides consistently high levels of Silymarin, at 80%. Trusted by vets and with over 70 years of expertise behind it, Dorwest Milk Thistle Tablets for Dogs and Cats reliably helps support pets with liver disease.

By Emily Folwell MRCVS

You can discuss the other natural supplements for dogs that we have available with one of our experienced advisors. Please get in touch on 01308 897272 or use our contact form. Plus, get free UK delivery on orders over £50.

Please remember, you should always consult a vet if you are concerned about your pet’s health.