By Dr. Becker
There's a growing interest in green tea for dogs and cats thanks to its exploding popularity in recent years among health conscious consumers.
Green tea is an excellent source of antioxidants and alkaloids, and is packed with vitamins A, D, E, C, B, B5, H and K, manganese and other beneficial minerals such as zinc, chromium and selenium. Fresh tea leaves contain powerful antioxidants called polyphenols (essentially a series of chemicals called catechins).
Researchers say epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is the most powerful catechin found in green tea, supplying 20 to 35 milligrams (mg) in a single cup. In one study, scientists found EGCG to be 25 to 100 times more potent than vitamins C and E. Another reported that one cup offers antioxidant effects greater than a serving of broccoli, spinach, carrots or strawberries.1
Health Benefits of Green Tea
According to Dr. Mercola, there are several important health benefits of green tea for humans:2
✓ Contains bioactive compounds with medicinal properties
✓ Lowers cancer risk
✓ Lowers type 2 diabetes risk
✓ Improves brain function
✓ Lowers Alzheimer's and Parkinson's risk
✓ Lowers heart disease and stroke risk
✓ Increases fat burning and weight loss
✓ Improves dental health
Because tea is known to accumulate fluoride, heavy metals and other toxins from soil and water, Dr. Mercola recommends selecting an organic product that has been grown in a pristine environment. In addition, green tea contains caffeine, so I recommend only naturally decaffeinated varieties for pets.
How Is Green Tea Beneficial for Pets?
According to information provided by veterinarians Steve Marsden, Shawn Messonnier and Cheryl Yuill:
"Green tea might be beneficial in any condition calling for the use of antioxidants. In humans, green tea is indicated as an antioxidant, an anti-cancer agent, and to lower blood cholesterol. Several tumor types are inhibited by green tea, including cancers of the stomach, gall bladder, prostate, uterus, lung, intestine, colon, rectum and pancreas.
Green tea also inhibits breast cancer by binding to estrogen receptors, making it of potential value in the treatment of mammary gland cancer in small animals. Its comprehensive action against a variety of tumors in humans suggests green tea may provide the same benefits in animals.
Although they are absorbed into all body tissues, green tea catechins concentrate in the liver and digestive tract of dogs and laboratory animals, making it more likely they will be protective to these body regions."3
Even though there have been no clinical trials of green tea to treat cancer in pets, in humans, regular consumption seems to reduce the incidence of stomach, colon and pancreatic cancer. It's reasonable to assume it may provide similar protective benefits for dogs and cats.
If your pet has been diagnosed with cancer, be sure to talk with your veterinarian first before adding green tea (or any supplement) to his or her treatment protocol.
Inactivation and excretion of carcinogens plays a big role in keeping your pet's body cancer-free, and since the catechins found in green tea dramatically modify cancer-causing molecules that damage cellular DNA, I often recommend decaffeinated green tea extract as part of a detoxification protocol.
Green tea infusion (using tea that has been cooled) is also one of my favorite cleaning agents for dirty pet ears. It can also be used to soothe hot spots and mouth sores.
Study Indicates Fasting Pets and Those With Little or No Appetite Should Not Be Given Green Tea
There has been very little research on the effects of green tea on the health of pets, but a 2009 study with Beagles produced concerning results that seem to have made their way around the Internet.
The dogs were fasted and given massive doses (up to 1000 mgs/kg per day of green tea extract in capsule form over several months). Sadly, the study was ended early due to "extensive morbidity, mortality, and pathology of many major organs,"4 involving toxicity of the dogs' livers, kidneys and gastrointestinal (GI) tracts. However, a follow-up study in 2011 in non-fasted dogs under the same testing conditions and dose levels showed no such toxicity.5
The authors of the second study noted that systemic exposures were actually lower in fasted versus non-fasted dogs, which could suggest that fasting may have somehow increased the vulnerability of organ systems and amplified the toxic effects of the active ingredients in the green tea extract.
I think there are several take home messages from these studies, including using common sense with dosing (it would be impossible to administer these doses to pets in the form of cooled teas) and not offering large amounts of green tea to any pet who isn't eating well.
Recipe for Organic Decaf Green Tea for Pets
- Combine 1 liter (about 4 cups) of purified water and one tea bag or 1 tablespoon of loose tea leaves
- Steep for 15 minutes
- Remove the tea bag or use a strainer to remove the tea leaves
- Store the tea in a covered, preferably glass pitcher in the fridge for up to three days
Add the following amounts of green tea to your pet's morning and evening meal:
- Cats, 1 tablespoon
- Small dogs, 1/8th cup
- Medium dogs, 1/4 to 1/2 cup
- Large dogs, 1/2 to 1 cup
Green tea supplements do exist, but if you choose to use these in place of tea I recommend using a product specifically blended and dosed for pets.