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A Guide To Onion & Garlic Toxicity in Pets

Aimee Labbate
  • Aimee Labbate

  • RCVS: 700039

 

Onions and other members of the allium family, such as garlic, leeks and chives contain chemicals that are toxic to dogs. These compounds give these plants their characteristic flavour, but can cause oxidative damage to red blood cells, making them more prone to rupture, which can lead to potentially severe anaemia (haemolytic anaemia). Certain species (e.g. cats) and breeds (e.g. Japanese Akita, Shiba Inu) are more susceptible to poisoning.

All parts of the plants are toxic and in whatever form they are ingested – cooked, powdered, raw etc. Poisoning is most likely if the animal consumes a large quantity in one go or if they repeatedly eat small amounts. The toxic dose is fairly low, for example onion poisoning can occur after ingestion of approximately 150g in a 10kg dog.

What are the symptoms of onion and garlic toxicity?

Typical symptoms may occur within 24 hours ingestion of a toxic dose, but are normally delayed by a few days and include:

  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Pale gums
  • Increased heart rate and breathing rate
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Collapse

How is it diagnosed?

The vet will normally diagnose haemolytic anaemia based on the physical examination and blood tests. If there is a recent history of onion/garlic ingestion then this is likely to be the cause.

If you are worried that your dog may have eaten onions or garlic then please contact your vet ASAP, ideally before they are showing symptoms.

How is mycotoxin poisoning treated?

Treatment will depend on how quickly the dog is presented to the vets after ingestion of the onions/garlic. If the dog is seen promptly then the vet can give an injection to induce vomiting, removing as much as possible from the stomach. Activated charcoal can then be given to reduce absorption of any toxins remaining in the stomach.

In severe cases where there is a significant anaemia, a blood transfusion may be required, as well as intensive nursing care and support. Close monitoring is needed until the red blood cell count is stable and increasing again.

Will my pet recover?

With prompt and appropriate treatment, most animals will recover in a few days, although onion/garlic toxicity can occasionally be fatal if significant quantities are eaten, particularly if treatment is delayed.

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Onions and garlic are toxic to dogs

Onions and other members of the allium family, such as garlic, leeks and chives contain chemicals that are toxic to dogs. All parts of the plants are toxic and in whatever form they are ingested – cooked, powdered, raw etc. They can cause damage to red blood cells, making them more prone to rupture, which can lead to potentially severe anaemia (haemolytic anaemia). Certain species (e.g. cats) and breeds (e.g. Japanese Akita, Shiba Inu) are more susceptible to poisoning.

Typical symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, lethargy, pale gums, increased heart rate and breathing rate, exercise intolerance and collapse. In severe cases where there is a significant anaemia, a blood transfusion may be required, as well as intensive nursing care and support. Close monitoring is needed until the red blood cell count is stable and increasing again.

With prompt and appropriate treatment, most animals will recover in a few days, although onion/garlic toxicity can occasionally be fatal if significant quantities are eaten, particularly if treatment is delayed.


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