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The toxic amount of onions and garlic for dogs is surprisingly small

dogs-without-onionsRecently I had a client tell me that her naturopath recommended garlic to use with her dog, and she also fed her dog foods containing onion.

Here are some real reasons why you should avoid all vegetables belonging to the allium family of plants

  • onions
  • garlic.
  • leeks
  • shallots
  • chives

"Onions, garlic and other members of the allium family are toxic to dogs. This is called allium species toxicosis, or onion toxicity.   The dangerous chemical is N-propyl disulfide.

Plants in this family contain organo-sulfur compounds that are metabolized into highly reactive oxidants which can damage the red blood cells (erythrocytes) of dogs.  As the oxidant level within erythrocytes become higher than the cells’ antioxidant metabolism capacity, a condition called oxidative hemolysis results which affects oxygen transport and causes red blood cells to rupture and be destroyed." REF 1

 

At high enough levels, the dogs erythrocytes are malformed into a "Heinz body formation" ,  and the dog will have toxicosis will develop hemolytic anemia.

WHY you should be concerned about ANY onion or garlic ingestion

Onion TOXIC DOSAGE LEVELS  in dogs:

Life threatening levels are said to be 15-30 grams per kilogram of the dog’s weight, and very poor health outcomes can start at about 0.5% of the body weight. REF 1

So a 20 Kg dog may have a life threatening condition, through damage to its red blood cells if it eats  0.5% x 20 Kg =  100g of onion. This is a lot of onion, but in dehydrated form it is only maybe 30g in a single dose or many much smaller continual doses as the effects are cumulative. As garlic is five times more potent, a 20 Kg dog would only need 20g of raw, or 7 g of dried garlic to be very sick.

In severe cases, the anaemia may lead to internal organ damage, organ failure and death.

Factors that increase onion dog toxicity

  • Dried allium herbs are more toxic ( x3 as toxic as when hydrated)
  • Breed connected (particular Japanese breeds like Akita and Shiba Inu)
  • Old or young Age or current ill health.
  • Zinc deficiency
  • glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase - inherited deficiency
  • some drug treatments
  • Garlic is FIVE times as toxic as onion.

Dog Onion toxicity Symptoms from onion and garlic:

  • Excessive salivation
  • Irritation of the mouth
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Signs of abdominal pain
  • Rapid heartrate (tachycardia)
  • Panting (tachypnea)
  • Weakness
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Collapse
  • Pale or bluish gums

Why onion and garlic dog poisoning is often misdiagnosed

OR why you need to take your dog to a vet if they have eaten substantial onions.

THERE Might be no IMMEDIATE SYMPTOMS

Allium species toxicosis, can peak by day three or four. What is happening is that the damaged red blood cells are being removed from the blood faster than the bone marrow can create new ones.

The cumulative effect of low level ingestion, such as a dog eating the plants in the garden or off pizza toppings etc may mean your dog has a much lower threshold to major toxicity when it does consume a large amount in one go, but again you may not see the symptoms immediately.

A vet may recommend making the dog vomit, eating charcoal to absorb any left over allium material or even keeping them overnight an assisting breathing with oxygen. They will often test for either a blood smear test to check the red cell shapes, or look for high levels of hemoglobin in the urine.

Natural onion ingestion is thought to be low because most dogs do not like the taste, but every dog is different. Also a more common eating method is when onions or garlic are fried and included with oil and other foods, as they may become a lot more attractive to dogs.

Use of garlic in natural flea remedies

It is thought that garlic can reduce flea bite in dogs. However as garlic is five times as toxic as onion, and there is little evidence for the efficacy of garlic treatments (compared to pharmacetical company products), it would seem foolish to feed a dog a chemical known to cause anaemia in them.

Remember that toxicity can reach a peak FOUR to FIVE days (ref 2) after ingestion, so to be safe you may ideally see a vet well before then if your dog has eaten a substantial or regular amount of onion or garlic.

Reference

1              https://www.vetary.com/dog/condition/onions-poisoning

2              Experimental Onion-Induced Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs -  J. W. Harvey, D. Rackear,First Published July 1, 1985 

3              An experimental study of hemolysis induced by onion (Allium cepa) poisoning in dogs Authors X. TANG, Z. XIA, J. YU   First published: 8 January 2008

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