Garlic and Onions are Poisonous to Dogs and Cats

What Causes Garlic and Onions to be Poisonous to Dogs and Cats?


Many people love the flavors of garlic and onion to spice up their food, but giving garlic and onion to your pet can cause dog and cat health problems. In severe cases, it could even kill your pet. Toxicity can occur whether the products are fresh, cooked or in a dried/powdered form such as in spices. Let’s take a look at the dangers of feeding garlic, onion and similar products to your pet. If you suspect your pet has eaten them, contact your veterinarian right away before the clinical signs develop.

The Poisonous Plan: Allium

The Allium species of plants is where the toxicity lies. These plants include garlic, onions, leeks, scallions, chives and shallots. If your pet eats one of these products, red blood cells can be damaged, resulting in the cells not being able to carry oxygen. Ingestion can also cause anemia (low red blood cell count) and, in severe cases, the anemia may lead to internal organ damage, organ failure or even death.

Symptoms of Toxicity from Garlic and Onions

Cats are more susceptible to onion/garlic toxicity than dogs. Signs include:

  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Ataxia (lack of muscle coordination)
  • Pale gums
  • Red or brown discolored urine
  • Hyper-salvation
  • Occasional vomiting and/or diarrhea


Treating Toxcity Caused by Garlic and Onions

If the toxicity is caught early, your veterinarian can induce vomiting and decontaminate your pet’s gastrointestinal system with activated charcoal. Once clinical signs develop, supportive care including IV fluids (to maintain hydration) and oxygen therapy are the main forms of treatment. Some pets may require a blood transfusion.

The outlook is good with early treatment but “guarded” in severe cases or in pets that are not treated by a veterinarian.

Other Common Human Foods Considered Poisonous to Pets


  • Alcohol – Pets can often get into alcohol through uncommon sources, like unbaked dough or rum-soaked desserts. Alcohol will give your dog or cat low blood sugar and low body temperature. It can end in coma or seizures.
 
  • Avocado – Dogs and cats can have poisonous reactions to avocados, but they are most toxic for birds. After eating some of the fruit, birds develop respiratory distress and many die.
 
  • Caffeine – Pets will react to caffeine with vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, restlessness and increased heart rate. Caffeine is a toxic stimulant to cats and dogs.
 
  • Chocolate – Most pet owners recognize that chocolate is very toxic for their dogs or cats. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it can be, because it has more caffeine and theobromine.
 
  • Grapes and Raisins – Both grapes and raisins can cause acute kidneys failure in dogs and some cats. Owners should keep these out of reach in every form, including raisin bagels or grape juice.
 
  • Mushrooms – Not all mushrooms are toxic. However, some can be a gastrointestinal irritant, others can be hallucinogenic for a pet, and some can cause acute liver failure and death.
 
  • Sugar-Free Foods (Xylitol) – The natural sugar substitute Xylitol can be very dangerous for dogs. It will cause a drop in blood sugar and potential liver damage.


Learn More

If you suspect your pet has eaten any toxic food items, contact your Banfield veterinarian right away before the clinical signs develop. Also ask your vet about the Banfield Optimum Wellness Plan. With so many options, there’s a plan that will best fit your dog or cat. Every plan includes unlimited free office visits and discounts on most Banfield products and services.
Read more on your pet’s health and preventive care in the Nutrition section of Banfield.com.