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My dog ate garlic

Welsh Corgi dog cooking advice

A dog may start to become well 24 hours after eating garlic

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Garlic is, unfortunately, toxic for dogs, so how can you help your pet if they eat some by mistake?

By Dr. Katy Ellison MA VetMB MRCVS

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All dogs love to explore, love to scavenge, but of course this sometimes leads to unfortunate incidents for these four-legged friends of ours. This is certainly the case if a dog stumbles upon some garlic and eats it. Because although garlic is okay for us humans, it's far from fine for our dogs.

What are the symptoms of garlic poisoning in dogs?

The symptoms develop over one to five days, starting with vomiting and diarrhoea, and progressing to anaemia. If your dog is anaemic, they may have noticeably pale gums, will lack energy, appear weak or even collapse, and will have a rapid heart rate. Their urine may be discoloured, appearing red or brown.

What are the causes of garlic poisoning in dogs?

Garlic, along with onions, chives and leeks, are members of the Allium family. These plants contain chemical compounds called organosulphoxides. When organosulphoxides are metabolised (broken down in the body) they can cause what is known as oxidative damage to haemoglobin (a protein that transports oxygen in the blood) and to red blood cells. The result is that the red blood cells rupture, resulting in anaemia. Cooking or drying garlic does not break down the organosuplhoxides, so dried garlic in spice mixes is still toxic, as is cooked food containing garlic.

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How will a vet diagnose garlic poisoning in my dog?

The initial stages of diagnosis will largely depend on the history, in other words the information that you give to the veterinary surgeon. An accurate history is really important, including such information as what your dog has eaten, how much they have eaten, any symptoms that your dog is showing and the timescale of events. Then the veterinary surgeon will do a full clinical examination, taking particular note of any pallor of the gums or an increase in heart rate and any changes in your dog’s breathing.

Once anaemia develops, blood tests will help to confirm the diagnosis. The anaemia associated with garlic poisoning is known as Heinz body anaemia, because when red blood cells from an affected animal are examined under a microscope, structures called Heinz bodies are visible. There are other causes of Heinz body anaemia, but poisoning by members of the Allium family is the most common.  

What treatment is there for garlic poisoning in dogs?

The earlier you contact a veterinary surgery, the better. If your dog is seen by a veterinary surgeon within two hours of eating garlic, then your dog will likely be given an injection to make them vomit. While this may not be very pleasant, it is very effective, if done promptly. After two hours your dog’s stomach will have emptied and there will be little point in inducing vomiting.

Your veterinary surgeon may also administer activated charcoal. This helps reduce the absorption of toxins and assists in decontaminating the gut. If your dog is showing symptoms of toxicity, then supportive care will be started. This will involve intravenous fluids and gut protectants, if your dog is showing gastrointestinal signs.

If your dog is anaemic, oxygen will be administered and, in many cases, blood transfusions will be required. Unfortunately there is no antidote for garlic poisoning, but with appropriate supportive care most dogs will recover.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What will happen if a dog eats garlic?

The consequences for a dog from eating garlic will depend on the size of the dog and how much they have eaten. If they have consumed sufficient to cause garlic poisoning, they may become very unwell. Symptoms of garlic poisoning develop over the course of one to five days, sometimes starting with vomiting and diarrhoea, and progressing to anaemia. The anaemia that develops as a results of garlic poisoning can be life-threatening. Dogs can and do die from garlic poisoning, but the positive news is that with prompt veterinary treatment the vast majority of dogs will make a full recovery.

How much garlic is toxic to dogs?

The quantity of garlic that will cause adverse effects depends on the size of your dog. So a small dog may become unwell after eating a modest amount of garlic, but a larger dog could tolerate more. Quantities of 15g to 30g per kilogram body weight are accepted as the amount of onion that is associated with adverse effects. Garlic is thought to be the most toxic member of the Allium family, so an even smaller amount will result in adverse effects. The safest option is not to feed any garlic at all and to keep all garlic out of reach of your dog.  

Will my dog die if they eat garlic?

This will depend on how big your dog is and how much garlic they have eaten. The anaemia that develops as a results of garlic poisoning can be life-threatening. Dogs can and do die from garlic poisoning, but the good news is that with prompt veterinary treatment, the vast majority of dogs will make a full recovery.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

How long does garlic poisoning last in dogs?

Your dog may start to become well 24 hours after eating garlic and positive signs tend to progress over the following three or four days. If your dog has had a relatively small amount of garlic and their symptoms are limited to vomiting and diarrhoea, you can expect your dog to be back to normal within a few days of first becoming unwell. If your dog has developed anaemia, it could be several weeks before they are fully recovered.

Is food cooked with garlic bad for dogs?

Cooking does not destroy the organosulphoxides found in garlic. These are the toxic compounds responsible for causing red blood cell damage. So cooked garlic is just as toxic as raw garlic and should never be fed to dogs.

What are the symptoms of garlic poisoning in dogs?

The symptoms of garlic poisoning develop over one to five days, starting with vomiting and diarrhoea, and progressing to anaemia. If your dog is anaemic, they may have noticeably pale gums, will lack energy, appear weak and have a rapid heart rate. Their urine may be discoloured, appearing red or brown.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

When should I see a vet?

If you know that your dog has eaten garlic, or any other member of the Allium family, you should contact a veterinary surgeon for advice, even if your dog appears fine. They will be able to tell you whether your dog has eaten enough to be at risk of garlic poisoning and so whether your dog will require veterinary care. If your dog appears unwell after eating garlic, you should make an urgent appointment with a veterinary surgeon. The sooner you seek veterinary advice the better, because the chances of a full recovery are much higher with prompt treatment.

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