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Someone advised me not to feed my cat or dog foods which include garlic or onion, as they are bad for my pets and can make them sick.

Is this true? How would it make my cat or dog sick?

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Yes

  • Feeding onions and garlic to your dog or cat is not only bad for their health, but is potentially fatal for your pet. It's not just onions or garlic, but the whole category of plants that fall under the botanical name Alliacea (see table below).

  • Onion, garlic, and many variegations of the onion plant contain sulfoxides and disulfides - onion itself has higher concentrations. These chemicals cause the red blood cells in cats to break up, which can result in hemolytic anemia. This type of anemia can make a cat fatigued, affect a cat's physical and mental performance and is potentially life threatening; the condition is known as allium toxicosis.

  • If this type of poisoning occurs there is nothing that can be done to reverse the effects; only the symptoms can be treated. Affected animals may be treated with intravenous fluids and may require blood transfusions.

  • It's important to note the signs of toxicosis may not surface for several days after the animal has ingested the offending food.

  • If your pet has eaten onions in any food, please monitor your pet and if any symptoms, like vomiting or diarrhea, develop or your pet seems unwell over the following few days, seek veterinary attention.

  • Common sources for pets ingesting these toxins are onion plants, table scraps, garbage cans, and manufactured food made for humans, including baby food.

The signs of toxicity are:

CLINICAL SIGNS
In dogs and cats, clinical signs of Allium species toxicosis may appear within one day of consumption if large amounts of material have been ingested. However, it is more common [to see] the development of clinical signs after a lag of several days. The first signs are usually of gastroenteritis: vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, depression and dehydration. It will take a few days for the dog to display the signs associated with the loss of red blood cells: pale mucous membranes, rapid respiratory rate, difficulty to breathe, lethargy, dark colored urine (reddish or brown), jaundice, weakness, and rapid heart rate. Depression, hemosiderin in urine, exercise intolerance and cold sensitivity may also be observed. In cases of recent ingestion, the breath of the affected dog or cat may smell like onions or garlic. (1)

A full list of the plants associated with allium species toxicity is here:
enter image description here table courtesy of Allium species poisoning in dogs and cats, Salgado BS, Monteiro LN, Rocha NS (1)

Note: these remain harmful after being cooked.

Cooking or spoilage of Allium species does not reduce their potential toxicity. (2)


References:

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