Dogs Eating Onions Is Dangerous! Here’s Why

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Onions are a favorite ingredient in many dishes and can be found in most kitchens. They add flavor and texture to many recipes and are one of the most versatile vegetables we use. However, does their presence in so many homes and in so much human food pose a risk to our pets? Box dogs eat onions?

no dogs can not eat onions of all kinds and in all forms, including shallots, leeks, garlic, cooked onions, and even onion powder.

Can dogs eat onions… and why not?

No, the scientific evidence is clear that dogs cannot eat onions. They contain a variety of organosulfur compounds, including di-propyl disulfide (N-propyl disulfide) and allyl propyl sulfide, all of which are highly toxic to dogs. Here’s why.

These chemicals destroy red blood cells by a process called oxidative hemolysis.

They enter a dog’s bloodstream in the intestine and are metabolized to highly reactive oxidants. These attach to a substance called hemoglobin which is inside red blood cells. This is a problem because hemoglobin has an important job to do. It combines with oxygen in the lungs and transports it to other parts of the body where it is released and used by the body.

However, N-propyl disulfide causes red blood cells to clump together into pieces called Heinz body and they can no longer transport oxygen as they should. What’s worse is that the body’s immune system acts as if the Heinz bodies are germs or foreign bodies because it doesn’t recognize them as normal cells. The dog’s body therefore begins to destroy its own red blood cells in a process called hemolysis. Red blood cells are destroyed faster than the body can replace them, and soon all organs in the body begin to suffer from a lack of oxygen. The resulting condition is called hemolytic anemia.

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What types of onions are toxic to dogs?

All types of onions are toxic to dogs. Not all vegetables that are part of the allium plant family (root vegetables) are safe for dogs. This includes garlic, green onions, shallots and chives. So that means dogs can’t eat onions of just any color! Garlic has the highest concentration of organosulfur compounds of the entire allium family and is therefore the most toxic.

Both cooked and raw onions are toxic to dogs, so your four-legged friend cannot eat sauces or dishes containing any type of onion or garlic. Additionally, all parts of the onion are poisonous, including all of the leaves and flesh and even the onion juice.

Onion, garlic, leek and chives are the allium species most often implicated in canine poisoning.

types of onion
All types of onions are bad for your dog.

/Shutterstock.com

Is onion powder toxic to dogs?

Onion powder looks nothing like an onion! It has been cured and dried and appears to be safe for dogs – but it’s far from it!

Indeed, onion powder and garlic powder are particularly dangerous for our four-legged friends. First, it’s because it’s found in such a wide range of human foods, including products you might not suspect have onions at all. Many store-bought soups, baked goods, and even baby foods contain onion or garlic powder. This is a problem if you have a habit of feeding your dog human food scraps or if he cleans up all the debris under the dining table.

Second, onion and garlic powders contain a very concentrated amount of toxic sulfur products and therefore pose a higher risk than fresh onions.

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How much onion is toxic to dogs?

Of course, all dogs’ metabolisms are different and some will be able to tolerate larger doses of onion than others. Nevertheless, the American Kennel Club estimates that 100 grams of onion per 20 kg of a dog’s weight is enough to cause a toxic effect. You can roughly determine the toxic dose for your dog by calculating 0.5% of his body weight. But the only safe amount of onion for dogs is – none!

So what does this mean in practice?

If you have a 45 pound dog (about the size of an average dog border collie), a medium onion is enough to reach toxic levels in the blood. You will find as many onions in a serving of a pan or in a serving of onion rings. It takes much less to make a small dog very sick.

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onion dog
A whole medium sized onion is toxic to a 45 lb dog. Smaller amounts may be toxic to small dogs.

Liliya Kulianionak/Shutterstock.com

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms can appear within hours, but usually appear a few days after a dog ingests the onion. Higher doses of onion tend to trigger a faster response. What is more concerning is that the toxic compounds can build up in your dog’s body over time if he continuously eats small amounts of onion. Eventually it will reach a level that will make them sick. Typical signs of onion poisoning include:

  • Weakness
  • Lack of energy (lethargy)
  • don’t want to eat
  • Pale gums
  • Fainting
  • Reddish urine
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • rapid heartbeat
  • Panting

If your dog exhibits these symptoms you should contact your veterinarian immediately even if you have not seen him eat onions. They could have eaten one when you weren’t looking!

What to do if your dog eats onion

You may see your dog eating an onion or food containing onion. Some dogs will eat a whole onion or chew on a container of powdered onion if they manage to get a hold of it. However, it is more common for dogs to eat human food containing onions, onion powder or garlic because they have pinched it off a table or been fed it by someone who didn’t realize it was toxic to them.

If you don’t actually see your dog eating onion, you may smell the onion on his breath. If any of these things happen you should call your vet immediately for advice. Try to stay calm and give lots of details about what your dog ate and how much.

Diagnosis and treatment

Onion poisoning in dogs is not something you can treat yourself, you need to talk to your veterinarian about it. They can diagnose onion toxicity from physical signs and symptoms and laboratory tests. Hemolytic anemia caused by onion poisoning can be diagnosed by examining blood samples under a microscope – Heinz bodies appear on blood smears as purple spots.

Onion toxicity is life-threatening in dogs, so it’s vital the vet acts quickly. The treatment chosen will depend on a number of factors, including how long the dog has been ingesting the onion and how much he has eaten. The vet may be able to induce vomiting or use a stomach flush to flush out undigested onions. Dogs may need IV fluids, oxygen, or even blood transfusions to support them during their recovery. With the right treatment, most dogs make a full recovery.

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How to Prevent Onion Poisoning in Dogs

Prevention is better than cure when it comes to onion poisoning in dogs. There are many things you can do to protect your furry friend from this danger. Here are our top suggestions.

  • Do not give your dog human food. If you can break the habit of feeding your dog human food, the risk will decrease significantly. It’s very complicated to keep checking ingredient lists and figuring out what products they can and can’t eat. Do not feed them processed human food at all. As for vegetables, if you stick to carrots, you can’t go wrong!
  • Store onions where dogs can’t reach them. Store all onion-based vegetables, including garlic and chives, in a place your dog cannot reach.
  • Teach your dog not to steal food from counters. No dog should be allowed access to human food on counters because they simply cannot tell what is safe and will gobble up the lot! Teach your dog that this is not acceptable behavior from an early age.
  • Have a balanced diet. Give your dog a high quality food, premium dog food with plenty of protein and healthy carbs so they feel full longer and are less likely to crave human food.
  • Teach the “let it” command. This is one of the most important commands you can teach your dog and it can save his life. There are a lot of training books and guides that will walk you through the process.
  • Use a halter or muzzle. You can steer your dog away from food scraps on the sidewalk more effectively if you have a head halter. If eating garbage is a real problem for your dog, you may need to use a muzzle in extreme cases.

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