Many of us enjoy a pinch of onion flavor in our favorite dishes.
But are they safe for our dogs?
The answer is a hard NO.
Onions rank high on the list of harmful human foods for our furry buddies. Too much onion could harm your dog's red blood cell count, causing hemolytic anemia.
Every bit of the onion is a risk factor—ensure they're stored somewhere your dog will never reach.
Let's uncover more about why onions are harmful to dogs, the signs of onion toxicity, and the steps you should take if such a mishap occurs.
Why are Onions Bad for Dogs?
The N-propyl disulfide compound found in onions interacts with the dog's red blood cells, leading to oxidative harm. As a result, the outer layer of red blood cells may rupture in a process called hemolysis. If the red blood cells are compromised, essential organs might suffer from oxygen deficiency.
Is the Whole Onion Unhealthy for Dogs?
When we say that every single part of the onion is harmful to dogs, we seriously mean every. single. part.
Think of an onion as an evil cake. Whatever slice you take, from top to bottom, inside or out, it's all bad news for our four-legged friends. Whether it's the juicy flesh, the crunchy leaves, or even that oniony smell we sometimes get, all these parts contain the toxic chemicals our dogs must stay away from. That includes onion juice or the onion powder we use in the kitchen (which is more pervasive than you'd imagine!).
Your dog doesn't have to eat a mountain of onions to get sick. Even a bit can do the damage. Let's say you have an average-sized dog weighing about 45 pounds. One medium-sized raw onion would be enough to cause toxicity.
Can Dogs Eat Cooked Onions?
Don't get tricked into thinking cooking the onion makes it any safer for your pup.
Whether fried as crispy onion rings, dehydrated in our favorite soups or even added to baby food, onions still cross into the danger zone for dogs. That's right, even baby food! Always double-check the ingredients, especially if you have little kiddos munching away and a curious puppy nearby.
How Much Onion Will Make My Dog Sick?
There isn't a magic number or specific amount of onions that spells trouble for a dog.
For starters, it's about the size of the dog. A large dog might tolerate more than a tiny pup, although it's not a risk you'd want to take.
Then there's the breed of the dog. Certain breeds have particular biological quirks that make them more prone to onion poisoning, such as Japanese breeds (Akita and Shiba Inu).
If your dog is the curious type that munches on wild onions outside, that's a red flag! Gulping down multiple onions at once will cause sudden health problems, like hemolytic anemia, in just a few days.
Small onion snacks can be just as destructive over time. Imagine your dog sneaking a tiny bit of onion every day. Over time, these bits will add up, causing health issues. It's like eating one chip every day and then being shocked when you find out you've gone through the whole bag in a month.
If Onions are Toxic to Dogs, is Garlic, Too?
First off, let's get to know the family tree a bit. Onions and garlic both come from the Allium family. It's like they're cousins! This family also includes scallions, shallots, leeks, and chives. Because garlic and onions are related, a lot of people jump to the conclusion that they're both bad news for dogs.
Garlic stands out in its group as the sole harmless member to dogs—unless consumed in large amounts. When fed in appropriate quantities, uncooked fresh garlic offers numerous health advantages for your canine companion!
But the absolute superstar in garlic is allicin. Whenever you chop or crush garlic, you awaken an enzyme that teams up with a protein, and BOOM! They create allicin, which has a bunch of health benefits for dogs.
So, while onions and some of their Allium family members are nothing but trouble for dogs, garlic isn't in the same boat.
Symptoms of Onion Poisoning in Dogs
A quick snapshot of symptoms of onion toxicity in dogs includes:
- Lethargy: Your dog seems tired or lazy all of a sudden.
- Weakness: They might struggle with simple tasks or play.
- Decreased appetite: Not finishing their food or showing less interest in it.
- Pale gums: Their gums aren't their usual pink shade.
- Reddish urine: Their pee isn't the normal yellow but has a reddish tint.
- Elevated heart rate
- Panting: Heavy breathing even if they haven't been running around.
- Smelly breath: If it smells like onions, that's a clue.
- Drooling a lot: More drool than usual can be a warning.
- Mouth irritation: If they're constantly pawing at their mouth or it looks sore.
- Diarrhea: Watery poop is never a good sign.
- Rapid heartbeat: Their heart's going crazy!
- Collapse: They just fall over and can't get up.
Some of these onion toxicity symptoms might pop up if your dog is dealing with other health issues, too. Fainting, throwing up, and elevated heart rate aren't usually linked to onion poisoning. But if you know your dog has snuck some onions, don't ignore these symptoms.
The bad news about onion snacking for dogs is that it messes with their liver and causes breathing and skin issues. Most of these symptoms result from what onions do to your dog's red blood cells.
Your dog might not show symptoms of onion toxicity right away. It might take a few days after they've eaten the onion. So, if you've got even the tiniest feeling that something's off, it's vet time!
Onion Poisoning Diagnosis
Your fur baby had a sneaky snack, and you're worried it might have been onions or something with onions in it. Naturally, you're thinking, "Okay, what now?"
First stop? The vet's office.
Your vet will likely start with a blood test to determine how onion toxicity affects your dog's blood.
Next, they will conduct a urinalysis to determine if there are traces of hemoglobin in the urine (which shouldn't normally be there).
Lastly, if your dog has recently pooped or thrown up, the vet might look for any bits of onion hiding there.
What Dog Parents Can Do About Onion Poisoning
First and foremost, switch into action mode. If you catch your dog gobbling down onions or even think they might have, it's time for veterinary care.
One remedy your vet might use to cleanse your dog's stomach is activated charcoal. Think of it like a sponge soaking up the onion contents in your dog's belly. If you have activated charcoal in a first aid kit, immediately use it on your dog.
Ingested activated charcoal binds to GI tract toxins, preventing their absorption into the body. This makes activated charcoal an ideal treatment for dogs that have ingested poison or toxins. However, activated charcoal is not a cure-all—it just buys some time.
Next, the vet might give your dog some fluids, check if their liver was affected, or resort to blood transfusion in severe situations. Sometimes, the vet might hook your dog up with oxygen supplementation if the red blood cells have difficulty carrying oxygen. They might even keep your dog overnight for monitoring.
A Resounding "No" for the "Can Dogs Eat Onions" Question
There's no way to sugarcoat it—onion toxicity is a serious health issue, even deadly in severe cases. That's why veterinary medicine is imperative for addressing it.
Fortunately, if the onion snacking is caught early, most dogs return to their tail-wagging, ball-chasing selves in no time!
If you're ever in doubt or need advice regarding onion poisoning in dogs, you can always ring up your vet, the Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661), or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435). For more advice on dog nutrition, health, and training, make sure that you contact us and check out our blog!
Volhard Dog Nutrition and its expert nutritionists are now offering online consultations to help more dog parents discover why, what, and how to feed their dogs the healthiest of foods! Speaking to a Volhard nutritionist will help you understand the inseparable relationship between healthy food, a healthy body, and a healthy mind. If you're interested in contacting one of our Volhard nutritionists, don't hesitate to access our consultation page!