Can dogs eat garlic? Well, the evidence suggests that garlic can hurt both dogs and cats. While you might think it’s a great herb to add to your food – and it’s a staple ingredient in many types of dishes – it appears that garlic is bad for dogs. So no, garlic isn’t safe for your pooch. Here is some information on why most experts believe feeding your dog garlic is a bad idea.
WHAT DOG OWNERS SHOULD KNOW: IS GARLIC TOXIC TO DOGS? Garlic is a member of the onion family, so it’s related to other types of food humans eat regularly. In addition to onions, this family also includes:
All of these are considered to be toxic to dogs and cats – garlic even more so. The toxicity of garlic is estimated to be five times that of onions. There are many health issues associated with garlic toxicity in dogs. These include anemia, blood cell damage, nausea, and vomiting.1 One of the reasons garlic is toxic for dogs is that their bodies metabolize garlic differently than humans. There is a specific component in garlic, thiosulfate, that appears to be the reason why.
UNDERSTANDING THIOSULFATE Thiosulfate can be very harmful to a dog’s health. Toxicity caused by thiosulfate can lead to several issues, including stomach problems, loss of appetite, dehydration, diarrhea, and even mood issues.2 Pet owners who are proponents of garlic believe that it can actually be beneficial to dogs – in small quantities. They claim it can, for example, help repel fleas.3 But experts say that as little as five grams of garlic per one kilogram of a dog’s body weight can cause problems.4 Cloves of garlic are usually between 3-7 grams. The bottom line? Most experts suggest that dog owners should steer clear of garlic altogether when it comes to their pet. Talk to your vet before adding garlic to your dog’s routine for any reason.
UNDERSTAND THE RISKS: BLOOD CELL DAMAGE, ANEMIA, AND KIDNEY FAILURE There are a lot of health issues associated with garlic toxicity. Here are just a few of them. BLOOD CELL DAMAGE Garlic, onions, and related foods contain a compound known as N-propyl disulfide. This damages a substance called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is responsible for providing oxygen to red blood cells. When this happens, it can lead to severe anemia (more on this in the next section), potentially resulting in organ damage or even organ failure. If a dog ingests garlic, it can also irritate their digestive tract.5 ANEMIA Anemia occurs when red blood cells are either damaged or lost. This can cause bleeding, both externally and internally. One of the main symptoms of anemia is lethargy. An affected dog might find it difficult to exercise. Loss of appetite is another symptom. Your dog’s dinner might go untouched.6 Anemia can, in some cases, lead to the formation of potentially dangerous blood clots.7 Anemia can be serious, but your veterinarian should be able to diagnose and treat it effectively. KIDNEY FAILURE Kidney failure is one of the biggest threats to a dog’s health. Garlic toxicity in dogs can affect the kidneys in such a way that it harms the rest of the body. The kidneys play a major role in eliminating waste from the body, but they perform other vital roles as well. For example, they help make sure that blood sugar and blood pressure stay at safe levels. They also help produce several types of hormones. Talk to your veterinarian if your dog has eaten garlic, as they may be experiencing digestion or kidney discomfort. Common symptoms from garlic-induced kidney problems in dogs include:
A sudden loss of body weight
Lack of interest in eating dog food
Blood in the urine
Your veterinarian can help manage kidney failure in your dog so they can still lead a full, happy life.8
OTHER HUMAN FOODS THAT ARE BAD FOR DOGS A lot of dog owners will sometimes sneak their pet human food. Some of it is typically harmless but others can be detrimental to your pet’s health. Regardless of a dog’s breed, there are some foods pets should never eat. Along with garlic, two of the most toxic foods to dogs are onions and macadamia nuts. ONIONS Onions are known more for causing stinky breath in humans than for being dangerous, but onion poisoning can mean bad news for your pet. As you already know, the onion is in the same family of food as garlic. Both of them contain the toxic compound that was covered earlier – N-propyl disulfide. 9 MACADAMIA NUTS Macadamia nuts may seem harmless, but they can be dangerous for your pet. You’ll find them in a lot of different kinds of food, including desserts. Experts aren’t really sure why macadamia nuts cause problems. But even in small amounts, if your dog eats them, they can experience symptoms like vomiting and weakness.10,11 WHAT ABOUT PEANUT BUTTER? Some dog owners will give their pet a little peanut butter once in a while. But even this can be bad. The reason is that some brands of peanut butter contain an ingredient called xylitol. This is a sweetener often added to sugar-free foods. Xylitol has been linked to weakness and vomiting, as well as liver problems in dogs.12 If your pup loves some occasional peanut butter, just be sure to check that the label is free from xylitol before letting them indulge. TAKE ACTION, BUT DON’T PANIC If you suspect your dog has ingested something toxic, call an animal poison control center as well as your veterinarian. Your vet, or the pet poison helpline, can tell you what to do next.
Dr Marty Goldstein is the pioneer of integrative animal medicine and nutrition. Her is the author of the bestselling book The Nature of Animal Healing and the upcoming The Spirit of Animal Healing (February 2021). He is the subject of the critically acclaimed documentary The Dog Doc directed by award winning filmmaker Cindy Meehl.
Sources 1 https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/garlic/ 2 https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/can-dogs-eat-garlic/ 3 https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/care/the-many-benefits-of-garlic-for-your-dog/ 4 https://thepetauthority.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/how-much-onion-or-garlic-is-toxic-to-pets/ 5 https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/toxicity/are-onions-and-garlic-bad-your-dog 6 http://www.vetstreet.com/care/anemia-in-dogs 7 https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/cardiovascular/c_multi_hypercoagulability 8 https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/urinary/c_multi_renal_failure_chronic 9 https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/can-dogs-eat-onions/ 10 https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/can-dogs-eat-macadamia-nuts/ 11 https://www.aspca.org/news/animal-poison-control-alert-macadamia-nuts-are-toxic-dogs 12 https://www.petmd.com/dog/emergency/poisoning-toxicity/6-dangerous-and-surprising-items-contain-xylitol