When it comes to fruits and vegetables, it can be difficult for us dog owners to remember what they can share with their doggy best friends and which ones could prove fatal. So, where do onions come into this? Can dogs eat onions?
Onions can cause more damage to your dog than just smelly breath. This pungent culinary favourite may add flavour to your cooking, this naturally leads us to ask, can dogs eat onions?
Are onions toxic to dogs?
Onions contain a toxic principle known as N-propyl disulfide. This compound causes a breakdown of red blood cells, leading to anaemia in dogs.
The toxin causes oxidative damage to your dog’s red blood cells by attaching to the oxygen molecules in your dog’s red blood cells. This decreases the ability of the red blood cells to transport oxygen and furthermore tricks your dog’s body into thinking that the blood cell is an attacker. The red blood cell is destroyed in a process known as hemolysis, resulting in hemolytic anemia.
What parts of onions are toxic to dogs?
All parts of the onion plant are toxic to dogs, including the flesh, leaves, juice, and processed powders. Raw or cooked, fried or powdered, onions and the rest of the allium family (garlic, shallots, leeks, and chives) are harmful to dogs.
Onion powder is in a surprisingly extensive range of human foods, from soups to baby food. It only takes 100 grams of onion (about the size of a medium onion) per 20 kilograms of a dog’s weight to cause toxic effects. This means that a 20kg dog would only have to eat one medium-to-large-size onion to experience dangerous toxicity levels. Considering most dogs would happily devour a bag of unattended onion rings or a snack containing onion, given the opportunity, this is a severe concern.
Onion and garlic powders are even more potent than fresh onions. It is always a good idea to check the label of any human food we feed to our dogs, (we should be avoiding feeding our dogs any processed human foods anyway). As a message of warning to those with multi-species households, onions are even more toxic to cats than they are to dogs, so keep both feline and canines free of onion treats.
Symptoms of onion toxicity in dogs
If you think your dog could have eaten onions or products containing onion, there are a few symptoms of anemia you should look out for:
- Decreased appetite
- Pale gums
- Reddish urine
The ASPCA also lists vomiting, elevated heart rate, and panting as signs of onion toxicity.
If your dog is displaying any of these symptoms, the best thing you can do to help them is to get them to a vet as soon as possible. Your vet will diagnose your dog’s condition based on their symptoms and bloods. If your vet detects hemolytic anaemia or the formation of Heinz bodies on a blood smear, and that is combined with a recent history of onion exposure, then all signs point toward onion toxicity. Other conditions can also cause hemolytic anaemia, so it is important to get an accurate diagnosis to ensure your dog gets the best care.
Treating onion toxicity in dogs
The most important thing you can do, as a dog owner, to treat and prevent onion toxicity is to never allow your dog to eat onions or foods containing onion. If your dog is experiencing toxic effects, they will likely require veterinary attention. Your vet may induce vomiting, depending on how recently your dog ate the onions and will offer supportive care until your dog’s body can produce enough healthy red blood cells to replace the damaged ones. In severe cases, your dog may require a blood transfusion.
Onion toxicity can be fatal. The quicker you get your dog to the vets, the better their chances, and you can prevent onion poisoning from recurring in the future by keeping onion dishes out of the reach of their inquisitive noses.
Healthy vegetables for dogs
As you have learnt, onions are most definitely a no go, but there are lots of healthy vegetables that are perfectly safe for dogs that you can feed them instead. Try offering your dog carrots, cucumbers, or green beans as a healthy treat. If you would like to know more, you can learn more about the fruits and vegetables dogs can and can’t eat.