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Onions are a common ingredient in many dishes, but did you know they can be deadly for dogs? Learn why onions and other alliums are poisonous to dogs and how to prevent onion poisoning.

Onions may seem like a harmless and tasty addition to your meals, but did you know that they can be deadly for your canine companion? 

In this blog post, we’ll explain why onions are toxic for dogs, what symptoms to look out for, and how to treat onion poisoning. 

We’ll also answer the common question: will a small amount of onion hurt my dog? Spoiler alert: it might!

Why Are Onions Toxic to Dogs?

Onions contain a chemical called n-propyl disulfide, which is responsible for their distinctive smell and flavor. This chemical can also interfere with your dog’s ability to produce an enzyme called glutathione, which protects the red blood cells from oxidative damage. 

Without enough glutathione, the red blood cells become fragile and prone to bursting. This leads to a loss of oxygen-carrying capacity and anemia.

Some breeds of dogs, especially Japanese breeds like Akitas and Shiba Inus, are more sensitive to onion toxicity because they have a higher concentration of an enzyme called phosphofructokinase (PFK) in their red blood cells. 

PFK helps break down glucose for energy, but it also reacts with n-propyl disulfide and increases the oxidative stress on the cells.

How much onion is toxic to dogs?

The toxic dose of onion for dogs depends on their body weight and the type of onion. Generally speaking, a dog can safely consume up to 0.5% of their body weight in onions without harmful effects. 

For example, a 10-pound dog can eat up to 0.05 pounds (or 0.8 ounces) of onion. However, this is not a recommended amount, as even small doses of onion can accumulate over time and cause chronic toxicity.

Garlic is the most potent member of the allium family, and it’s about five times more toxic than onions. 

Therefore, a dog can only tolerate up to 0.1% of their body weight in garlic. Chives, leeks, and scallions are less toxic than onions and garlic, but they still pose a risk if consumed in large quantities.

The type of onion also matters as some varieties have higher concentrations of n-propyl disulfide than others. Red onions are the most toxic, followed by yellow onions, white onions, and green onions (or scallions). Cooked, dried, powdered, or processed onions are just as toxic as raw ones.

What are the symptoms of onion poisoning in dogs?

The symptoms of onion poisoning in dogs may take several days to appear after ingestion. This is because it takes time for the n-propyl disulfide to damage the red blood cells and cause anemia. Some of the signs of onion poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Pale or bluish gums
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Collapse

If you suspect your dog has eaten onions or any other alliums, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. 

Your vet will perform a physical exam and run some blood tests to check your dog’s red blood cell count, hemoglobin level, hematocrit (or packed cell volume), and Heinz body formation. Heinz bodies are clumps of damaged hemoglobin that stick to the cell membrane and indicate oxidative damage.

will a small amount of onion hurt my dog

How is onion poisoning treated in dogs?

The treatment of onion poisoning in dogs depends on the severity of the condition and the time elapsed since ingestion. 

If your dog has eaten onions within the last few hours, your vet may induce vomiting or administer activated charcoal to prevent further absorption of the toxin. Your vet may also give your dog intravenous fluids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration and shock.

If your dog has developed severe anemia due to onion poisoning, your vet may recommend a blood transfusion to replace the damaged red blood cells and restore oxygen delivery to the tissues. 

Your vet may also prescribe antibiotics to prevent secondary infections that may occur due to a weakened immune system.

The prognosis for onion poisoning in dogs is generally good if treated promptly and appropriately. Most dogs recover within a few days to a few weeks, depending on the extent of the damage.

However, some dogs may develop permanent kidney damage or liver failure as a result of onion poisoning.

How to prevent onion poisoning in dogs?

The best way to prevent onion poisoning in dogs is to avoid giving them any food that contains onions or other alliums. This includes human food, dog food, treats, supplements, and medications. 

You should also keep onions and other alliums out of your dog’s reach and dispose of them properly. If you grow onions or other alliums in your garden, make sure your dog does not have access to them.

You should also be aware of the signs of onion poisoning in dogs and monitor your dog closely if they have eaten any onions or other alliums. If you notice any symptoms of onion poisoning, take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

Conclusion

Onions are a common ingredient in many dishes, but they can be deadly for dogs. Onions and other alliums contain a chemical that can damage your dog’s red blood cells and cause hemolytic anemia. 

The symptoms of onion poisoning may take several days to appear, and they include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, weakness, pale or bluish gums, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, and collapse. 

If your dog has eaten onions or any other alliums, you should contact your vet immediately. Your vet may induce vomiting, administer activated charcoal, give intravenous fluids and electrolytes, or perform a blood transfusion to treat your dog. 

To prevent onion poisoning in dogs, you should never give them any food that contains onions or other alliums, and keep these plants away from them.

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