Can Dogs Eat Onions?

Can dogs eat onions? Quick and to the point, NO.

Onions, along with other similar items like leeks or garlic, are harmful to dogs. Humans can derive some health benefits from onions, but for dogs they are toxic.

According to Top Dog Tips, onions contain the toxin Allyl propyl disulfide or N-propyl disulfide. This toxin breaks down the red blood cells in the dog’s body resulting in secondary autoimmune hemolytic anemia. This type of anemia can be very serious and even fatal.

What is Secondary Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia?

We now know that onions can cause secondary autoimmune hemolytic anemia, but what is it? Secondary hemolytic anemia is a result of an underlying disease or reaction to a toxin in the body. In this case, the toxin, N-propyl disulfide, attaches to the red blood cells which reduces the amount of oxygen carried through the dog’s body.

The dog’s body reacts as if the cells are foreign bodies and attacks them. When these red blood cells are destroyed, anemia occurs.

The previously mentioned article points out that there are many benefits that can be gained if we could figure out a way to make onions safe for dogs. Many of the health benefits that humans get from onions could also benefit dogs.

Onions contain several compounds, sulfur compounds, and several vitamins and minerals. The Vitamins C and B6, Folate and Potassium in onions could benefit dogs in the following ways:

  • Regulates blood sugar levels
  • Possible preventative of certain cancers
  • Can kill or slow the spread of microorganisms
  • Increases bone density

Maybe someday scientists will find a way to make onions safe for dogs, as well as cats, horses, and even monkeys. But for now do not give any onions, no matter the color, to your dog.

Are All Onions Off Limits?

All parts of the onion, as well as different colored ones, are toxic to dogs. The flesh, leaves, juice, and even onion powder are considered dangerous. Fried or cooked onions contain the same toxicity as raw onions.

You would be surprised how many foods contain one form or the other of onion. Even baby food contains onion powder.

According to the American Kennel Club website, a little under 1/2 cup of onion can cause dangerous toxicity in a 45-pound dog. That may seem like a lot of onion, but consider how much onion you may put in the casserole that your pup just devoured while you weren’t looking. The ratio of the weight of the dog to the amount of consumed onion is important. Smaller dogs are at risk when eating smaller amounts of onion products.

Surprisingly, garlic and onions in powder form are more potent than fresh onions or garlic. It’s best to completely avoid feeding your dog any processed people food, there is more appropriate nutrition in dog food. If you really feel the need to share your people’s food with your pooch, check the label to make sure it does not include onion or garlic powder. Most processed foods will contain one or both of these powders.

While this article is about dogs and onions, be aware that cats are at an even higher risk of toxicity from onions. So if you won’t give it to your dog, don’t share the people’s food with cats either.

You may agree that dogs should not be given any form of onion, but accidents do happen. There may be times that your dog has eaten food that does contain some form of onion. A very small amount of onion may not be harmful, but you should still observe your dog for any side effects. If you believe that your dog has ingested onions, here are things you should look for.

Possible Side Effects of Onions on Dogs

As discussed earlier, ingesting onions commonly causes anemia. Additionally, there are other possible anemia-related health problems that a dog can experience.

According to Top Dog Tips referred to previously, here are the side effects that can result from dogs eating onions:

  • Gastrointestinal distress as indicated by loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pains. Note that diarrhea can also indicate other health problems that are not the result of eating onions.
  • Pale gums are the result of reduced levels of oxygen. See your vet right away if you see white or very pale gums
  • Reddish urine indicates that the toxins in the onion have caused anemia. Bloody urine or bloody stool may also indicate other related health problems that may not be caused by ingesting onions.
  • Excessive salivation that is not typical drooling for your dog, can indicate that something is wrong. If your dog is in pain while trying to swallow, he will exhibit excessive salivation.
  • A rapid heartbeat of 140 beats per minute indicates ventricular tachycardia, which is associated with anemia.
  • Excessive panting when not a result of heat or physical activity. Depending on the size of the dog, normally a dog will take 10 to 30 breaths per minute.
  • Lethargy, fainting, weakness, collapse, or difficulty walking are all possible side effects of anemia resulting from the toxins from eating onions.

What Steps to Take If Your Dog Ate Onions?

The Canna-Pet website advises that if your dog seems tired, weak or generally unwell and you have seen him eating onions, or suspect he has, you should contact your vet immediately. If you can’t get through to your vet right away, call the ASPCA poison hotline at (888) 426-4435 and they will advise you of the next step. You may be instructed to induce vomiting at home.

The vet’s evaluation will depend on when, and how many, onions were ingested. If the onions were eaten just prior to getting to the vet, the vet will probably induce vomiting to clean out the stomach.

Another course of action is using activated charcoal to counteract poisoning and possible allergic reactions. The charcoal helps to reduce absorbing the onions in the digestive tract. In order to prevent skin infection, the vet may also bathe the dog.

If the situation is more advanced and the dog shows signs of anemia, the vet will take more drastic actions. Treating with Intravenous fluids, blood transfusions or even oxygen may be required in severe cases.

If extreme poisoning is left untreated, it can be fatal. However, dogs with a mild case of poisoning from onions will make a fast and full recovery. Make sure that you continue to watch for any further signs of onion poisoning and keep watch to ensure he keeps away from onions.

To sum it up, can dogs eat onions? No, they should not eat onions in any form. Be vigilant about keeping items containing onion products out of reach of your dog. In the case of accidental ingestion, seek professional help immediately. Instead, try offering fruits and vegetables that are safe and good for him.

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