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The Dangers of Feeding Your Dog Garlic

Garlic is one of the most popular spices used in cooking. The smell of it is distinct and attracts many humans and canines to the kitchen when detected. Which begs the question, is it ok to feed your dog garlic?

The simple answer is, no, it is not.

Garlic’s Toxicity to Dogs

Although garlic is safe for humans to ingest, it is toxic to dogs. The Merck Veterinary Manual notes that garlic, a member of the allium family, contains thiosulfate, a substance that is highly toxic to canines but not to humans. (Onions, also a member of the allium family, contain more thiosulfate than garlic and are even more toxic to dogs).

Thiosulfate damages a dog’s red blood cells and can result in hemolytic anemia. Unfortunately, red blood cell damage isn’t usually visible to the naked eye, so we as dog owners can’t always notice that this has occurred until blood tests are run. The signs of this type of anemia in dogs include rapid breathing, weakness, dark urine, pale mucous membranes, lethargy and jaundice.

Other symptoms resulting from garlic toxicity in dogs include gastrointestinal problems such as loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, abdominal pain and depression.

It does take a lot of garlic (15 to 30 grams per kg of a dog’s body weight) to be toxic to dogs. The average garlic clove weighs just 3 to 7 grams. Remember, however, that toxicity can occur over a few days of a dog ingesting garlic. So if your dog eats something that has a little bit of garlic in it one day, he will likely be fine. Having that food item that has a little bit of garlic in it day after day is not safe, as the garlic toxicity can build up. Feeding garlic to your dog intentionally is not recommended.

Garlic bread, therefore, should be kept away from canines, no matter how much they beg for it. Not only does it contain garlic, but it also has cheese, oil, butter and other herbs that can cause gastrointestinal distress in dogs. Make sure not to store garlic-containing items in areas of your home where you pooch can reach them, either. Unfortunately, they don’t know it’s bad for them!

Are Certain Breeds More Susceptible to Garlic Poisoning?

Certain dog breeds are more likely to be negatively affected by garlic, for unknown reasons. These include the Japanese breeds of Japanese Spitz, Shiba Inu and Akita dogs. Scientists and researchers believe that their heightened susceptibility to garlic toxicity may be because, genetically, these breeds of dogs have a high count of red blood cells and low levels of potassium and glutathione.

Garlic Supplements for Dogs

Why, then, do we see garlic supplements marketed to dog owners as dietary supplements or to prevent fleas and ticks? According to the American Kennel Club, garlic supplements have no health benefits to dogs, nor do they prevent fleas or ticks. Small doses of garlic supplements probably won’t hurt your pooch, but why risk it, when there are no known benefits to feeding it to your dog? There is not enough definitive research to support the claim that garlic naturally prevents fleas and parasites in dogs. When in doubt, leave it out of your dog’s diet.

How to Treat Garlic Toxicity in Dogs

What should you do if your dog accidentally eats a large amount of garlic?  Get him to a veterinarian ASAP. Your veterinarian will likely run blood tests, possibly perform a liver biopsy, and maybe x-rays, ultrasounds and CT scans of the dog’s abdomen to determine if he is suffering from garlic poisoning. While it’s not likely that your dog will die from ingesting garlic, he might need fluids to prevent dehydration or medications to treat vomiting and diarrhea. Better to be safe than sorry.

Treatment of garlic toxicity in dogs involves administering activated charcoal to induce vomiting. Your veterinarian can provide you with this or can do it for you in emergency cases. If charcoal does not induce vomiting, however, the vet will probably admit your dog to the veterinary hospital to flush out the toxins with saline solution. Blood transfusions may also be necessary in extreme cases of anemia resulting from garlic toxicity.

Alternatives to Garlic for Dogs

If you’d like to feed your dog another healthy “people food” treat, there are many alternatives from which you may choose. According to the American Kennel Club, fruits and vegetables that are safe for pups to eat include:

  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Cantaloupe
  • Celery
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Cranberries
  • Watermelon
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries
  • Apples
  • Mango (remove the pit)
  • Peaches (remove the pit)
  • Pears (remove the pit and seeds)
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Broccoli (only in very small quantities due to potential gastric irritation)
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Green beans (plain, without seasoning)
  • Peas
  • Pineapple

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