Onions sometimes make us cry, but did you know that onions can be life-threatening to dogs and cats? In fact, all members of the onion family (‘Alliums’ – garlic, onion, chives, and leeks) and their products (such as onion powder for example) can pose a danger, but onions are the most poisonous. Dogs are among the most vulnerable to onions in the animal kingdom, and humans are among the least, due to differences in their metabolism. In this article, we will explore why and how to deal with the problem.
My dog didn’t eat any onions, just the pretty much raw meatloaf with onions in it. What should I do?
The onion was uncooked, and there was a strong smell of them in the house. What can vomiting mean? She ate dinner at 8 pm tonight – about 6 hours ago.
If she didn’t eat much or at all of this meal, she would probably be fine if you catch it in time to induce vomiting to bring up the food. Onion poisoning occurs when a cat or dog eats enough onion to cause anemia (iron deficiency).
This condition develops because the red blood cells are destroyed by compounds known as sulfoxides which are found in higher concentrations in white or yellow varieties of onion compared to red varieties. Ingestion of these compounds results in a reduced amount of hemoglobin, the molecule that carries oxygen to all body organs.
The decreased oxygen-carrying capacity results in anemia and also causes red blood cells (which are smaller than normal) to become rigid, which makes them harder for your pet’s body to squeeze through even small blood vessels, causing tissue damage as well as damage to internal organs like the kidneys and the liver.
Onions can be added to human food or pet food, or they may be found accidentally mixed into many things that pets ingest, including medications (i.e., heartworm pills), topical flea sprays/drops, topical tick treatments, foods prepared at home, especially those containing meatloaf, etc.
A small amount of cooked onion is not likely to cause problems if your pet gets into it, but the larger the dose and/or the fresher it is when consumed can cause life-threatening poisoning.
Symptoms usually occur within 6 hours after ingestion, although they may develop up to 24 hours later in more severe cases.
Common symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, anemia or hemolytic anemia (blood transfusion is sometimes necessary), urine that looks like Coca-Cola, red skin color due to breakdown of red blood cells, which makes your pet look pale even though he may be yellow around his gums/mouth if he’s an adult cat, trouble breathing (due to bloody fluid in the lungs), or death. In other words, symptoms can be very variable and may mimic those of a number of other problems that should also be ruled out by your vet.
If you think your pet has ingested onions, contact your veterinarian immediately! If he/she is not available, call the Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 or take your pet to an emergency clinic.
The treatment for onion toxicity is based on reducing the absorption of sulfoxides from the gastrointestinal tract. It will involve inducing vomiting (or giving hydrogen peroxide orally) followed by activated charcoal administration, which helps absorb any unabsorbed toxins in the stomach/intestines and reduces their effects on the body.
Intravenous fluids may be given to support your pet and maintain hydration as well as blood transfusion if the anemia becomes severe.
It is important to prevent the absorption of sulfoxides from the gastrointestinal tract. To do this, activated charcoal will be mixed with water and given orally immediately after vomiting occurs (if any) and then every 4-6 hours for at least 24 hours or as long as symptoms persist (even if no more onion is found in the stomach or intestines).
If you see any signs of decreased activity/lethargy, give fluids subcutaneously (under the skin) by using a special needleless syringe that allows fluid administration without having to stick your pet with a regular needle.
Do NOT attempt to give such large volumes of fluid orally, or it can be dangerous and cause fluid accumulation in the lungs.
Don’t forget that other foods may contain onions! Cats should not eat cooked bones, for example, and dogs should not eat chocolate which contains theobromine (another problem for pets).
Further Reading: Can dogs eat beef jerky
My dog has gas and can’t stop farting – I don’t know what to do!
Please contact your veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment of this medical problem. I have seen some pets that have eaten onions, but I do not know if their gas smells like onions or sweet potatoes.
In the meantime, please be sure to feed your pet only high-quality foods with no fillers, such as cheap starches, which can contribute to excessive flatulence in some dogs and cats. Ground fresh organ meat from chicken, beef, pork, or lamb, which is very low in fat, has been found helpful in some dogs when fed raw (just a little bit is often all they need).
A tablespoon per 10 lbs of body weight per day is a good starting point, perhaps increased over time. It’s important to gradually increase the amount given, however, to avoid loose stools.
Please note that it is extremely important to discuss any dietary changes with your veterinarian since some pets may have medical problems that need to be taken into consideration before giving any new food or supplement.
Your pet will not begin farting onion farts if you provide him/her with only high-quality foods! Onion flavored farts are actually created in the mouth when onions are chewed… I know because they make me do the same thing!
(Dogs can also be affected too.) If your pet eats mainly kibble, he/she is more likely to develop gas than if fed a good raw diet. Also, feeding less grain and starch-based fillers will help reduce farting.
It’s important not to feed onions of any kind to your pets, but it’s also important not to feed them potatoes or sweet potatoes either because these often contain solanine which is toxic to many animals.
Dogs and cats do NOT eat a lot of starch in the wild. If you want pet farts that smell like onions, make sure they are eating food with high starch content.
If farts smell like onions, it means you have been feeding your pet too much starch-based filler in the kibble or canned food!
What can I give my dog if he ate onions?
If it was just before you brought your dog into the vet, your veterinarian will usually induce vomiting to flush out your dog’s stomach. They may also use activated charcoal to treat the poisoning as well as potential allergic reactions. Activated charcoal reduces absorption of the onions in the gastrointestinal tract.
Can dogs eat meat that has been cooked with onion?
Can dogs have meatloaf with onions?
Will a small amount of cooked onion hurt my dog?
What happens if dog eats a little onion?