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My Dog Ate Garlic!  – Here’s What to Do (Our Vet Answers)

vet approved graphic 3So, your dog ate garlic! You may ask yourself, “Is it safe? What should I do?”

Keep reading as we discuss everything that you need to know. We will explain why garlic is toxic to dogs, what the symptoms of garlic poisoning look like, and what to do if your dog eats garlic.

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Why Would My Dog Eat Garlic?

Dogs are very inquisitive creatures and love to explore the world through their nose and mouth. The combination of this inquisitive nature and a heightened sense of smell may often land your beloved pet into a bit of bother by eating things that may be toxic to them. Garlic is not safe for dogs to eat and can cause toxicity if eaten. If your dog has eaten garlic, it is important to contact your vet for advice as soon as possible.

Garlic is a widely used ingredient and therefore can be found in many food items. It may not be immediately obvious that your dog has ingested garlic and therefore to avoid toxicity it is best not to feed your dog human food. Garlic can be found in many forms, be it cooked or fresh, such as whole garlic cloves or it can be broken down into garlic powder or garlic salt. Garlic bread or garlic butter are other food items that contain high amounts of garlic. Dogs are capable of eating any of these items. Unfortunately, your dog does not know that what they are eating is harmful to their health. It is vital to ensure that these items are kept out of your dog’s reach.

Sometimes you can do absolutely everything to keep your pet safe and they still manage to get hold of things they shouldn’t, such as garlic. If this does happen, try not to worry.

Why Is Garlic Toxic to Dogs?

Garlic is a plant species in the Allium genus, which also includes onions, chives, leeks, and spring onions. All parts of these plants are considered toxic. Ingestion of garlic in dogs causes damage to red blood cells which in turn can cause anemia (low numbers of red blood cells), difficulty breathing, and organ damage. Ingestion of garlic can also cause upset tummies.

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Image credit: Freepics4you, Pixabay

We’ll have a look at why garlic causes anemia in dogs in more detail. Garlic contains the thiosulfates bis-2-propenyl trisulfide and bis-2-propenyl thiosulfonate. When your dog’s hemoglobin gets damaged, they can normally heal themselves – but the compounds in garlic prevent this from happening. Hemoglobin is essential, as it carries oxygen. The damaged hemoglobin not only cannot carry oxygen, but it also makes your dog’s red blood cells very fragile. The cells burst and break apart in a process called hemolysis. In other words, large quantities of garlic ‘dissolve’ your dog’s red blood cells.

What Sorts of Garlic Are Toxic to Dogs?

All types of garlic are poisonous to dogs. Raw and cooked cloves and bulbs of garlic are toxic to dogs. Garlic powder is toxic, too – as is liquid garlic supplement. Wild garlic is also considered poisonous. In other words, if it has garlic in it, it should be avoided.

Will a Small Amount of Garlic Hurt My Dog?

Garlic is dose-dependent – the more thiosulfates your dog consumes per pound of body weight, the more damage will be done. Therefore, the amount of garlic ingested, and the size of the dog may have a part to play in the effect on your dog. For example, if a small breed dog eats a large quantity of garlic, then there is a higher likelihood of a negative effect compared to a large dog.

Your vet may be able to calculate whether your dog has ingested a toxic dose, by taking the amount of garlic consumed and the weight of your dog. However, as the amounts of garlic in some food items is unknown, this may not be possible. Unfortunately, cooking garlic does not reduce the toxicity, the effects will be the same as uncooked garlic. In addition, your dog’s breed should be taken into account. Dogs of Japanese descent may be more susceptible to garlic toxicity, but it is not clear why this is the case.

What Happens If My Dog Eats Garlic?

It may take a couple of days after your dog has eaten garlic for them to become sick. The severity of the symptoms will be related to the dose of garlic the animal has eaten and the degree of anemia present. Generally, the more garlic that is ingested the more severe the anemia will be.

Symptoms of garlic poisoning may include tiredness, pale gums, weakness, and collapse. The effects of hemolysis may cause your pet to look yellow (jaundiced) or it may cause their urine to be bloody. The anemia may also cause your dog to have difficulty breathing or a rapid heart rate. Sometimes pets may suffer from vomiting and diarrhea, but this is uncommon.

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Image credit: Spiritze, Pixabay

What Should I Do If My Dog Ate Garlic?

Here is a step by step guide of what to do if you find yourself in this situation:

  • As soon as you realize your dog has eaten garlic, ensure that they do not eat any more.
  • Contact your vet immediately. Keep hold of packaging where possible, as the garlic content (where stated on the packet) may help your vet calculate whether a toxic dose has been consumed. The ingredient list on the packaging may also alert the vet to other toxic ingredients.
  • If your dog has eaten enough garlic to be dangerous, then immediate veterinary treatment will be necessary. It is often difficult to estimate the amount of garlic ingested or predict the effects on your pet so your vet may elect to make your dog sick to be safe. It is important not to do this yourself at home. You are unlikely to be successful and may cause more harm than good. Your vet may decide to give your dog an injection which will cause them to vomit and hopefully empty the stomach of its garlic-containing contents. This will limit the amount of garlic absorbed into the blood system. Activated charcoal can also be given to your dog once they have stopped vomiting. Activated charcoal will bind to any residual toxins and prevent them from being absorbed into the bloodstream where they exert their toxic effects.
  • If there has been a delay in providing treatment and your pet has started to show symptoms, then it may be necessary to hospitalize your pet to provide more intensive treatment. Severe cases may need oxygen therapy, blood transfusions, and supportive treatment.

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How Do You Treat Garlic Poisoning in Dogs? Will My Pet Be OK?

There is no antidote to garlic poisoning. Treatment of garlic poisoning is based on supportive care and treatment of the symptoms present. If a case of garlic ingestion is caught early and treatment is instigated promptly, then the prognosis is good, and recovery is generally full. However, if garlic ingestion goes undetected and your pet is showing severe clinical symptoms, then this can prove to be fatal.

It is important to contact your vet as soon as you realize your dog has eaten garlic so that treatment can be started early. To prevent garlic poisoning, it is important to ensure that all garlic items or foods containing garlic are kept in a secure place, away from our cherished companions. Prevention is definitely better than the cure.

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Featured Image: Anrita1705, Pixabay