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Can dogs eat garlic?

Written by FOTP Team

Last updated

garlic

Sizzling some garlic in the pan or spreading it over slices of fresh baguette to make delicious garlic bread... that smell is irresistible.  Can your dog eat that garlic with you?  The short answer is no - but don’t panic if you dropped a clove.  Ready for the long answer?

Why is garlic toxic for dogs?

It’s from the onion family, and all those bulbs contain thiosulphate.  Humans can deal with it (thanks to a handy enzyme in our bodies), but in dogs, thiosulphate clumps haemoglobin and damages red blood cells.  In large amounts it can cause anaemia.  This can get pretty bad: if diagnosed with haemolytic anaemia, your dog might need a blood transfusion or steroids.  

How do I know if my dog has eaten garlic?

Are you wondering why the garlic bread vanished from the kitchen?  Some symptoms of garlic ingestion might include:

  • Stomach upset – vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Lethargy
  • A higher breathing rate
  • Very dark urine
  • Pale gums
  • Weakness or reluctance to walk

If you see any of these, take your dog to the vet.  

Can eat dogs eat a small amount of garlic?

Although it is far less toxic than onions, garlic still contains toxic thiosulphate.  

But eating a small amount of garlic isn’t likely to produce serious effects.  

In fact, some practitioners recommend garlic – and it’s been used as a herbal remedy by humans for centuries.   In her book The Complete Herbal Book for the Dog, Juliette de Bairacli Levy recommends garlic for its anti-parasitic and antiseptic properties.  She suggests a daily dosage of 1 clove for a dog weighing 20-40lb. 

However, that’s a controversial opinion, as garlic’s known to be toxic for dogs in larger amounts.  In modest amounts it can cause gastrointestinal upset.  Exactly how much garlic does a dog need to become ill?  In this study published in the AVMA journal, garlic was fed at a rate of 1.25ml/kg of body weight every day for a week (...that’s quite a few cloves) and, while effects were seen, none of the dogs developed haemolytic anaemia. 

Like most foods, the dose and toxicity will depend partly on your dog’s size – as well as other factors, like existing conditions. 

What should I do if my dog ate garlic?

In the US, more than 90% of animal poison cases are accidental – and they happen at home.  If you know dogs, you know what that probably means: dogs stealing food. 

What garlicky food did your dog eat?  There isn’t a huge amount of garlic spread on one slice of garlic bread.  A whole garlic bulb is more dangerous.  

Try to estimate how much garlic was consumed (how much was in the house and where is it now?).  A small amount might lead to vomiting and gastrointestinal pain.  If your dog ate a larger amount then you’ll have to watch out for serious symptoms, which may develop several hours, or even days later. 

Whatever the source, it’s inadvisable to take any risks, so you should always check with your vet.  They can ask you crucial questions and tell you what symptoms to look for, so you can either take your dog in or simply monitor your dog at home.

How can my dog be treated after eating garlic?

If your dog ate a modest amount of garlic, they will probably experience a stomach upset – and you’ll have some cleaning-up to do.  Keep a close eye on them, in the yard if possible, and don’t take them out for a long walk if they seem to be experiencing pain.  

But if you are certain that your dog ate a significant amount of garlic, or they’re showing some of the more-serious symptoms listed above, then your vet can check their blood with a test.  The vet will examine the number of red blood cells and their structure – clumps of haemoglobin indicate haemolytic anaemia.

Hemolytic anaemia (caused by toxins such as garlic) is rare. Because it’s caused by the dog’s immune system destroying red blood cells, it is usually treated with immunosuppressive drugs.   They’ll allow your dog’s red blood cells to go back to normal numbers.  Your vet may prescribe a course of a corticosteroid such as prednisone.  If the anaemia is very severe then a blood transfusion may be required. 

Note to owners: Hemolytic anaemia can also be caused by an underlying condition, which makes it more difficult to treat.  If your dog is suffering with any of the serious symptoms listed above and they haven’t eaten anything toxic, you should visit the vet for a physical examination and blood testing.