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My Dog Ate Garlic! Here’s What to Do (Vet Answer)

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By Dr. Joanna Woodnutt


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Dr. Joanna Woodnutt

BVM BVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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What to Do if Your Dog Eats Garlic

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 bad for dogs 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 because garlic and dogs do not get along.

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. So, 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.

Can Dogs Eat Garlic?

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. If your dog ate garlic it 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 Bad for 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 poisonous to dogs as well. In other words, if it has garlic in it, it should be avoided.

How Much Garlic Is Toxic to Dogs?

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 noting 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, and 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 a 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 in dogs 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.

white puppy
Image Credit: Spiritze, Pixabay

What Should I Do if My Dog Eats 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 anymore.
  • 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 that 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 Garlic Hurt Dogs?

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 quick. However, if garlic ingestion goes undetected and your dog 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 ate garlic so that treatment can be started early. To prevent garlic poisoning in dogs, 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 Credit: Anrita1705, Pixabay

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