Garlic is a common ingredient in many cuisines and it has many health benefits for humans. But what about dogs? Can dogs eat garlic safely, or is it toxic for them?
The answer is not so simple. Garlic can have both positive and negative effects on dogs, depending on the amount, the form, and the individual dog’s sensitivity. While garlic is considered toxic to dogs, in trace amounts, beneficial effects can be seen.
Keep reading to learn why garlic is toxic to dogs, the symptoms of garlic poisoning, and how it’s used beneficially in specific amounts.
Why is Garlic Bad for Dogs?
Even in small amounts, Garlic is toxic to dogs – whether it’s cooked or raw. If a dog eats enough garlic it can damage their blood cells or kill them.
Garlic belongs to the Allium family, along with onions, leeks, chives, shallots, and scallions. Allium vegetables have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years, particularly to treat cardiovascular diseases.
Dogs aren’t allergic to garlic or any other Allium plants, but they do contain a toxic component – N-propyl disulfide, which acts as an oxidant. While N-propyl disulfide is harmless to humans, a dog’s red blood cells are more sensitive to oxidative damage. This causes hemolytic anemia, which is where their red blood cells break down faster than they are replaced.
Garlic contains higher concentrations of N-propyl disulfide than onions or other plants in the Allium family so it’s often considered more toxic to dogs.
Some dogs are more sensitive to the damage caused by garlic than others, depending on their size, age, breed, and health conditions. Certain breeds, like Akitas and Shiba Inus, are more naturally prone to garlic toxicity than other breeds.
Effects of Garlic on Dogs
Garlic can cause both short-term and long-term effects in dogs.
- Upset stomach
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Hemolytic anemia
- Pale gums
- Rapid breathing
- Increased heart rate
How much Garlic is too much?
There is no clear answer to how much garlic is too much for dogs, as every dog reacts differently to garlic. However, some studies have suggested that the toxic dose of garlic for dogs is about 15 to 30 grams of garlic per kilogram of body weight. This means that a 22 lb (10 kg) dog would need to eat about 150 to 300 grams of garlic, or about 5 to 10 cloves, to experience garlic toxicity.
However, some dogs may show signs of toxicity after eating much less than that, and some dogs can tolerate more without any problems.
Can Dogs Eat Garlic Powder or Garlic Salt?
The form of garlic also matters as some forms are more highly concentrated than others.
Garlic powder and garlic salt are more potent than fresh garlic, while garlic oil and garlic extract are even more potent than that. Even in tiny doses, these forms of garlic can be extremely dangerous for dogs – increasing the chances of garlic toxicity.
Garlic powder or salt sometimes contain additional ingredients that can be harmful to dogs as well, such as spices, preservatives, and high salt levels.
What about Garlic Bread?
Garlic bread typically has less garlic in it than other cooked foods that use garlic, making it less toxic but not non-toxic, so dogs should still not eat it.
Besides the presence of a toxic ingredient, garlic bread also has butter, herbs/spices, and cheese that can be fattening and unhealthy. Of course, not all cheese is bad for dogs, but dogs that aren’t accustomed to eating ingredients such as these can suffer from an upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Some Dog Foods Contain Garlic
So far we’ve repeatedly mentioned that garlic is toxic to dogs, and it can be, so why do most commercial dog foods have garlic listed as an ingredient? That’s because, in very small doses, garlic has beneficial health benefits for your dog. Keep in mind that manufacturers extensively test their dog foods to ensure there are no ill effects.
The claim is that, in very small doses, garlic enhances the flavor which encourages dogs to eat it, as well as aiding in blood clot prevention, reducing cholesterol, and preventing fleas/ticks.
The last one is up for a lot of debate, but a study published in 2018 suggests that aged garlic extract can safely contribute to a dog’s health – in the right dosage.
Myth: Garlic Helps Dogs Fight Fleas
Rumors have floated around for years that feeding a dog some garlic can prevent fleas. The idea is that it changes their smell and taste, making them an unappetizing host for fleas or ticks.
There is no scientific evidence that this works, instead, there is a better chance that pet parents are simply subjecting their dog to potential garlic toxicity. Approved flea control products remain a much safer option.
Symptoms of Garlic Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog eats garlic, they may begin to show symptoms of garlic poisoning, which can range from mild to severe, depending on the amount and the form of garlic ingested and the individual dog’s sensitivity. The symptoms of garlic poisoning in dogs may include:
- Gastrointestinal upset, such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite
- Dehydration due to fluid loss from vomiting and diarrhea
- Hemolytic anemia, such as jaundice, weakness, lethargy, pale gums, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and collapse
- Hematuria, or blood in the urine, due to hemolysis and kidney damage
- Hepatic necrosis, or liver damage, due to the toxic effects of garlic on the liver cells
- Neurological signs, such as seizures, tremors, ataxia, and coma, due to the lack of oxygen in the brain and the accumulation of toxins in the blood
If your dog eats garlic and begins having any of these symptoms you should call your veterinarian and get advice for what to do next.
How is Garlic Poisoning Treated?
If your dog eats garlic, your vet might recommend you bring them in for examination. Your vet may also run some tests, such as blood tests, urine tests, and X-rays, to confirm the diagnosis and assess the severity of the condition. The treatment of garlic poisoning in dogs may include:
- Inducing vomiting, if the ingestion was recent and the dog is stable, to remove the garlic from the stomach
- Activated charcoal to bind the garlic and prevent its absorption in the intestines
- Fluid therapy to correct dehydration and electrolyte imbalance and to support kidney function
- Blood transfusion, if the dog has severe hemolytic anemia and low blood oxygen levels
- Oxygen therapy, if the dog has respiratory distress and hypoxia
- Medications, such as antiemetics, antacids, antibiotics, and corticosteroids, to treat the symptoms and prevent complications
- Dietary management, to provide a bland and low-fat diet, and to avoid foods that contain garlic or other Allium plants
The prognosis of garlic poisoning in dogs depends on the amount and the form of garlic ingested, the individual dog’s sensitivity, the time of treatment, and the presence of complications. Some dogs may recover fully with prompt and proper treatment, while some dogs may have permanent damage to their organs, or even die, from garlic poisoning. Do not attempt any treatment without advice from your veterinarian!